I have just spent a good deal of time reading over my three final posts from last year. I had thought that this might serve me well in assessing how “far I’ve come” over the past year. And in some ways, it has.
My mood at this time last year was dreadful. I simply couldn’t get out of my holiday funk. It was a time filled with change, some of which I disclosed in those posts and some of which I did not disclose until posts written after the holidays. Some of those things have changed and some have not.
At this time last year I had just begun my first dating experience following my wife’s death. Though it was somewhat short-lived (three and a half months from start to finish), it was a necessary learning experience. It was also the item I did not disclose at this time last year, but I pledge to let you all in a bit sooner if/when I should date again. I did not see direct evidence of that relationship having a negative impact on my holiday mood, but I am certain that it must have.
What emerged as the most obvious contributor to my “bah-humbug” mentality were the changes in my extended family over this time the previous year. At the time I thought that neither of my brothers would be coming home for Christmas, but one of them had a change of heart at the last minute and decided to come after all. The other did not. And sadly, that is one area that has not changed over the past year. At least not in a positive way. Unfortunately, my relationship with that brother (and his relationship with every other member of the family) has only become more strained. It has been touch-and-go with him for years, but it has really started to affect my daughter this year. I have tried to talk to him about it (even again recently), but unfortunately I get more excuses than I do genuine communication that might help solve some of these issues. It’s an unfortunate situation and one I had hoped would be on the mend by now. But at least my sister is consistent and seems to value family as much as my parents and I do.
At this time last year I had just finished most of the decorating, card sending, and shopping, which was uncharacteristic for me. This year I finished the decorating early in December (due to our trip to the Midwest over Thanksgiving), had the cards mailed out this past Monday, and had the shopping and most of the wrapping done with two days to spare. I started listening to Christmas music two weeks before Thanksgiving (which goes against one of my staunchest rules), due mostly to the release of this holiday collection. And I’ve just had a genuinely jovial outlook toward the holidays this year.
Now, that’s not to sugarcoat the frustrations I shared (and alluded to) in my last post. Those things are all still very real and very much on my mind. I spoke with the dentist about my periodontal surgery and he concurred with the periodontist. I can do this sometime in the near future, or I can continue to put my teeth at risk of having to be extracted down the line. Periodontal surgery is still tentatively scheduled for March 2011. I did receive a check that will help defray the costs some and also helped replenish my dwindling emergency fund, so I am not quite as worried about finances as I was when I wrote the last post. And my water heater is not only fixed, but it was an inexpensive repair and I don’t have to shell out hundreds of dollars to replace the entire unit right now!
The good news in all of those things is that even though I’ve had things on my mind that have weighed me down this holiday season (and still do, unfortunately) they have not managed to crush my overall outlook like similar circumstances did a year ago. And a brighter outlook has allowed me to find a little more joy in the holidays this year.
My daughter and I always spend the first week of our Christmas Break from school at home, before heading to the Midwest to see our extended family. And we always try to make the most of that special time together. This week we visited some of her old daycare teachers and had lunch with some friends/former co-workers of mine. We also visited an area lighthouse with a new/old friend (someone from my childhood that I have recently become reacquainted with. And for those of you who are wondering, there’s no dating potential-this particular friend is a man.) We carved out some time to see Tangled, which vastly exceeded my expectations. And we headed to the beach for our annual Christmas Eve excursion. And in the midst of all the excitement, my daughter managed to lose three teeth, two of which were the coveted “two front teeth” she had so desperately wanted to lose before the Big Day. Tomorrow, after all of our morning festivities, we’ll hit the road for the first part of our journey to see the rest of the family. It’s been a busy week, but I’ve found in some instances being busy can be a good thing.
So what can I conclude from all of this? Am I naïve enough to believe that grief cannot strike when my mood is “up”? Absolutely not. It already has this season and it will continue to. Do I think that I am somehow untouchable because I’m not in the same kind of rut I was in last year? Not at all. There are still plenty of negative circumstances surrounding these holidays and life in general. They have just not affected my overall outlook in the same way similar things did a year ago.
My daughter asked me last night how many Christmases this makes without her mother. She seemed surprised when I told her it would be the fourth. She sadly does not really remember Christmas with her mother, but thankfully we have video she can watch to supplement what her mind will not conjure up. She had some tough moments early in the season and has done more visible grieving than I recall her doing at this time last year. My moments of grief have been more subtle, but still very much a presence. During this, my fourth Christmas without her, the overall grief has abated some. I know this does not mean it will do the same next year, but I think a general pattern of abatement is likely.
Which makes me all the more mindful of the widow/ers who are still newer at this than I am. For some it will be the third or second or even the dreaded first Christmas without their husband or wife. If you are reading this and fall into that category, know that you are on my heart and in my prayers more at this moment than any other. And know that each Christmas is different. If this one is particularly hard, the next one may be better. And if it isn’t, then perhaps the one after that will be.
Wherever you are in life as you read this, I’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy 2011.
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