I’m snowed in today, along with a large portion of the state. Usually these days are real gifts, and I guess in it’s own way it is a gift, but a hard one. I had a hard time getting going this morning and found myself numbing out on social media. This has been a challenge for me for some time and lately I’ve noticed I’ve been doing it a bit more frequently, most likely because I’m trying to avoid the tumultuous feelings the holidays are bringing.
So around 11, I set myself a timer, turned on a podcast, and started power cleaning the kitchen. When that was done, I turned to the porch, where I wanted to hang up some twinkle lights. I have been slowly feeling out the whole Christmas decorations thing. I usually love decorating for Christmas, but haven’t been sure how to approach it this year. Friday, I put up a tree. Right now it just is lights and a few red pinecones my dear friend got for me. I don’t know that I want to add anything else. But that felt okay, so I hung up a lighted wreath on the porch. That also felt okay, so today, while there was still daylight, I hung up the strand of white lights on the porch. As I was hanging them up I had some flashbacks to X. We always put up a single strand of colored lights around the kitchen window in our little cabin, then continued the tradition with our little house. X didn’t really like Christmas, but he loved me, or so I thought, so he did those things for me. My mind wandered to thoughts of him now, wondering what his new traditions with the new wife will be. It’s crazy, last year he was leaving one wife at Christmas, now he has another one. On some level, it sure is easy to see him as the villain.
When I finished the lights on the porch, I could feel myself getting maxed out on Christmas decorations. I could feel my mind getting stuck on past memories. So I logged into twitter, you know, to numb out, and there were two painful tweets. One from Senator Warren about her decision to end her first marriage and the shame she felt when her mother didn’t approve. This reminded me of a line from X’s goodbye email, saying he knows he’s disappointing family, and he doesn’t want to do that but that he had no other choice. Then, there was a retweet of this story by Peter Sagal. He also shared the shame he felt upon not being able to make his marriage work. Two people I respect, sharing honest accounts of their need to end their marriages for their own happiness.
And in that moment the self-doubt that had really been bubbling under the surface all week comes boiling over. What if it was just that? What if he was just so unhappy that there was no other choice? What if his decision to leave was valid? I’m back to being small. I’m back to that awful feeling that something is fundamentally wrong with me. That this man I loved so much just couldn’t stand to be with me anymore.
I know. He left without any attempt to work on issues with me. He left saying the problem had always been there, even though he never shared it with me. He left and immediately moved in with, and then married, another woman. But what if both things are true? What if he was a man-child who forgot I was a person worthy of honest discussion and effort, and also he had no other choice but to leave? It’s easier for me if he’s just the bad guy. He walked away so easily, stopped all contact with me. He left and didn’t look back. And here I sit, trying to figure out how to balance my old love of Christmas with the apparent triggering effect of Christmas lights, feeling the shame of never being good enough. He said, “There was always something missing.” The self-doubt rears its ugly head.
I want to love Christmas. I don’t want to let this ruin something I used to enjoy so much. But today these memories, and the possibility that X was valid in ending our marriage, just makes me feel such deep shame around being unlovable. And while I know intellectually it’s not true, that’s not enough right now. I don’t think the twinkle lights are helping.