You would think that becoming widowed just before the holiday season could make said holidays an overbearing mixture of grief, stress, and memories going forward. That remembering that first Christmas without Megan, watching a seven-year-old Shelby bounding down the stairs to a room in which her father was already bawling, would not be the ideal nostalgic thought of the ghosts of Christmas past. Family traditions, like ice-skating, making hot chocolate, decorating the house, or cutting our own tree to trim would always be stained with the term things we “did”, rather than things we “do”.
For the most part, I suppose those sentiments are true, but in the grand scheme of things, the holidays have been a stressful time for most of my adult life. Megan’s death was just the cherry on top of a season already filled with anxiety, frustration, and a sense of being pulled in every which way but the one I wanted to.
Perhaps I’m a bit of a scrooge.
To be fair, I don’t DIS-like the holidays. I’ve always enjoyed spending this time with my family, my little tribe of three, doing the aforementioned decorating, skating, and cocoa-sipping. I’ve always loved watching Shelby get excited to open gifts, and even more so watching her be excited for others to open theirs. I even like holiday music, well, at least the traditional stuff (I want to punch a wall every time Mariah Carey comes screeching out of any speaker within 500 yards of my location).
But the flipside of that is that I’m constantly exhausted. My work is, counterintuitively, busiest at the end of the year. Climbing the extension ladder to hang lights, and dragging a tree up a hill, while fun in concept, is still tiring work. I feel almost obligated, rather than desirous of driving to another county to visit family. Not to mention that. nearing 40, I’m starting to exhibit more aches and pains that I can’t explain as due to hard work, but rather, due to a hard sneeze.
The holidays have become something to “push through” rather than “look forward to”.
I know for a fact I’m not alone in this. There may be a million reasons that someone hates the holidays, or one reason. The season itself could be tough, or just a particular day contained therein.
Ultimately, there are so many things that I feel I HAVE to do to make the season “bright” for all of those around me, that I never rest. I don’t sleep well, I certainly don’t EAT well, and I don’t take care of myself in general. The only time I seem to sit down is when my back muscles have decided that they are no longer on the job, and they seize.
In the past five years, the only time I wasn’t in anxiety, aches, and stress was when I was in constant grief…the year Megan died…a week before Thanksgiving.
I mean hell, I’m NOSTALGIC for that year sometimes. I look to 2014 as the year that I somehow, some way, kept it together enough to put up a tree, decorate the house, take Shelby shopping, and even make sure I wrapped the present that Megan had already bought her, so that Shelby could have a “good” season.
I didn’t have a cheerleader that year. I didn’t have live-in support. My driving force was Shelby and Shelby alone, and she was only seven years old.
Was it an easy holiday season in 2014? Hell no. It was the worst. I mean, it absolutely sucked. Easily the worst Christmas I have ever had in my life.
But it also gives me perspective. As I sit here, currently exhibiting the sore back I talked about, with a low-level headache, stressing about work tomorrow, and a Santa-level gut hanging over my keyboard, I appreciate that this is nowhere near the worst holiday season I have experienced, and even then, I made it through the worst without ruining it for anyone else (that was Megan’s fault, frankly). I am egotistical enough to have pride in myself for excelling that year, given the circumstances.
I’ve grown past the point where I feel that I needed Megan. I really, really, really, REALLY wish she was here, we all do, but if I was able to get through that first year without her, I can get through the next five as well. Her death isn’t what causes stress for me during the holidays. I have always had that anyway. It is a very big addition to it, to be sure, but whether she, or Sarah, or nobody is present during this last month of the year, I’m going to be a scrooge…just maybe the Scrooge at the end of the book. The one who is old, broken, and tired, but will still give it his all for those around him, even if it means not being anything like the person he was before. “Pushing through” is not necessarily a bad thing, if it means that it brings some joy to others.