This Christmas…It’s a Special One For Us Indeed

The holidays are always hard for me to get through for varying reasons, as I know they are for a lot of people, particularly those of us who live with mental illness.

The one thing that I’ve been focused on amidst all the frenzy of the holiday season and my own erratic moods is simply being grateful that life for the boys and I is not what it was this time last year. Bertski and I weren’t together and it was our first time navigating the tricky process of splitting the holidays with Alex. I hated it. It was lonely…I felt awful that I had contributed to my boys not being able to spend the holidays together, with both of their parents. Christmas was especially difficult for me, and also for Brennan. He kept asking when Alex was coming back, why Alex and Bertski were in Philly and not with us, and I kept fighting back tears and despairing thoughts. I felt hollow, emotionally cold, my mind was dark, and I just wanted it all to be over with. I was angry…bitterness had started to settle in my heart.

This Christmas, however, things are COMPLETELY different. If you’ve been reading along these past months, you know this. Instead of trying to navigate the ups and downs of co-parenting while forging lives independent of each other, Bertski and I are finally finding our way down a path that allows us to be parents AND a couple, building and living a family centric lifestyle-a first for both of us.

This Christmas I also find myself being grateful to say goodbye to life as a single mother and preparing myself to experience the holidays in the years to come as a wife. I don’t regret having to learn the ins and outs of parenting and how to balance the responsibility of it on both of my shoulders. The past 5 1/2 years have taught me a significant amount about myself…about life. It changed me into a new person, someone capable of doing things I didn’t think I’d be able to handle on my own.  I’m grateful for the life I lived as a single parent, but I’m also ready to say goodbye to it. I’m ready to move forward with someone not only willing to share the responsibility of parenting, but also willing to build a life with me. That’s huge for me. I’m used to people walking out of my life and removing me from theirs in one way or another, for varying reasons. I don’t always blame them, but it’s always left me feeling abandoned and unworthy of so many things-like having a family and a partner. To have someone see the value and worth I see in myself and decide to embrace and cherish it, cherish me, is the one gift I’ve begged for since I was a child and never received-until now.

When Bertski asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I told him I wanted nothing and it was the honest truth.  There is nothing material he would’ve purchased at a store that would’ve meant more to me than the gift of love I’ve found in our family and in my friends this year-my heart is too full to hold in anything else.

I hope that if you find yourself feeling lonely or down for whatever reason today you will be able to at least find one thing you can fix your mind on to get you through today and even into the new year just a few days away.  I hope that no matter what you find yourself struggling with in life today, that at least in one way, no matter how small or trivial it may seem, you are better than you were last year. Take some time to reflect on what that one thing make this day a special one for you, one that allows grace and gratitude to abide in your heart…it’s working for me :)

Merry Christmas y’all. Now…enjoy the brilliant weirdness that is Cee-Lo Green’s Magic Moment. Seriously.

On Grief & Gratitude: There’s Room for Both pt.1

The holidays are here and every year since I can remember, I’ve greeted this season with excitement and hope, but also with resentment, sadness, and as I’ve gotten older, a bit of bitterness. Since I’ve become a mother, and made the determination that the holidays will be a time of excitement and celebration for my children, it’s gotten easier to free myself from the childhood tangles that tie me to these emotions, but I have yet to free myself from them completely. 

I was angry at myself this morning for once again having to fight this ongoing battle and started to flog myself for feeling so mournful and sad when I have so much to be thankful for. Even with this illness, my life has become so full of love and joy, my family is thriving, and I have incredible friends who support me. But yet, as I thought about all of this, grief over what I endured during the holidays growing up and what I lost during those years tugged at my heart, asking for acknowledgement as well.

I sat on the edge of my bed and my eyes filled with tears as I allowed it to come in and sit next to the gratitude swelling in my heart. It was in that quiet moment that I realized my heart had room for them both.

As the holiday season kicks off tomorrow I am comforted today by the thought that there is room for both grief and gratitude throughout varying seasons and occasions in my life. I don’t have to choose one over the other. Just because I may be grieving something does not mean I’m wallowing in or have yet to let it go and move on….nor does it imply that I am not grateful for what fills and enriches my life now in the present. 

Embracing and practicing gratitude while grief still lingers affords me the opportunity to acknowledge grief’s presence, address it, and still move forward with a heart full of thanksgiving for the present and future. Acknowledgement of grief and pain over the loss of something or someone simply means that there is still healing that needs to take place, and as time allows, it will. I’ve spent the last 14 months unraveling the tangles of my past, recovering from and repairing the damage it’s caused in my adult life, and slowly removing the debris that’s been covering up the core of who I am. I’ve made a lot of progress in learning, cultivating, and nourishing what I’ve found underneath the debris and am starting to have a clearer understanding of who I am….but I realized today that there are still places healing has yet to reach, and that’s okay.  I’m confident as I continue to unearth and face what lies within, healing will come and breathe new life until there is nothing left to mourn. 

I’m relieved to know that I can go through this holiday season embracing both grief and gratitude, and am comforted all the more by the knowledge that amongst the two, there lies as much grace as is needed to live with both.

If the holiday season is difficult for you, and you are mourning the loss of a loved one, or something significant to you, I hope you remember to extend yourself some grace and acknowledge that it’s okay to grieve. It’s okay and one hundred percent possible to be grateful in the midst of your grief. However you’re feeling, I hope you remember that no matter where you are or what you have to face during the holidays, you are still loved. You still matter. You are still worthy.

I hope this made some kind of sense to those of you reading.

Enjoy your turkey or whatever you plan on eating & doing tomorrow.

More on this subject to come…

Fear Redefined

Today I experienced fear in a very real way. I thought I knew fear, what it felt like, what it was to experience it, but after today, my definition of what fear is has been obliterated into nothingness…and all that remains is the cold, harsh reality that try as you might as a parent, you can’t protect your kids from everything…

I don’t have all the articulation necessary to convey what happened-not right now. I’ll try to give a proper voice to what I experienced as a mother today-tomorrow, or the next day-when the stark reality has blurred around the edges of my memory and lost its sting….

Tonight I will just lift my eyes to the One who always holds and comforts me when I’m vulnerable, my Father who covers me when my emotions are raw and exposed to the cruelty life can bring…Tonight I lift my eyes and my voice in gratitude to the One whose name left my lips in a panicked prayer the instant fear and hopelessness began to seize my being. Tonight I’m just so grateful to God fear didn’t win and that my son is still here-I’ll never take him being on this earth or the fact that I’m his mother for granted ever again….Until tomorrow….