“[...] Christmas Day in the company of children
is one of the few occasions on which men become entirely alive.”
I don't want to come to you like that girl at a party, bemoaning all of life's troubles until your ears ache. Or the aunt that corners you every holiday to tell you how miserable she is because it's just so hard to remodel. I want to come to you as my friends, because that's what you are. And tell you things that I don't want to say, because I wish they weren't true. This is where my heart is tonight, and has been for some time.
A month ago, I briefly told you that my marriage was not in a good place. A day ago, somehow, it crashed down even more. I don't understand why this usually happens around the holidays, but that seems to be the case. Our fourth wedding anniversary is just a couple weeks from now. I can't believe that four short years could hold so much heartache and anguish. I can't believe the love that was there at the very beginning could be undone so easily.
It's not important what happened. Or rather, it is, but only to us.
But if I had you here with me, holding your hands as the words and the tears came, I would tell you that I am so happy in every other way- my children, my home, the chaos of my days even- but so unhappy with him and me. And that it feels cruel to be so close to happiness but never quite reach it. I would tell you how angry it makes me and that I don't even have a way to fix it. I would tell you that it's exhausting to be forever preoccupied with the uncertainty and lack of trust. I would tell you the only thing keeping me from deep regret is knowing Millie and Walter came from this.
At this time of year, pictures of smiling families are everywhere. And because I don't know their stories, it is all too easy to imagine their homes as places of love and security. I don't remember what it's like to feel the rush of love that comes with a military homecoming, or understand how wives are able to be swept up in every day adoration. The Christmas cards that are pushed into my mailbox each morning bring constant reminders that whole families do exist, and marriages can last. Then I walk back inside and face a different reality. All those things add up to feeling my stomach drop when I turn on the lights on our tree. Because I had so hoped that this year would be different, and it wasn't. My hope for the next year is small.
Then I read this post today on one of my current favorite blogs and it really resonated with me. To sum it up, she urged her readers to look for the little things and find joy in them even if the bigger things are making Christmas difficult to celebrate with a light heart. It's about grabbing hold of Christmas when it seems so out of reach and fleeting.
So friends, I am doing that. I chose the quote and picture at the beginning of this post because I have two small people in my life who cheer me up when they are unaware that I'm even sad. They make the whole year magic, and especially our Decembers. Every time we sit down to read a story, Millie tucks her arm around mine and leans closer to me. That is Christmas. Walter's first tooth came in just a day or two ago, which means a lot of sleepless evenings for him, so we've spent our time in front of the Christmas tree, with the rest of the house dark, just looking into each other's eyes until he gives up and slowly shuts his. That is Christmas. Wrapping up Millie's tiny ballet slippers and Walter's Gerber spoons: that is Christmas. And singing The First Noel at church until my throat gets tight from the love and the grace of this season: that is Christmas most of all. Entirely alive.
Optimism does not come naturally to me. But I am trying. Because so long ago, the world was cold, and dark. And suddenly, the Magi looked up and saw a star. The dark world was filled with light.