For those of you that dread the holidays – I’m talking to you! How are you feeling today? Did you thrive yesterday or just survive? Or did you, like me, perhaps find a new version of Christmas?
I woke up today reflective. Appreciative of getting through yesterday without tears and without pain that takes my breath away. Those were new. I went to bed last night without an aching back or aching feet from having cooked all day – we ordered in breakfast to chill-ax with presents longer. I didn’t stress out over “did I remember to text everyone” or “did she or didn’t she REALLY like my gift”? I think some of the easier is coming with age and some of it was from being surrounded with two people who love me beyond all things – it was about the time together. This was Tim’s first we-aren’t-leaving-our-PJ’s-today Christmas and he was all about it. With the kids grown and all doing their own thing it does lend a simplicity to the holidays that think I could get used to.
Do not get me wrong. I am very glad to put another holiday season behind me. I read one of my TimeHop posts from 8 years ago today, the first Christmas without my grandpa, and it brought a lump to my throat. If I had to pinpoint an exact moment when the holidays became a struggle that year would be it. I expected this year to be more challenging since we said goodbye to Mom in 2022. There was a moment when we dug out one of her dishes for the cranberry sauce where I know my angels were watching because Em and I both could have lost it and instead we were able to mention Mom and smile.
For those that don’t know me – surprises are my thing. Giving and receiving. This year’s gift exchange held surprises both physical and emotional. Listening to Em and Tim work together on Christmas Eve on my stocking was priceless. Opening gifts that a) I had no idea what they were and b) couldn’t have guessed if I tried was amazing. (You mom’s know what I’m talking about – we do the giving not the receiving at the holidays!)
Tim reminded me again how very much he pays attention when I talk. Renovating the greenhouse so I can grow all the green things is on our January to do list but he got me an AeroGarden. “Something I knew you wanted but wouldn’t buy yourself.” Not gonna lie – it was set up before the cooking got started. Those moments of realizing God has brought someone into my life who loves me when I’m having a really bad day or listens when I talk are humbling.
I was asked a couple of times yesterday if I was glad I was home for Christmas. My initial gut response was still “no”. But having slept on it (or attempted to sleep on it since I’ve now been up since 3 am) I think the answer is yes. Yesterday was peaceful. And that, more than anything, was all I wanted for Christmas. To not be so lost in grief I felt incapable of breathing is perhaps the greatest gift of all.
It’s no secret I’ve been in deep period of pain and self discovery the last couple of years. Long overdue grieving for the loss of my grandpa and my husband. Staring down the question of “who am I” when not defined by titles like mother or wife. I am damn proud of how far I’ve come. I haven’t done it alone and I know that. This very outlet had been part of the journey.
Lately I’ve been restless. Feeling disconnected from my faith. Questioning the growth. Losing my identity as an independent a bit as I’ve become part of an “us” again (def no regrets there!). I’ve recently begun listening to an audio book that has provoked some deep thinking.
I had an opportunity this weekend to share some of the feelings bubbling up with someone I trust implicitly with my thoughts. Between those conversations, my book, and what I believe is answered prayer I finally think I’m understanding where the restless is coming from.
I’ve reached a point in self discovery I could choose to be satisfied. OR this cliff I am standing on….the one that I can’t see ground below because it’s dark…I could choose to go over it and dig deeper. To return to the faith the distractions of life are pulling me from and hear what God was guiding me towards. I’ve done a lot of work. But I’ve also just stuck some of the feelings that are too painful in a box and put them on a shelf – compartmentalizing as the counselor calls it – and hoping to forget about them.
I kid you not….as I am writing this my bible app sent me this verse. Does it get any clearer than that?
It’s time to go over the cliff. To truly forgive those who have caused me pain and to forgive myself when I haven’t been the person I wanted to be. Yesterday is past and can only continue to hurt you if you can’t let go of it. It’s time to open the box, sort the feelings, and finish the journey. It’s time to love myself enough to finish the healing.
For those who have held my hand this far – I love you. I wouldn’t be on this planet today without you.
Choose you. Choose to believe that if you go over the cliff God will catch you.
As I continue to delve into what makes me tick one phrase jumped out in my reading. “We are scary when we are scared.” Holy heck what a statement. If you are being honest how many of you have a monster that takes up residence inside you when life is changing? When things are spinning out of control? When you are terrified? Probs more of you than can honestly admit. But please note that I am over here raising my hand.
I am scared of spiders. Snakes. Those creepy cockroaches that never seem to die. Normal things. Those things don’t make me loony. They are just normal fears that probably 90% of the population has if they are being honest.
The keep me up at night roaring monster fears?
Being homeless. There is scary monster fear. Growing up without security in where we lived because my mother was a fight AND (not or) flight kind of person leaves one with a solid fear of not having a stable home.
