Today I’m feeling sad. ‘Tis the season, I guess. I had one of those ugly, tears-and-snot filled meltdowns this morning. I’m happy that I made it all the way until Christmas Eve to do it this year, but I was really hoping to avoid it completely. I miss my daughter terribly, and, actually, I even miss the rest of my family. Except for the last couple of Christmases before I got into recovery, I have wonderful memories of the holidays with them. It seems that, unlike other dysfunctional families, mine was always on its best behavior on holidays and birthdays. It was when we let go of disagreements and grudges, and we all came together to have fun and love each other. There was laughter, good food, and happy times. And even though, on most days, I know that I am healthier now, emotionally and spiritually, than when they were in my life, I am having trouble believing that today.
My daughter is 17, attending the University of Arizona, and that’s about all I know. It’s been nearly four years since I have seen her, and even longer since she wanted to talk to me (for the history of our relationship, click here). This morning, as I held in my hands the ornaments that she and I made together when she was younger, I felt all the memories of holidays past flooding my thoughts. There just aren’t enough words to express my longing for her sufficiently. I don’t even begin to know how to describe it, except that it is both emotionally and physically painful. Today is one of those days that it is really fucking close to unbearable. My heart hurts, my eyes spill over, completely out of my control, and I can’t shut it off. I don’t really want to though. The thought that I will stop hurting over it someday scares me more than the thought of our separation going on forever. So I sit with the sadness, knowing that until there is reconciliation, it’s better than the alternative.
All of that said though, this holiday season is the best one that I have had in a long time. I am trying to do what all good recovering alcoholics do when difficult moments come up, I’m remembering all of the things I have to be grateful for, and accepting all of the rest that life has dealt me without trying to change it. Those two things have made all the difference. They have allowed me to spend joyful, quality time with friends. We’ve shared stories, baked for each other, and had lots of laughs. I am so grateful for that. I honestly don’t know what I would do without my crazy, supportive, loving friends. I would truly be lost.
Another thing that has helped so much this year is making new traditions. Austin and I have done things differently to celebrate this year. First of all, we shared Thanksgiving with a close friend of ours, at her house. That was so great! Thanksgiving (and other holidays) were often celebrated in my home because I did almost all of the cooking. This year, I only did half of the cooking, and I didn’t have to stress about my house being clean, or about the day feeling off because I was in the same place, but without my family. That sounds kind of silly, doesn’t it? When I read it back to myself, I think so. I’ve lived in the same place for seven years, so my home has been filled with my family many times…this is the same place my daughter lived with me. But even in the three plus years that they haven’t been here, it still feels weird to not have them around on holidays. So getting out of the house for Thanksgiving was a big deal.
Austin and I have also been celebrating the month leading up to Christmas differently. We have been actively honoring Advent, complete with daily devotional readings and our own little Jesse Tree, for which we made all of the ornaments. We opted to wait until today, Christmas Eve, like they used to long ago, to put up our Christmas tree. We will celebrate the 12 days of Christmas that lead to Epiphany and not let tomorrow be the climax of the season. I’ve really enjoyed doing it this way. It has given new, more fulfilling meaning to this time of year, and it has started completely new traditions for us. My family would never appreciate Advent, nor would they read the bible together. While we were growing up, our tree went up the weekend after Thanksgiving and came down on December 26th. Making these small, but emotionally substantial changes, has been so healing for me. There has been a shift in my thinking about the meaning of Christmas, and I can now focus on the reason for the holiday without attaching all of my family’s old traditions to it. That feels good.
Even though I had a meltdown this morning, and I still have the red nose and headache to prove it, I feel grateful today. We are having a friend over for dinner, and then going to church. Tomorrow we will go to a morning service at another church, and then head over to the annual Christmas Alcathon to hang with our fellow 12-steppers. It will be a good day, just like it should be.
I am wishing you and yours a very happy holiday, full of whatever traditions fill your heart with joy!