Since my teenage years, Christmas has brought me a whole mixture of emotions. Growing up, of course there were the wonderful festivities that each child (should) experience.
But since 1999, life shifts always seem to happen during the holiday season (enter the sound of the world's tiniest violin):
Age 9: My Grandfather was bed-ridden from a brain cancer and he died a week after Christmas.
Age 14: Mom was completely and fully addicted to meth by this point, to which the healthy part of our family painfully agreed we need not spend the holiday with her. Oh also...our family’s golden retriever died on that first Christmas away from her.
Age 21: My niece died on (or around) the 22nd and the boyfriend I had for almost four years left me (for the arms of another woman LOL!) the week of Christmas.
Age 23: My husband (then boyfriend) was informed he would be deployed in one week. They notified him of this, the day after Christmas, and said he would be leaving for 8 months. Mind you, this was 4 months after his previous deployment.
Age 25: Packing up for a PCS - I really hate change
Age 28: Packing up again for a PCS - tis our moving season, for the next 9 years. Did I meantion I REALLY hate change?
Let me say that those details listed above, I find them all incredibly comical when they are put together. Okay, maybe not the sickness and death - but I mean, you have to admit that there are some things, like the deployment and the break-up, that make you go...maybe another month would have been more appropriate? I dealt with them and they have no bearing on my life, now.
Literally, there is no part of me that sits back to list every less than desirable event, crying over a luke-warm cup of eggnog. But, why not show you a little humour and paint you big ol’ pitiful picture LOL.
Though in that list, you can note that the biggest moments of changes in my life have always happened during this time of year. As a result, it has made me very skeptical of the holiday. I mean, I subconsciously spend much of December on edge while waiting for something else to appear. If I’m ready for the appearance of crap, I wouldn’t be so surprised when it dropped; right? I fully acknowledge this is broken/fearful processes.
But there is nothing that compares to a GIANT hole in my heart, as I heavily miss my mother so much during this month. For little has changed since she became caught up in methamphetamine when I was 14 years old - actually, it has gotten worse.
It sounds callous, but 334 days out of the year, she is practically nonexistent to me. I have to put her into a category of “things that do not exist” because she is so horrifyingly toxic, in my life. That is how I’ve survived the depression monster.
However, December 1st rolls around, and suddenly remember that I do in fact have a mother that is alive. I can hear her in every single Christmas song and see her eyes in every twinkle of displayed lighting.
It is this month that I remember every last wonderful thing about my mom.
Wasn’t she a BEAUTIFUL woman?!
Now you may think that since it’s been 14 years, this feeling may be a conviction and I should bring her back in my life.
NO. 14 years, without a break in being high (except when she is in jail) makes all of this far more scary.
That is almost a decade and a half of slow brain damage.
Honestly, I have given up 98% of my hope that she will be reformed. And that reality comes with heavy emotions; but only twice a year as I purge through my wails, leaving it all on my pillow and moving right on with my life.
Though there is that 2% hopes that one day, we will be reunited.
But every new Christmas Eve, I realize that it has not yet happened and spend most of that day crying it off. I forget every year that this is my routine. However, my husband doesn't. He wakes me up each Eve with cheerful songs and does everything in his power to make me smile. Somehow though, I am reminded through social media that the world is on full Christmas mode, and I find myself slipping. **Note to Candice - take a complete break from IG and FB the 23rd-25th.**
But it’s like I have to purge that all on the 24th so that on Christmas Day, I can take a productive life inventory.
This morning usually begins with much self talk that goes something like this…
‘You are an adult woman with a beautiful little family. Regardless of what age you are or circumstances you experienced, you will never get back the joys of a childhood Christmas - not one adult ever will. While you know this every other day, remember that this is like any other part of the year. Just because someone tells you it’s a special day, that does not mean you are allowed to fall back on years of work that has gotten you to the healthy place in your life.’
You know...stuff like that.
And after having that serious self talk, I am able to stand up and really look at the years past, for what they are.
What I Remember:
- I had a BEAUTIFUL childhood with the most splendid Christmas holidays. I loved every moment of what my mom and dad gave me, and commend my dad for working so hard after my mom left to continue to give my brother and I that festive normalcy; always breaking out the delicious sourdough bowl and filling it with the best homemade spinach dip (my stomach is growling, just thinking about it).
- I think about the six wonderful years I spent home at The BBQ Joint, that everyone held me through that painful break-up, and each season was spent almost screaming Christmas carols in the kitchen with my best partner in crime, Darren (I mean, every.single.morning during the chilliest months. Which God bless that business - I was singing them the day after Halloween). I recall their hugs, kisses, phone calls and txt messages to me, each year; still taking my calls when I am lumping military PCS and my mother in the same category of “Candice resisting change”, and their kindness in always letting me process through each emotion.
- I remember each of my family members that rallied around my brother and I, always ensuring that we knew that we were loved when so many toxic emails and phone calls made us think otherwise.
- I recall how thankful I was for the three Christmas seasons that I spent while helping direct shows at my old high school and remembering how much JOY the students and teachers brought me
- I put myself back in Utah with the most beautiful families (Huntsman’s and Silva’s) and think about how they both opened their homes to me; showing me the most stunning Christmas and truly making me believe in the magic of it all, again.
- I look at my husband and our golden retriever, thinking ‘every single pain led me straight to this moment.’ For without my mother’s story, I would have never been brought to the deep understanding and friendship in mine and Will’s life.
Along the way, I am thankful to the wonderful celebrities and “influencers” that have recently brought normalcy to the topic of holiday pain. It has made me so happy to see the subject shared and I am reminded that I’m never alone in the sadness that this time can bring - always steadfast that in the hope of recognizing those isolating feelings, we all have the great chance of holding together and not backing down to the Grinch that pulls our spirits.
Now I realize that I am really freaking hungry, that “A Christmas Story” is on the television (which makes me think so fondly of my two brothers), and that every single holiday season is a new opportunity for me to do things a little differently than the year before.
I plan on having a HAPPY holiday, because if I can do life 11 months out of the year, there is not one reason why I can’t pull on those strengths to get me through the rest of this month.