The kids and I were out and about yesterday. One kid flew in from the west coast, we picked the other up at school. We had some lunch. We headed to the mall.
Saints preserve us.
There’s precious little that will deplete you of the holiday spirit faster than a trip to the mall on Dec 23rd. We did some shopping, saw a movie, did a little more shopping. We weren’t done- still needed to make a quick stop at a store outside the mall. Before we’d left the mall parking lot, I’d criticized three or four drivers for their “bad life choices.” I checked in with myself, and decided to call it.
We went home. Shopping unfinished, but me relatively sane. That last gift may get purchased today. It may not. Either way, the world will go on, and I will not have ruined what precious time I have with my kids together by being a crazy person.
I chose presence over presents.
We give things so much weight at this time of year. We give joy more weight, we give despair more weight. For me, when I was drinking it was even more extreme- because I could only feel things at the poles of human emotion. When you are anesthetizing yourself, if your emotions aren’t registering at an 11 they don’t register at all- you are numb to them. I think that’s why so many addicts are surrounded by drama. It’s the only way they can feel.
There’s a second half to the Serenity prayer, you know. And in it, there’s this line:
“So that I may be reasonably happy in this life”
Before I got sober that would not have seemed an estimable goal. Reasonably happy? Why? Why only reasonably? I was a go big or go home kind of a girl. I didn’t understand that real joy- the kind that fills you up- is never manic.
I used to spend so much time focused on making Christmas the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER. Last Christmas was a standard to be exceeded- this year would be EVEN BETTER. It’s gluttony, really. It’s a gluttonous approach to joy, and any time you see someone indulging in gluttony it comes from a fear of scarcity- count on it. It’s behaving as though joy is a finite resource to be scavenged, hoarded and used up.
The past two weeks I’ve been really mindful of a few things.
I’ve focused on being rather than doing. Instead of racing around shopping, and baking, and decorating, and partying, I’ve been saying yes to different things. You need to talk? Yes, I have time. You want to meet for coffee? No, I’m not busy. You need a ride? Yes. I’m checking in on my people. I don’t care about attending events, I have relationships to tend. Instead of standing in a room full of people talking about nothing, I can sit across from a friend and listen to everything.
I need only celebrate the Christmas I’m in. It does not need to resemble holidays past, and it does not need to be a portent of Christmases to come. Just this one day. This one, reasonably happy, present Christmas with the people in front of me. My people.
My prayer is that this Christmas you love and feel truly loved. That you have moments of wonder, and understand that you’re enough, exactly where and how and who you are. That you see the people in front of you, and are seen by them. That you feel safe and held and not alone. That you remember that joy is not the same as glee and consumption. And that you are reasonably happy.
Love you so.
I am writing a book and in order to get said book published it is awfully helpful to make the most of your platform. At least, that is what The People Who Know The Things tell me.
Please consider doing the following:
Come hang out with me on Facebook!
Follow me on Twitter!
Come see what my dog is doing on Instagram!
If you’re following me on Pinterest… don’t. And I’m sorry. I don’t even know how I ended up there…
but I’m so very not happy and it feels like it never ends and I’m always very much alone no matter the number of people
and why is it this way, why am I so broken when I shouldn’t be, not really, not now, not any more
whatever was, it was a long time ago so why should it still matter — answer, it shouldn’t and I’m just a fool for letting it
and yet here is the whole world happy and celebrating and rejoicing and joining with family and friends and crackling fires in the hearth and hearts full of good cheer
and I’m on the outside looking in
not belonging, not anywhere
In Others' Words says
Not the whole world, friend. Not everyone. Trust me when I tell you there are people suffering in silence all the time, every day. And you are not a “fool for letting it,” you are a person who is doing the work, and the work is not done. There is still healing that hasn’t happened. YET. Hang on, sister. Both hands. You are loved and you belong HERE.
I’m trying, I really am. It’s just so hard right now.
In Others' Words says
I know you are, and I know it is. Holding you in my heart.
Meredith W. says
Late to the party again (me, not you), and dear woman, you are NOT a fool. Not that. And believe me, the whole world isn’t/wan’t celebrating and happy; more people than will ever admit were bearing emotional pain and have never admitted it to anyone. You are moving forward, even if it’s more slowly than you would like.
It’s not the same, I do know that, and it doesn’t fill the gaping hole, but I hope you feel you belong HERE. The fools aren’t the hurting and broken; they are the people who pretend that no one is, that nothing like what you have been through could possibly have happened, and therefore could you please stop acting as if there’s a problem – ? Those are the people who need to get a grip and an education and possibly a swift kick in the pants.
I wish I could have helped you feel less alone, to have sat with you and chatted so you didn’t feel on the outside. I hope the day wasn’t as bad as you feared…and if it was, well, here you are on the other side.
Thank you (again)! The perfect message for today and this crazy holiday season…
Best wishes for a happy, healthy, peaceful and wonderful New Year!
Tricia W. says
Thank you for your message. This is such an emotional time of year both positive and unfortunately negative emotions. It actually feels like they are in a tug-of-war. You help me to understand my own feelings better, thank you for that!!!
This was so very perfect. You made so many valiant points, that we all need to remember. i think you are right on about addicts only feeling extreme ends of emotion, and i think the bigger the addict (not in use, but in how much room it takes up in them), the more they can only feel two things-happy and angry. That doesn’t leave much room for mindfulness. Joy. Compassion. Empathy. Creativity. Wonder.
i certainly used to think in terms of competing against myself for the Best Day Ever on holidays and special events, wanting to throw everything i have at the addict, in wanton hopes they could feel my love and devotion. i am a person who has often been envious of drugs, because a drug is never lonely or longing for connection. A drug will always be had, and had again. And again. So my desires to give all of the time are matched only by my spouses desires to escape everything that isn’t escapism. If i was a youtube video, i’d be a very lucky woman. i’ve learned to focus on being mindful, doing my best that day, whatever my best means at that time, in that moment. Then i remind myself that i am enough. So, that is my Christmas wish-that everyone knows deep down they are So much More than Enough. <3 Merry Christmas, to you and yours.
Patti Thomas says
“…safe and held and not alone.” This is a dream, sister, a Christmas miracle, if you will.
I’m so happy for you. It makes my heart swell to hear you can be present and have a “reasonably happy, present Christmas with the people in front of me. My people.”
Love you. Merry Christmas to you, you sweet soul.
There is SO much here! You truly captured the ethos of this celebration! “Real joy- the kind that fills you up- is never manic” -– that’s powerfully true, yet so quietly and minimally represented. Thank you for this beautiful Christmas gift. ????
I hadn’t considered that the highs feel higher and lows lower this time of year. I’m going back to read again so I can burn this into my brain for next year…real good stuff.
Meredith W. says
We have next to no social activities this time of year (or ever) and I don’t usually get too freaked out by the whirlwind this season can bring, but the week before Christmas turned more frantic than I would have liked. At some point, I thought of this blog post and stopped to breathe, told myself that if I didn’t get *everything* baked as planned the world would survive, and it helped me calm down and let go of some of the expectations I had for myself. Thank you.
gluttony is fear of scarcity. Eye opener! I can reason with my mind that there is plenty, but I’ve never dealt with the fear of scarcity that came from childhood. I’ve always been an “all or nothing” kind of girl. I spend Christmas the same way as you. I very much enjoy it, however it rolls.