Dying. Not in an I’m afraid to die way. But in an I’m afraid I won’t go out gracefully and will leave my kids with enough horrible end of life memories that will overshadow the amazing childhood Fred and I fought to give them. As I watch what is happening with my grandmother that monster is fighting hard to get to the surface. Only God is keeping that one in check.
Never being loved again. Putting that one out there. Pretty sure that fear monster is going to run off any one who tries to get close simply with comparison to a man who was far from perfect but will always be perfect to me. Which leads right into probably my biggest fear of all in losing Fred and the kids getting about getting grown….
Being alone. Truly completely no one to take care of alone. Having to do exactly what I am now doing. Figuring out who I am inside and deal with all the demons from my childhood, losses, and life in general. That monster? She was a scary one who has scarred people she loves in ways that may never heal.
Some people don’t believe in out of body experiences but I’m here to tell you you have never been afraid enough to have the fear monster occupy your mind and your mouth. I cringe when I think about some of the things that have happened in my life the last two years. But I have learned to forgive myself. I have apologized and have accepted that has to be enough because I refuse to live in the past and won’t apologize for being human.
But yah. We are definitely scary when we are scared. And if you haven’t been that scared in your life God bless you. It’s easy to judge others when you don’t know their pain but it’s really different if you’ve walked even a minute in their shoes. That is one of the best lessons coming in “doing the work” as Brene would say. You learn true compassion and empathy – first with yourself and then with others. Emotions that if the world had a lot more of it wouldn’t be in the sorry state it is in.
Are you an ask permission person or an ask forgiveness person? What I mean is this…is your life bound by societal rules, childhood subconsciously learned rules, social pressure rules…you get the idea. Or is your life a Katie-bar-the-door they can forgive me later kind of life? There isn’t really a middle spectrum in my opinion.
Me? I’m a permission gal. Always have been. Always want to do the right thing, say the right thing, or BE what everyone expects me to be. Even in my travels I’m asking permission – in a way – by discussing each trip with my circle before really taking the plunge. If even one person in that circle didn’t think whatever I had dreamed up was awesome my mind would immediately start to worry. Undo. Imagine worst case scenario. FEAR.
In a permission life there isn’t a lot of spontaneity. You are too afraid of going against the grain. Standing out. Being judged. What I failed to realize is that those rules (walls) were slowing moving in on me. Inch by inch, day by day, year after year. As the roles that literally defined me have disappeared those walls have closed in hard. Wife. Mother. Caretaker. Niece. Granddaughter. Employee. Friend. Some of these roles will always be in existence but either they have drastically changed or I am no longer content to exist solely as they have always defined me. It has gotten almost impossible to be content being every one else’s version of Amy.
My idea of a forgiveness kind of life is being free. The old adage “it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” is ringing in my ears right about now. I imagine a forgiveness life means you are free to not think about every conversation in your head before you have it looking for and eliminating any landmines that might cause confrontation. Free to say (as Fred would have) “F*&$ ’em and feed ’em fish heads” if they don’t like it. Free from the stress of seeing all the bad (and only the bad) the world has to offer. Free from the anxiety of worrying about all the bad the world has to offer. Free to decide I want to go somewhere or do something without checking in with anyone to make sure it’s a good idea. Free to not let that sixth sense you have about people and situations completely immobilize you. Free to not apologize for my existence. Free to have the knowledge that I can am a smart, driven, capable person who can protect myself!
Along with recognizing my dissatisfaction of my roles I have come to realize that living a permission kind of life limits me. Comparing these two – both as I write this and in all the self work I’ve been doing – I can realize that a permission life was safe for me at one point in my life. It was what I needed for survival. It gave me stability and I knew what the rules are. As the universe is saying “stop hiding and start living” the permission life now feels like a concrete block pulling me to the bottom of the ocean faster than I can scream for help.
My real dilemma now is figuring out how to make the transition. My motivation app keeps me deluged in “greatness” and “chase your dreams” pep talks but my 43 year old brain hasn’t connected how to go from waiting on permission to figuring out and leaping towards my new “hell ya” season of life. I suspect the emotional weight I carry that keeps me feeling like I’m drowning is the insecurity of not knowing what rules I am living by now. What to do. Where I am going. Who my brain thinks it should be asking for permission. Who I freaking am for Pete’s sake.
My impatient immediate gratification self is going to have to learn how to just enjoy the journey. I know with work it will come in time. It’ll take repetitive conscious decisions to take actions different than I always have. Speaking openly and honestly on this blog is one of my “fuck ’em” decisions. (Ha! I didn’t do the expected thing and make the bleep ok!) You may not always like what I have to say but you damn sure are always going to know it came from my heart.