Letter to December
This morning on my FB feed, there was a post in my Story Sessions group with a prompt to “Write a Letter to December.” I’ve never actually written a letter to a month but I immediately wanted to, so here I am. My “Letter to December.”
You are a month full of contradictory feelings for me, feelings which can vary from year to year depending on where I am physically, emotionally, and spiritually. This year, my feelings and spiritual condition both sink and soar making me feel that I might actually be bi-polar. I can’t decide whether to anticipate you or dread your coming. This year, Advent appropriately begins on December 1. The season of waiting, of anticipation, and hope beginning on the first day of the month seems like some sort of sign. Yet I feel none of those things this year. I don’t want to wait, I don’t want to anticipate, and I have very little hope. I want God in a big way and I want it now. Now!
I think some of the discontent in my heart belong to still being a relatively new widow. I thought making it through all those “firsts” would mean that everything would get easier, but it doesn’t. I think I dread this holiday season more than I did last year’s. Last year, all I focused on was the kids. It was all for them, making them happy, making new memories and creating new traditions while still trying to honor some of the old traditions. What I have discovered though is that I worked so hard last year to help my kids that I didn’t help myself. I didn’t do the work of healing, a healing that can’t take place instantaneously but it could have begun. Now this year I find I don’t want to celebrate. I want to hibernate like a bear over the long, cold winter. To sleep, to forget, is what I want, but all that does is forestall the process of healing.
The other bits of my discontent come from some blog posts I read recently by Calah Alexander (scroll to the bottom of the post and she links to all five pieces). She was responding to another blogger’s post and she wrote a series of pieces called “Sentimental Clap-trap.” Boy did some of those posts bring up some vile thoughts. Phrases like “God has a plan for you,” “God wouldn’t give you more than you can handle,” are phrases I, frankly, do not ever want to hear again. I don’t believe them. In fact, the phrases make me so mad that I want to reject God altogether. I can not accept a plan wherein my husband dies and leaves me a widow to parent four children on my own. And as for “handling” it, well, I am not. I am not handling it so if God wouldn’t give me something more than I could handle, he seriously misjudged my abilities. I do believe in God though and I just can’t reject him. Because these phrases are not really about God, but they are about the people who utter them. The people who say, “God has a plan for you…” are saying it because they don’t know what to say, or they feel that they must have an answer for life circumstances for which there really is no answer. There really is no answer why my husband died. He just did, and I don’t think it’s God’s fault or that it was his plan. People say “God won’t give you more than you can handle” because in a way it let’s them off the hook for offering to help you. What I mean by that is that if I am handling everything OK on my own, then they don’t have to feel the need to offer assistance. I think they also feel that it is encouraging to someone like me, like somehow I should feel boosted up in my confidence, but I don’t. I feel like screaming, “I am not handling it. No one in my position could really handle it. You are making me feel like a failure, that I lack faith, and that I am flawed because I break down, because I need help, because I need you to come along side of me and let me rant, cry, and cuss.”
December, I both love you and loathe you. I love the lights, the candles in church and the ones we set on our table at home. I love the music and the generally festive feeling people have this month. I love seeing the bell ringers and all the people digging into their purses and wallets to give more generously than they would any other time of the year. I love the quiet hush that seems to surround this month as we focus once again on our Savior’s birth. I love St. Nicholas and stockings filled with clementines, gold chocolate coins and nuts. I love decorating the trees, taking out the ornaments that all have meaning, lovingly gathered over the years of a shared life as a family, loving stories to go with each. I love the smell of pine trees, pumpkin spice and cinnamon which evoke warmth and comfort. But I loathe the crowds in the stores, people shoving trying to get things crossed off their gift buying lists. I loathe the extra traffic on the roads, impatient to get to the next place. I loathe the Christmas lists from children, filled with expectations of fulfillment and the pressure one feels when you can only get one or two things and you hope they are the right one or two things. I loathe the commercialism of the month, which has really extended back into November these days. I loathe waking up on Christmas morning, attending Mass, and all the while there is an empty place in my heart that was once filled with love for one who is no more. I loathe the sadness I will feel and that I will have to cover it up with smiles and good cheer so as not to ruin anyone’s day. I loathe that when the big day is over, suddenly the world seems greyer, colder, and the next few months stretch out cold and empty.
I am going to try to embrace you December. I am going to try to focus on the good and on the lovely. On the waiting and the anticipation that once again we welcome Christ into the world. I am going to try to love more and loathe less, to breathe easier, to let go of the unimportant and to be content with what is now and not what was. Sometime during your month, December, I will go to the confessional with my heart repentant, tax collector that I am, crawling on my knees, face to the floor, begging God to forgive me for my unbelief and asking him to bring hope into my heart again, and I will walk out with my faith renewed, eyes to the tabernacle where Christ himself resides, ready to receive him body and blood in the Eucharist.
~ The Reluctant Widow