26 Dec let it go
Christmas is my favorite holiday. Was. Christmas was my favorite holiday. I’d deck the house from top to bottom with Christmas décor and my home became a winter wonderland. I remember pulling into the garage one afternoon, sometime in April, and seeing all of the storage bins full of Christmas gear lining the garage walls. I made a comment to Mason about how ridiculous it was to have sooooo much stuff and that’s when he told me that the way we do Christmas was one of his favorite family traditions. He told me his friends’ families didn’t do it up as big and it always made him feel happy that we did! Well if THAT didn’t just make my heart burst with love and pride…!
We had a collection of nutcrackers (big ones) that would decorate the tops of the kitchen cupboards every year, and one would go into Mason’s room. He liked to have his own. We had four in the kitchen and one in his room. He’d decide where to place it, along with his own mini decorative tree and a few Xmas pillows. Yes, every room was decorated even our bedrooms and bathrooms. There was a little Christmas everywhere we looked. We loved it that way! I had special Christmas dishes with Holly trim, beautiful wine glasses with Holly accents, Christmas-themed couch pillows, bright red table runners & place mats. The list goes on and on. We loved Christmas!
Gifts would overflow from under the tree. We wanted everyone we knew to have a little something. Wrapping was the most fun. I had every different kind of wrap and ribbon. My grandma was big on wrapping gifts and making them beautiful… and I continued that tradition. Always on the lookout for the best, cutest, most original paper, I’d end up with way too many rolls to ever use. I think my favorites were the rolls of “Naughty” and “Nice” paper that I found. Toooooo cute!
Earlier this year, I decided that I was going to leave my job and spend some time on a beach somewhere. Do some traveling. See a bit of the world. This decision prompted three garage sales and quite a few runs to the goodwill. I needed to get rid of everything in order to travel light, right? I gutted my home and attempted to sell anything and everything. It was a pretty emotional experience for me and I discovered that I really don’t like doing garage sales – hahaha! I don’t like watching people pick through a lifetime of treasures and try to bargain and dicker and basically get everything for a dollar. That really annoyed me. “No, you cannot have it for a dollar. Put it back.” My life, my memories, all of my family stories were wrapped up in those things and they were worth way more than a buck. Well, to me they were.
I realized that I’d have to let go of ‘things’ and hold on to memories. The buyer really does determine a thing’s worth, not the seller. I had to get really good at letting things go… with the help of my darling friend, Melissa, who would see my internal struggle brewing and then start singing, “Let it go” from the movie Frozen. What a doll! We’d laugh and I’d let it go. It was her cue to me that I could and would survive without ‘the thing’ and I eventually got better at letting go.
So here I am at Christmas time in 2014… my second Christmas without my son, my sidekick, my Shmish. It doesn’t get easier, folks. It’s actually easier in the beginning because you are still numb and in shock. Your body takes you through the motions of life but protects you from feeling everything. In the moment, you are feeling and grieving and thinking you’re facing the worst, but you have no idea what’s coming. That is not the worst. You are protected by shock and your mind only allows you to process a little bit at a time. I know that now. The shock has worn off and it’s all here… the grief, the guilt, the pain, the memories, the sadness, the absence of hope, the regrets. There is no shield. There is no shock. There is no filter.
I want to escape Christmas. I sold off a lot of my decorations. My tree is decorating someone else’s home now. My nutcrackers are on someone else’s cabinets. My plates are collecting dust in another garage. My wine glasses are decorating a different table. Good riddance. I don’t need it. It reminds me of how much we loved Christmas, how much Mase loved our traditions, and I just cannot cry enough to adequately mourn the loss of all of that. I just want to ignore it, turn a blind eye, or just pretend it doesn’t exist. A friend asked me what I was doing in Mexico this year and I replied, “I’m escaping Christmas.” He asked if that was truly possible. It isn’t. It really isn’t. Instead, I am creating new Christmas memories.
I remember planning various travel adventures during the Xmas holidays and was so surprised when Mason came to me one Christmas and said, “I don’t like traveling on Christmas. I just want to stay here, together, in our own home and do our own thing.” He just loved Christmas together!!! My heart filled again! I canceled our plans and settled in to enjoy Christmas with my boy. It was our best Christmas ever, and little did I know then, our last. He gave me some ornaments with a personalized message handwritten just for me, as well as a travel coffee mug that read, “Queen of the road.” Hilarious! He got a ton of things… but his faves were Bear (an enormous stuffed animal he snuggled with constantly) and a laptop. His very own. Ahhhhhhhhh, heaven.
I can’t do Christmas anymore, not like we did. I have to start new traditions. I’ve been invited to a few friends’ homes but I couldn’t accept. I understand their intentions are to be inclusive, but how long could I really stay? Could I stay for a few hours, or overnight? Or maybe for a few days? Not likely. Ultimately, I have to go home. To any invitation I would accept, I’d still be a guest, not family. I’d still be watching from the outside, not truly a part of it. Their traditions aren’t my traditions, their kids aren’t my kid. I think that would just hurt more. Watching, wishing, trying to hold it together so I don’t ruin their festivities with a whole bunch of tears and snot. Nah, it’s better to escape. It’s just me now and I have to learn to survive on my own.
While staring at the ocean yesterday, Christmas day, and wishing for more sunshine to show up, I realized that I have to learn to let it all go. I have to learn to let go of things, sure, but I also have to learn to let go of what I had hoped life would be. I have to let go of my plans. I have to let go of Mase. He’s gone. Letting him go feels like I’m tearing out my own hair, or peeling off my skin, or pulling out fingernails… he is so much a part of me that it is difficult to breathe without him. It was always just the two of us. I don’t even know who I am without him here. I realized yesterday, more so than I ever have before, that I have to let him go.
I cried on the beach. I looked at the cloudy sky angrily and wished the sun would just show up and burn the sadness away. I felt sorry for myself for a good hour or so. I dropped my book in the sand and grumbled, “Of course. Of cooooouuuuurrrrse.” I was a jerk inside yesterday. I was angry and grumbly and just not right. I don’t want to let him go. I don’t want this new life. I don’t want to be alone on Christmas and miss all of the fun. I don’t want this. I’m angry that there was no divine intervention to save me from this life.
Then, I am apologetic. I’m reminded of the story where God asks Job something like ‘where were you when I told the sea just how far it could come ashore, then no further?’ Powerful reminder right there. Where was I? Who am I? Then I wept a little in my apology, and took back my angry thoughts. I resolved to keep moving forward, to accept my fate (not as a punishment, but just as what is…), and I sipped my Coca Light and stared at the ocean some more. I forgave the sun for not shining. I let go of the anger and the sadness and the need to assert myself somehow to prove I still existed. I just let it go. I laid on my recliner, watched the world go by, and tried to see things as they were, not as I thought they should be.
That was a lot for one day. Exhausting work, actually. I am learning to let it go.
I found this quote from Taylor Caldwell that soothed me, “I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. For this is still the time God chooses.”