Christmas Blues

I was taken aback on Christmas morning when, sitting on the living room floor wrapping presents, I started to cry. They were strange tears and I struggled to really identify what happened to cause them. But there they were, and they kept falling all morning. I was late getting going. I didn’t even get to go for my planned Christmas hike. This was the new tradition that I had hoped to start for myself, something that was mine, but captured the feeling of Christmas that I had grown to love with X.

We used to spend the day together. Being in Alaska, we had no family events we needed to go to. So we made breakfast, did presents, and when it was finally light outside, we’d go for a nice long walk. We didn’t have the TV on. It was music and twinkle lights and a goofy dog who LOVED opening presents.

Christmas morning, I actually missed that. A lot. I missed the calm and the closeness. I missed the laughter. I missed my dog. I even missed X, which is not a feeling I have. (It actually made me really uncomfortable to miss him.) I just longed for the old days. Even though I really don’t. Even though most days I like where my life is going and who I am becoming, this day was hard. Harder than I expected.

I don’t know that it’s a setback, per se. I think it’s probably normal and even a sign that I am healing. It seems natural to miss something lost, to long for a life I thought was special. But I was blue. I had to push myself through presents with my family. Through dinner and the noise and the chaos. All joyful. All wonderful, and yet all different from what Christmas had become for me. The change was really hard.

The good news is that it has had me thinking about what it is I want from Christmas day. What does it mean and what can I do to make it work for me? I know I like the calm. I like the feeling of the world stopped, or at least paused. I like the TV off, the music soft. I like the walk into the quiet world. I like the joy of dogs. And a good, special breakfast.

I’m feeling better today, ready to step back into my journey of moving forward and building my life. And I know I can have a hand in defining what I want for Christmas next year.

Milestone

Today was the last day of school before Christmas break. It was a day of fun activities, crafts, and parties. It was chaos getting the kids out the door at the end of the day. It was a lot of work cleaning up the mess and packing up my gifts and party supplies. It was three trips to the car before the final well wishes for a relaxing break and I could pull out of the parking lot.

On the drive home, I was feeling pretty good. The class recitation of “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” went well. My crush said, “Merry Christmas, Kate” which obviously means he is in to me. And I was rocking out to Lizzo.

As I drove up over the ridge, the sunset over Loon Pond took my breath away. Lizzo was singing, “I’m my own soulmate.” And I burst into tears at the beauty of it all.

I cried for reaching this milestone – exactly one year since X told me he didn’t love me.

I cried for the knowledge that I am my own soulmate. That I have really grown to like me this last year, and that I feel good in my own skin, for the first time in I can’t remember how long.

I cried for the beauty of that sunset and the gift of seeing that view on this day at this exact moment.

There were so many moments over the past year when I thought I couldn’t make it through the day, let alone a year. When the sleepless nights couldn’t be over fast enough. But here I am – standing strong, moving forward, building my life for me.

I cried not because I was sad, but because I felt a rush of relief and pride. I did it. Heaven knows I didn’t do it alone. But I did it. I made it a year and I’m moving forward.

A Crush

So I have a confession to make – I have a crush! It’s the first crush I’ve had in 14 years, and I have to say, it’s really fun!

This guy and I barely talk, and he thought my name was Kath until just a few days ago, but I swear, he’s interested in me too. I keep catching him looking at me. And now that he knows my name, he says it when he asks how I’m doing. “How are you, Kate?” It’s good. It’s really good.

I don’t know him so this crush is just based purely on attraction. But here’s the coolest thing : while sometimes I think to myself, “I’m fat, why would he be attracted to me?”, I don’t actually believe that thought! I sense him looking at me ALL the time, and when I look, he looks away. He’s looking at me!

So, I’m going to trust my gut. I also need to try hard not to spend too much mental energy on silly fantasies like, he looses his apartment and needs a place to crash for a few days, and hey, I’ve got a spare room and a futon. (That was yesterday’s fun fantasy!) . Instead, I’m going to try to make myself be a bit vulnerable. I’m going to try talking to him more. I’m going to make eye contact and smile, instead of averting my eyes when I’m nervous.

The best part of this is I don’t feel like this is really going to go anywhere. I am enjoying just the crush, and pushing myself to be vulnerable. I’m enjoying the feeling that someone might find me interesting, maybe even attractive. I am enjoying feeling good.

A year out from abandonment, and I’m feeling good and enjoying myself. I’ll call that a win!

Twinkle Lights

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.

Idyllic on the outside only.

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.

Another Move

This weekend we moved my grandmother from her longtime, old victorian home in a town near none of us, into a smaller home closer to family and her doctors. It’s a really wonderful move for her and I’m so excited she is finally out from under the weight of that old house.

Growing up, my grandmother’s home was always a wonderful place to visit, and there’s a small pang of sadness for me at saying goodbye to that old house. The way the light came into the kitchen, the tall kitchen cabinets, the beautiful stairs where I used to sit as a kid and stick my head through the spot where a baluster was missing, the maze of rooms upstairs, the beautiful wallpaper in the guest room. And while the house was really unique and special, it was special because I was with family. It was the home of my amazing grandmother.

