As a kid, it was magical.
But then, I became a mama. And the holidays took on an entirely different kind of magic.
But then my whole world was shattered, and when I tried and failed and tried again to put the pieces back together... I realized it was too late, it was too much and it was also not enough... and I couldn't repair my heart, couldn't repair our world, alone.
As I go through the grieving process - which is a process, actual fluid steps that are intermingled and intertwined and all tied up in an imperfect messy knot - I am learning that the world keeps turning.. the days keep passing. Whether I am up or down, put together or falling apart - the sun comes up and the day asks for you to live it and each step has to become purposeful again.
This year, 2017, has been the hardest, most painful, most difficult, most emotional, most exhausting, most shocking, most excruciating, most soul-searching, most heartbreaking year of my entire life.
This season of my life, as I have already written about, has been awful.
There it is, the honest truth.
There is no sugar-coating it. And I will never attempt to do that.
And since I've shared even the tiniest bit of my pain, I've had so many people comment and message me and text me and call me and tell me over and over and over again how well I'm doing, how I'm so amazing, how I'm so strong, how I'm handling it so well.
Truth is, it is not all yellow and flexing muscles and focusing on the joy and smiles over tears over here.
I am trying to make it, almost fake it that way... for me, and for them.
But don't let social media fool you, and don't let my public smile fool you. I don't want to seem like I have it altogether over here.
I am a mess. I am struggling.
Yes, I am trying with all my might to choose joy and see the sun and focus on what I'm grateful for and count my blessings...
But there are a lot of tears, a lot of confusion, a lot of pain, a lot of steps backwards, a lot of doubt, a lot of questions for Him, a lot of anger over the fact that my heart that will never, ever be the same.
And so I am doggy-paddling through this season... barely afloat -- surviving, really. In a home that is now either extremely loud and chaotic or way too quiet and still, and in a home that is always messy and cluttered and in a home in which you cannot step on the floor without stepping on either a Cheerio or a light saber or a cat toy (I HAVE A CAT?!).
But it is also now a home with a Christmas tree and lights and decorations and a winter candle burning to make the whole house smell like the holidays.
And as many of you have said, yes, the holidays are hard when you are grieving.
Yes, yes, yes.
It is so hard. So weird, and so hard.
It is so hard to be asked questions by my kids that I cannot answer right now, it is so hard to know we are all experiencing the joy of our yearly traditions, but it also just feels different. It is so hard to want to protect them when I see and feel their pain and confusion... knowing that one day it'll all make sense to them, but right now, it doesn't. It can't.
So we are celebrating as best as we know how. And this weekend, as I sat in my home, surrounded by all things Christmas, I realized that yes, the holidays are hard right now. But I'm almost more anxious about the time that will come after the holidays.
When it's quieter. When there is less distraction. When there are less places to go, things to do, ways to celebrate, gifts to wrap, surprises to plan.
When we have to really settle into a new normal that - a year ago - we never, ever saw coming. In fact, if this time last year you would've told me that this year would look like this, I would've told you you were crazy.
But, it's where we are.
And it hurts. But I guess I have to feel the hurt to one day feel the joy again?
One day, I'm hoping and praying and wishing with all my heart that the joy begins to overtake the hurt, that it is more steps forward than backward. That certain thoughts/memories/truths stop making me feel so sick, and that the realization of broken dreams doesn't make me feel like I can't breathe.
So we go see Christmas lights, and I cry when I see their faces...
So I keep the radio off in the car so that CK can sing all of her favorite Christmas songs, and I try to capture the sweet sound of her six-year-old voice so that I never, ever forget...
So I put up that dang Elf on the Shelf every night, with carefully planned and thought out shenanigans so that their laughter fills up the emptiness in our home...
So I have two different Advent calendars, so that I can hear their feet running down the stairs and across the hardwood floors every morning in excited anticipation (am I the only one who loves the sound of children running barefoot across a hardwood floor? <3)...
So we go to my favorite church service of the entire year, where CK sings and I am honored to do a reading in front of the congregation...
So I spend an embarrassing amount of time putting lights up on outside of the house, only to realize later that a third of them are burned out - and then decide to leave them as is, because they are much more representative of my life that way... And I also put "rainbow lights" (as CK calls them) all over the inside of my house, promising that next year we will have rainbow lights EVERYWHERE and maybe even one of those blow-up Santas...
So we go to the community Christmas parade and eat way too much candy and dance and sing and laugh together...
So we put up a new tree topper, make new traditions in place of some old ones that cannot exist anymore (and, by the way, I found the PERFECT tree topper, thankyouverymuch)...
So we light fires in the fireplace, and spend extra time snuggling and watching Christmas movies...
So we put up mistletoe and smooch as often as possible anytime we walk underneath it...
So we embrace an unexpected snow day after a very rough week, and let our hearts' holes fill up with snowflakes for a few hours...
So we keep putting one foot in front of the other. Because what choice do we have? God-willing, tomorrow will come. God-willing, Christmas will be here soon. And I don't want to just "get through the holidays" this year. I will never have a 6-year-old, 3-year-old, and 1-year-old at Christmastime, ever again. This is my only chance to breathe in this holiday season, even if it is smack dab in the middle of the most painful season of life I have ever known.
I know, I know I have so much to be grateful for, so many blessings I do not deserve. So many people who continue to surprise me and humble me with their prayers and thoughtfulness and generosity. So many reasons to smile and celebrate and dance and dream.
I also know that this year, though it is hard and it is painful... I need the holidays. I need God, I need to celebrate Jesus' birthday, I need to remember why we're here and the sacrifices that were made for us. I need the wrapping paper and the Jingle Bells and the Balsam candles and the Oreo balls and the cookies for Santa and the lights and the matching pajamas and the gingerbread houses and the countdowns and the Silent Nights.
I need to grieve, I need to let myself feel, I need to find the good, but also accept the pain. I need to find forgiveness, I need to find myself again, I need to find more strength for them, I need to hold onto hope that smiles will soon outnumber tears.
But mostly, right now...
I need Christmas.