I have a love-hate relationship with the holidays. Every year I approach it with fresh eyes and a clear heart, I mentally prepare myself to take it all in--the lights, the love, the tidings of peace and joy from friends and strangers alike. But I can never escape the sadness, for as much as we would like to believe that a holy day as momentous as Christmas could be left unscathed from sorrow it never is. There beneath the glitter and gold, the sugar and spice lies a silver lining tarnished by tears, anger, regret, depression.
I have always been affected by others emotions--by their glee, their wishes and dreams, their strife. I earnestly want to help, and admittedly I don't always suggest the most practical ideas and solutions in their time of need. I often question the presence of a sixth sense existence, of ghost and spirits, and psychic ability. I want to believe that the impossible is possible and that my lost loved ones 'presence' is tangible even in its most ethereal state at this time of year.
Sometimes I wish for the power to change things in real-time with a twitch of a nose and a flick of a wand--it must be the influence of all those hours reading Meg Murry's adventures, of dreaming what lies just beyond the wardrobe, and watching Piper freeze time and mix potions. I love the mysticism attached to being a witch, the mythology of spells and incantations. I've been reading the Game of Thrones and am mesmerized by Daenerys and her dragons and of magic, of words. It takes just a moment in this real world of 2012 to remind me that time, effort and a whole lot of blood, sweat and tears makes the magic of this age.
Empathy: loosely defined as the art of experiencing the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of others, of channeling them within. I can relate to that definition, and whilst I am no Aiden Lucas, after hearing the not so cheery news of others and left to my own devices the negativity can bloom and compound if you will, scarring me from the inside out. Much like it did yesterday, on Christmas.
In the last week alone, I found myself with a minor conflict at work; conflicted by how best to be compassionate to a friend struggling with the repercussions of unemployment and a looming mortgage; grasping the news of the sudden death of a friend's mother--which unearthed the loss of my own mom 12 years ago--and how to console her despite the distance; a relative's angst over a family tragedy. In the midst of all this sad news, I found myself with good news of my own and no one other than my brother or father to share it with--and that realization, of being alone, catapults even the strongest of souls into a downward spiral. And as I wrapped my gifts and baked Christmas cookies, as I planned my driving route and tried to think positively about Christmas dinner with my brother's family, it festered and stewed.
Dad & I were scheduled to leave the house at noon--now that Dad moves slower I took the liberty of buffering our departure time by 45 minutes in the event that we were running behind (because frankly we always are). I packed the car and waited: first Dad had to have coffee, then write out the children's cards and then there was the trip to the bathroom. When I found myself in the car, double-parked on the street, unraveling a knitted piece of yarn, still waiting for Dad at 1:45pm I should have known that the simmering blood under my skin was close to boiling.
When we finally found ourselves on the road, we hit bumper to bumper traffic, and Dad suggests we take an alternate route through Far Rockaway and Long Beach. I acquiesce, reset the GPS and we make our way through. Now mind you he hasn't driven in this area for ages, and the majority of the neighborhoods within 45 minute driving distance from the city have undergone major reconstruction. Nothing is like it was before. And so we drive, get turned around, and then we are lost. And that is when I lose it, my bottled up patience explodes, we yell and scream, I start cussing. He berates me for not listening to him, I get a headache and try to get my bearings.
It's a big hot mess. My brother calls in the middle of it and like Yoda shares his words of wisdom--"Well then you'll get here when you get here." The simmer returns, we drive a little further. I have to pull the car over to the side of the road, just to get some air. I count to ten, take a deep breath, get back in the car, try to talk to my father in a rational turn. He hears only what he wants to, reacts only to the words that suit him. I see red, beyond the chariot fire color of my car. And it all comes out...the angst of the last few days, the emotional duress, the remembrance of my mother's death caused by the death of my friend's mother, the realization of not having another breathing soul to share my achievements with except the emotionally unavailable brother and father I am stuck with, the words tumble out into the cab of the car and fall upon deaf ears.
By the time I am through my car needs an exorcism. I crank the radio and retreat into silence, blocking out anything Dad has to say. It's in these moments I wonder how my mom survived being married to someone who doesn't listen, who tunes out the emotional conversation.
We arrive 90 minutes late to a house filled with laughter--the children are running and dancing, getting so big, they are barely unrecognizable. They talk of dance recitals, soccer and hockey games, activities that Caroline's family can talk about in minute details. So many parts of their lives, to which I have no purview, I know nothing about.
I feel as if I am a moviegoer, nothing more than a witness. My own family strange and unfamiliar to me and I wonder why I even allow myself to partake in these moments if they make me feel so empty afterward.
And so I make a resolution to myself right then and there. In 2012 I will give myself permission to let go, to not get wrapped in the madness of expectations associated with participating in these 'family' holidays, to allow myself to be selfish, to free my heart so that I'll still have love to give when that person steps into my life. May 2012 present the opportunity to disappear and experience life beyond these false walls. Amen.