As I listen to the Christmas carols and enjoy the lights and decorations and the smells of the season I reflect upon Christmases gone by. Everything changes when your parents die. The world is filled with people finding ways to survive the good tidings everyone else seems to take for granted.
The truth is nobody survives the holidays unscathed. There’s a child finding joy, playing with the tinfoil, used to warm him at night, on our southern border, while a fat rich old man longs in misery for a better yacht. If only. . .
I find myself remembering the wild dysfunction of my family fighting over Christmas dinners, wishing I was part of any other family, assuming this chaos was a life sentence. Now I realize how precarious even the most inauspicious family combinations can be. It never occurred to me that even families come and go in this world. Nothing is permanent. Nothing is perfect.
Over the years, we have transitioned to a family atrophied by the absence of a patriarch or a matriarch, decimated by siblings left in disarray by time, distance and misunderstanding. Pulled in myriad of directions, we reached out to other individuals who had also lost their rock. Of course, no one really wants to be part of a family of orphans. I’m pretty sure we all are secretly ashamed of our alienation.
Now as we celebrate our second Christmas, just the four of us, never have I felt more love and appreciation for my amazing family: Danny, Mary, Cate and myself.
Sure, I envy those families, wild with children and old people, all complaining at once, wishing themselves into a somehow more perfect family. If only. . .
But this Christmas, I am grateful and in awe that I am not alone. So many people are. You may be one of them, forced to derive joy out of almost nothing, living on the vapors of memory, of other people’s perfect Rockwellian Christmases, which never really actually happened.
This Holiday is dedicated to those who have to call upon a force deep within them, to find a way for joy and meaning, amidst the misery of their reality.
We are all with you even though you feel alone. We all have been there or may someday be. Perhaps we’ll make it unscathed. I’m pretty sure the only way for that to happen is to make the choice of joy amidst the inevitable misery of anything less than the ideal we hold in our mind. Sometimes that’s the hardest thing of all to give up.
Whereas there will always be a hole in the fabric of your life left by those who’ve left us, please don’t forget the fabric as a whole; it is a beautiful tapestry, always evolving, a work in progress that includes the holes and rips and tears. Never underestimate the weaver’s magic ability to weave new memories, new relationships and new experiences into the entirety of your life.
A wise friend once told me “enjoy your solitude; it won’t last.” Accept the misery of your present circumstances, embrace it even. Things will change. When we can embrace change, including loss, as the primary driving force in the human condition maybe we can begin to find peace and happiness.