Monday, November 28, 2011

The Monday Blues

Blech.  Is it just me, or is everyone having a hard time getting back into the swing of work today?  I actually had no intention originally of taking all four days of the Thanksgiving break off, but life sometimes has a funny way of making you do what it wants and not what you intend, and so, here I am, all the unfinished work I had on Wednesday evening still staring up at me along with the new deadlines pressing in, trying to get my head wrapped around what I need to do, but feeling fidgety and confined sitting at my desk again after such a break, and just in general fumbling around what is normally a fairly rigid and set work schedule.  One more reason that the holidays are just chaos to be endured.  Of course, I realize that is the workaholic in me talking.  Because the family person in me had a robust and fulfilling Thanksgiving break.  Not only did we spend time with my family - thanks to not one, but two gracious invitations from my mother's family - but most (not quite all) the Christmas decorations are up, most (but not quite all) of the gifts are bought, and many (but not nearly all) of them are wrapped and ready to mail. All in all, I should be taking stock of the holiday break and feeling very, very satisfied.  But, of course, holidays for us are complicated.  And likely will be for a while.

I woke up Thanksgiving morning to the same routine I do everyday.  Chappy, Cheyenne and I walk around the block, then they help themselves to dog biscuits and watch me do a little jaunt on the treadmill while the coffee brews.  Same almost every day.  Rain, shine, wind or - soon - snow.  But, as I trudged away on the treadmill, I felt as though something was crushing on my heart.  I just couldn't quite imagine suddenly that here we were - at the dawn of another holiday without one of our children.  For a minute I thought it would overwhelm me.  It didn't, and I actually managed to push that thought to the back of my mind for the rest of the day.  I didn't mention her.  To anyone.  But it was there.  For all the days I get up, get to work, watch hockey, watch football, eat, drink or whatever else I do, there is a difference in how the Now What feels when it's on a holiday.  Holidays are, as I said myself in my last blog, about family.  It is naturally hard when when part of that family is missing.

There were other signs that all was not right as the weekend wore on.  My mood swings were wild - I was up, then very far down.  I was enjoying myself, then irritated to the point of fury.  Poor Marissa had to keep me in check.  Looking back on it, I can only surmise that every time I was having some fun trying to figure out where all the holiday things should go in the new little house, part of me would begin to feel guilty and sabotage the moment.  But, I soldiered on.  The worst moment is always opening up the ornament box and finding the Baby's First Ornament that Mother gave me.  I really should just take it out of there and put it somewhere else with Kelsey's things.  I won't hang it on the tree, but I'll certainly never get rid of it - but it's a reminder of a double loss.  A time so far removed that it doesn't even seem real:  when I had a healthy baby girl and a mother who doted on her first grandchild.  As long as I leave it with all the other silly little ornaments I've collected over the years, I'll forever feel that pain when I come across it.

For Greg it was clearly, undeniably harder.  He really wants no part of Christmas.  He helped me pull the holiday decorations down from the attic, but his participation stopped there.  He bordered on pouty at times as Marissa and I worried over where this or that would go, and he camped out in the basement, far from the melee.  At the moments I felt the best, he seemed to pull further in and down.  A little piece of me sat above it all and observed the complex melodrama our collective emotions put on over the weekend and wondered, "Will it always be like this, or will we someday actually have our lives back and be able to participate in the holidays like normal people?"  I am not sure.  But, really, what is normal anyway?  And certainly what is normal for us?

I can tell you that, for my part, I want to take some inspiration from my cousin who hosted us on Thanksgiving day.  She has had her own losses and, as I found out that day, right around the holidays to boot.  Yet, quite spontaneously at one point as she prepared an excellent feast for us, she turned to me and exclaimed, "I love the holidays!"  And I know she means that.  She has learned to honor her loved ones and not forget them while not losing sight of the remaining joys in her life - her son and daughter, her grandchildren, her friends and extended family, her lovely home.  She seems to have found that magic word that is so very elusive for many of us:  contentment.  When she said it, I thought to myself, "Wow, these Pennsylvania women are made of hardy stuff!"  And they are.  My fervent wish is that there is a little Pennsylvania stock in all of us.

In the meantime, I will do what I can.  My little cottage is, if I say so myself, adorable in its holiday best.  The one thing about cottages is that they seem ideally suited to dressing up in garland and bows.  That's a start - the rest time will have to tell...

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