This move is also a bit layered for me because the home my grandmother is moving into is the home where X and I lived for three years, just before we got married, as he worked his way through undergrad and I became a teacher. The house is owned by my parents and we rented it for those years. Now, it’s the home of my grandmother. And while my parents did a lot of interior renovations since we lived there, I knew it would still feel like our old home.

It was a bit hard, but not as bad as I expected. It felt like our own home, and to be sure the memories were there in each room and as I walked down the hall. But the memories were very distant, as from a bygone era. And really, that time is long gone. I think those were our happiest years, but they were over ten years ago. I had pangs of sadness and longing for what once was. But it was sadness with perspective. It was okay. And honestly, the house is so wonderful. It will be the perfect place for my grandmother and I love the idea that it will hold her the way it held us, each in our own time. I continue to move on.

Packing up the kitchen. I loved that kitchen.

Thanksgiving

I survived Thanksgiving. All things considered, it wasn’t all that bad. I did feel a tad blue, off and on throughout the day. I thought about X more than has been normal as of late. I wondered what he was doing with his day (something I really don’t do), and thought painfully that he probably wasn’t wondering about me. There was even a weird part of me that hoped I’d have an email from him. I wouldn’t have responded if I did. I think there is still a part of me that wants to know that he valued me. It’s so weird to have this person who I gave so much of myself to not even care. Most of the time I’ve accepted it, but the holidays bring those wounds to the surface.

I did make spinach balls. We used to make them every year for Thanksgiving, and they were always a hit at our Thanksgiving gatherings in Alaska. My grandmother always made them and I brought the tradition with me and then back. They were a hit, and people enjoying the food I make always makes me feel good.

There was a sweet toddler at our Thanksgiving gathering that brought lots of joy and laughter. My family was together and it’s something I missed when I lived in Alaska. Being with family was good.

All in all, it was okay. I survived and even had some good moments. I continue to move forward.

Delicious food and family.

Being Taken Care Of

I’m beginning to realize that my default has become to ask others to do things for me. I remember so vividly, back when I was 20 something and living alone in NYC, that I could do everything for myself. It was such a point of pride. But when X and I started dating, I discovered how wonderful it was to be taken care of. I loved being cared for when I got sick, and having someone else to help with the chores. I had someone to help with technical computer-like stuff. I didn’t have to figure everything else out for myself.

Now that I’m single again and living alone, I’m noticing this desire to ask people to do things for me. And I’m realizing that, though the pull to ask for help is strong, I’m uncomfortable with it, especially when I know deep down that I can probably figure it out on my own.

So today I tackled the project of hanging up the new curtain rod for my living room windows. I ordered them two weeks ago and they’ve just been sitting, in the box, in my living room, apparently waiting for my father to come install them. I never asked him though. I think I knew it was something I just needed to do for myself.

Tonight I finally did it. I measured to place the rod brackets equidistant. I drilled holes. I put in screws and slipped over the brackets. Then I made sure the rod was even and I tightened the fixture to fit.

I did that!

It was as simple as that and I’m feeling really proud of myself! The curtains need to be steamed, and I’ll get to that this week. But I did it, and it looks good. Just another notch in the category of taking care of myself.

Sweet Little Fantasies

Lately I’ve been feeling really good. Like, just really good. I’m feeling confident at work, feeling good about my ongoing weight loss, and generally like I’m coming out of a fog. It’s kind of great, actually. And with this good feeling comes hopeful thoughts for the future. In fact, I’ve been having little fantasies of a first date.

I don’t actually know if I’m ready to start dating, but I’m definitely enjoying the day dreaming. I’m remembering the feeling of little flutters. I’m getting excited about getting to know someone and sharing bits of myself. I’m excited about going slow and enjoying the process. And in my sweet little fantasies I feel confident and beautiful. Not bad, I think!

Red Berries

A few days ago I was driving home in daylight hours and noticed a bunch of bright red berries growing on the side of the road near my house. These winter berries are so beautiful and I’ve always wanted to cut some to put in a vase and bring inside. As I was thinking about this, I had a flashback to my time living in NH with X. This time of year I would always comment on how nice it would be to pull over and cut some. I would ask if we could do that some day. I would suggest how lovely it would be. I remember even thinking, I’ve dropped some hints – maybe he’ll surprise me! But we never stopped and he never surprised me. I know, you might be thinking, “why didn’t you just go get them yourself?” It’s an excellent question and the only real answer I have is that when I would make suggestions and he would say no or just say nothing (which was more often), I would shrink myself down. I intentionally made myself small to fit into his small, shallow world. It’s so funny how I can see my patterns so clearly now but everything was so foggy back then.

Anyway, having this memory made me more determined to get those darn berries! I even made a plan! I bought shears at Lowe’s. I scheduled my berry picking around my grocery pick-up time (and before the freezing rain started). And today, I put on my Weller Whale Wellies (Extra Tuffs from dear friends) and set out!

My Weller Whale Wellies!

It took all of ten minutes. I only got enough to fill one vase, because that’s all I needed. But I am so ridiculously proud of myself. I wanted to do something, so I just did it. May seem small to an outsider, but I feel amazingly strong and empowered. And now I’m thoroughly enjoying my beautiful red berries!

Berries at home in the kitchen!

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