I always love the ideas of holidays, but holidays are…complicated. They always are even if we all only post the happy versions of the highlight reels on social media.
In my pre-Hope life, things were complicated for all kinds of reasons.
Most of the time I’ve been single during the holidays.
Still not skinny and all my food issues and body issues hop into overdrive and are usually kept there by someone commenting in passing on my body.
The need to drive around creation to “see” everyone.
The desire for simplicity and routine during a time that legit represents neither.
The grief I hold in my heart for family and friends who are no longer here.
The complicated personal theology that keeps me going, but doesn’t quite fit with the holiday themes surrounding this time of year.
And sometimes wondering if I even belong anywhere.
And then Hope came and all of that still existed but new stuff emerged as I tried to graft this new family together with new traditions. The reality is things became more complicated in many ways.
Hope has her own grief, profound grief.
She wonders if she belongs anywhere.
There’s so many people and they want/demand hugs.
There’s “holiday” routines and traditions, but can we get back to our regularly scheduled programming?
How much alone time can be had without folks asking if she’s “ok?”
There’s the introvert’s exhaustion from having to exist around 30 people for hours.
There’s thoughts of what should have been her life with her family of origin.
This year was no different, in fact it might have been more challenging. What can I say, schnitt happens.
Hope and I open gifts on Christmas Eve. Every year Hope writes me a letter (she’s also usually broke so she leans into the much more personalized gift). I heard her sobbing in her room. I asked if she was ok, she kept saying yes. I finally dropped it. We gather to do our Christmas and she hands me her letter.
This year’s letter is different from all the others, which I keep with all my important papers. There’s always a lot of love and gratitude in the letters; they are sweet…precious. I can see her maturity over the years in them and what she talks about. They are a big window into Hope’s emotions, which I don’t get too often.
This year’s letter thanked me for adopting her and went on to talk about repaying me. This letter was beautiful and heartbreaking. Hope does not owe me anything. I’m high key horrified that she thinks she does in any sense. I wanted to be a mom, and she needed a parent. We were a match and we’ve worked hard to make this match work. I adore Hope. I read the letter, sobbed and hugged her an uncomfortably long time while repeating over and over that she owes me nothing.
Yappy doesn’t do well with big emotions—he’s a happy boy who just wants everyone to be happy. So during these moments of sobbing, Yappy is uncomfortably trying to get into our hug, pawing, sad faced, bringing toys to cheer us. We eventually had to do our “sit on the couch close enough for him to snuggle between us” to calm him; it’s his favorite thing. #packanimal
And that’s how Christmas started. We moved from that to an unfortunate incident in which Grammy only claimed her two bio grandkids despite having 5 grandkids—3 by adoption and guardianship. This happened in front of Hope who just pretended it didn’t happen. There were apologies later, but there were hours and hours of discomfort, anger, sadness, rejection, and the rest.
There were challenging moments with 30 people in a house, some of whom demanded “hugs” from everyone, especially the kids. Folks stop doing this and stop your family from doing this. You can’t teach bodily autonomy and safety when some rando woman you only see once a year is insisting on manhandling your kid. Hope only does hugs with folks she’s close to; the hugging demands are really triggering.
Then there were the quiet conversations between me and Hope about family gatherings, biological family, belonging, and sadness that took place in the space between our two beds in the hotel. The moments when I want to cry for her, but am not sure if such expressions of grief and sadness on her behalf are helpful or not, so I wait until the early morning when she’s sleeping to work through it.
And of course there is other emotional drama that I’m not sure will ever fully make it to this space—I’ll say this: getting to know folks romantically is hard. There is a part of me that is like, yo, Hope and I made this match work; those should be transferable skills right? Yeah, no. Years of awful dating experiences have taken their toll and every hiccup makes me want to just call it a day and get a hypoallergenic cat to go with my cute dog. It’s hard to heal, to trust, and to believe after what feels like countless failures. #butIdigress
I’m trying, and I’m trying to just muster sufficient grace to plow through this holiday season and all of the emotional schnitt it brings.
I love time with my family and with my beautiful Hope. I love the downtime from work—seriously my resting heart rate has dropped more than 5 bpm so I’m guessing work is stressful, eh? I love being able to nap in the afternoon. I’m officially addicted to knitting because it’s relaxing and I’m delighted to have all this time to work on projects.
But I’m a calendar based kinda of chick. You know how you wake up in the middle of the night, look at the clock and fret about how much time you have left to sleep? And then you can’t sleep all that great during the remaining time? Yeah, I do that with days, sometimes weeks. I’m already stressed about going back to work. I’m already stressed about taking Hope back to school.
I’m kind of a mess in need of a lot of grace as well.
And I left my fitbit at home, which begs the question, am I even really moving? How am I supposed to make sure my eating and exercise levels are at least kinda in sync?
Yeah, I’m a mess, and this time of year seems to bring a lot of it to the surface. I would love nothing more to buy a winning lottery ticket and disappear, just vanish to some far-flung place. Sigh, I don’t even play the lottery.
So, folks, I’m just trying to focus on being gracious today. Grace is a gift. It is centering. It can lead me to forgiveness when necessary. It gives me strength. It allows me to fret less. In putting grace out into the universe, I’m hopeful that the universe will give some back to me.
I need it.