Today is an exiting day. The last day of school before a two week holiday break. Our kids got to dress in pajamas and they’re going to watch the polar express and eat popcorn and drink hot chocolate and the school was BUZZING this morning as we did drop off.
All the kids were excited to give the teachers the gifts they had ready for them when I noticed one little girl with a sad look. She talks to me a lot. I feel honored that she tells me things. I keep them for her. She told me she had no gift for her teachers. She said her family said they couldn’t get a gift for the teachers this year. I didn’t need to know the why or what or any explanation, I just grabbed an extra little coffee gift card I had in my purse and let her sign it and carry it into class with her. Privately. Nobody saw. But her face. Her little face lit up was everything good in this world.
After I left school, I started second guessing myself. I acted so quickly, I didn’t think what her family might think of what I did. Sure, I saw her face light up and that made ME feel all kinds of warm and fuzzy inside, but damn. I didn’t stop to think how I would feel if somebody did that with my kids.
So I did just that. I sat in my car in the garage and put myself in that position. What if my kids came home from school and said that another mom had given them a gift card to give the teacher because they didn’t have anything to give her.
And then I cried. I cried and cried and cried. Because while my pride may sting for just a moment, I would be thankful for the gesture. I’ve been without anything in the world and people were kind to me and I appreciated it in that moment so very much. Now, I may be absolutely dead wrong in how they react. I’ll likely see them later today and we may exchange a look. Or we may never ever have a look. Either way, that’s not what this is about, is it? And if it is, I’m in it for the wrong reason.
What I always want to be able to do is have empathy, and in that moment I was having empathy with that little girl surrounded by her peers with gifts for their teachers and she had nothing to give.
Am I overthinking this? Sure. It’s what I do best. However, I don’t ever want to think so much that my heart and gut get overshadowed by logic. That’s my husband’s job, not mine. ZING! But seriously, he’s my rock and my sound reasoning and without him we’d be living in a home with 85 kids and rescue animals and likely out in the woods somewhere without electricity or power and would that be so bad? AHEM.
Here’s my point. Gifts are weird to me. Getting and giving gifts is weird and hard and tied to other emotion for me. But giving something to a little girl to give to her teacher seems easy. And THAT is what giving gifts should be. Easy. Nothing belabored or thought about too long or feeling guilty or weird about.
Holidays are hard. They are magical. They are full of expectations and while I opt out of many things, I also opt in. I love certain things about the holidays. And since having these babies, forget about it. We are HO HO HO-ing all over the damn place. And I really do love so much of it. But there are things about gifts and family gatherings that make me wildly uncomfortable. This is no secret to anyone.
Anxiety and depression are in full force right along with joy and gratitude. They all co-exist in this soup of humanity that we call a body and soul. And it’s all ok. Whatever you’re feeling, it’s ok. I try to keep what is lovely and good and ditch the rest. Especially this time of year. Especially for my kids. Because they don’t need my stuff. They don’t.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage the change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
I find myself repeating the serenity prayer over and over, even more so during the holidays. I don’t even pray, but this prayer has saved my ass so many times I just keep doing it. It’s more a meditation to pause and reflect on what I need to do next kind of thing.
There’s a lot of talk lately that maybe anxiety/depression can be managed if people would just try to deal with their shit or their past better or some such thing and that’s part of it yeah, but there is no shame in meds. NONE. I’m really over self-help folks giving people grief or trying to shame people into thinking their anxiety/depression can be cured if they would just try harder. This isn’t about willpower. Addiction/alcoholism isn’t about willpower. It’s destructive to send that message. We need connection and we need real medical/therapeutic help and we need TIME and sometimes we need meds and that is ALL OK. Don’t let anyone convince you otherwise, you hear me? I’m tired of seeing people die or get sicker because of feeling like they weren’t trying hard enough and people made them feel like it was their fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not. But you do have to participate in your recovery. You have to suit up and show up and you don’t have to be all cheery about it, but you must be present and I’ll jump off this soapbox now.
I am so grateful I am in a place in my life where I can name my anxiety and depression. Where I can name where my alcoholic behavior is popping up. Where I can name my empathy and co-dependency and joy and absolute gratitude for this life that is beyond my wildest dreams. And I only get to do that because every single day I feel all these feelings and it’s wild and lovely and hard and dark and so damn bright it makes my eyes water often. My kids know. They know what is going to cause them to turn to me and say “we knew you’d be crying, mama!” They know when I ‘m going to say something like, “we have so much to be grateful for”. They know when I’m upset with them, they know when I’m beaming with pride. They know that when they tell me I look pretty or like this morning when my girl sweetly says, “your hair looks really good today mama” I will give them ALL THE KISSES and though they may squirm, I know they love it.
This holiday season, more than ever, I’m thankful for the community of moms that I get to be a part of. I’ve never in my life felt such support and absolute understanding. From school to the neighborhood to online. There are so many of us feeling the same feelings and though we may be different and believe different things at times, we are celebrating and crying and screaming helping each other through. I honestly don’t know how I’d do all this alone, and I’m so proud to be among you.
My community of sober friends – both long-time held and newly found – is my anchor. My port in the storm of the chaos.
My husband is my rock. He surprises me with his understanding and compassion when I think he won’t. That’s my favorite.
And these kids. My gods, these kids. They are everything good.
So I’ll leave you with this during the holiday season. Many of us are hurting. Many of us cannot talk openly or publicly about issues we are dealing with, and that’s ok too. Loud and proud is great and all, but so is quietly and privately. Whatever you gotta do to make it through is how this works. Just remember that we need each other. We carry each other through. We celebrate each other. Connection is the key. An extra squeeze of a hand or a kind wink can do wonders. And maybe a few extra coffee gift cards in your purse just in case isn’t a bad idea either. And hugs. Carry those around too and give them freely (with permission of course). You never know who may need one during your day. If your intentions are good and you lead with kindness, I can’t believe it would be a bad thing. Just remember you put yourself in somebody else’s shoes for just a moment, and you may find that holiday spirit that you’ve been lacking. I keep finding it, over and over and over. For all this, I am thankful.
Happy holidays my friends. I love you. I am so thankful for you. All these years you’ve been helping me through, with your support and kind words. I value you more than you’ll ever know.