I had been waiting with bated breath for a month for this event: “Taste of the Holidays” at Sam’s Club. Maybe you think that is prosiac, but when I am on a cut-my-circulation-off tight budget but want to breath life into an up upcoming (dreaded) holiday through food, a taste testing of ‘possibilities,’ with little effort and lots of pizzazz, kind of rocks my world.
But…”it” came back.
Friday night Taylor and I were were nailing down our Saturday schedules. Her car was on the fritz again. We picked it up only to have the repair last four miles. Around we went and inched our way back to the garage at the break-neck speed of 25 miles per hour, with her accelerator on the floor.
What this meant was that we would continue carpooling until further notice. Saturday I would take her to work so I would have the van to run to the bank and post office, as neither are open before or after my work hours. I would then leave a smidge early to pick her up so I could stop for the “Taste of” and then browse the shelves where she worked until she was off.
What is that saying? “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry?”
The morning went off without a hitch: Taylor got to work on time and I checked off the mail and banking. I was home in enough time for some plowing, a shower, and time with the pups before heading out to sample my future Christmas-with-Panache.
On the way down the driveway I paused briefly to get the mail. A quick sort and I was supposed to be on my way, but that’s when “it” began. On this journey I have referenced triggers. Some you can see coming, anticipate and prepare, others knock you off your feet without warning. The mail. Who knew?
I flipped through the mail and excitedly saw a Christmas card. Then, without warning, for the first time this season, it hit me how many Christmas cards I DID NOT receive. These were the ones that I had technically married into. The people we would stop and see when we were in town but always sent Christmas cards. They would send family pictures and usually an update of what was going on in their lives. At that moment of realization, my world bottomed out yet again. The tears began and would not stop for the full thirty minute drive. When I pulled into the crowded holiday parking lot, my vision was a blur. Wiping my eyes, I found a parking spot. I was battling with myself if I really even wanted to go in. My stomach ached, my head hurt, and suddenly the crowds of people looked overwhelming. “Do the next right thing, do the next right thing, do the next…” I am chanting in my head for the millionth time as I undo the seat belt and slide out. I told myself I would go through all of the motions of this season, even if/though I would rather curl up into a ball, hide my head, and wait until the other side of December emerges. I realize everything I do not face head-on this year is actually just suppressing my healing. Whatever I avoid will emerge next year from the shadows, throwing me back into dark places I was sure I had previously overcome.
What I am learning is: I have to choose to heal, it does not just happen.
After extricating myself from the van I disappear into the crowd of people pushing through the door. My stomach still aches. Tears continue to escape. I must do this, but nothing looks or smells appetizing. I glance from demonstrator to demonstrator but no pizzazz in sight. I force myself one sample, but alas, it nauseates me. Through the door I escape the crowd when the realization hits: “It” is back.
Just outside the entry door I freeze. I recognize “Grief” has returned with a vengeance. Grief shares some symptoms of PTSD and scanning the parking lot I realize I have no memory of walking into the store. I have no idea where I parked. This has not happened in quite a while only the last time I also had no memory of what vehicle I had driven either. That was terrifying.
I knew I had the van, at least there was peace in that. I slowly made my way to the back of the parking lot searching left and right. I was doing better than before because I managed to only do one lap. God is good.
I had another stop to make before picking up Taylor, but embracing my current state, opted to skip it and go directly to Taylor’s work, arriving an hour and a half early. I meandered around the shop then chose a Christmas book celebrating festive foods of various cultures. I located a desolate chair, away from people and staring eyes, as my face continued to leak and lost myself in the celebration of others. Taylor would come and check on me from time to time, not knowing why mom looked”tired,” or the reason for my raspy voice.
After work, Taylor and I did some running, then returned home. She had evening plans with friends so bid me farewell and I had the quiet to contemplate my current condition. I could deny, fight or lean into my current state. I choose to careen.
When Grief is at it’s peak, motivation moves to hiatus, things that bring joy are lack luster, and simple choices are labored. Recognizing this could last a day, a week, or an unspecified time, I determine to prepare or,”do the next right thing.” I head for the closet. Last year Taylor helped me put together two weeks of clothes so I wouldn’t have to think. This time I did it all by myself. Check.
Next I did the only thing I could think of: I reread various parts of my blog, with scripture, as a reminder that I have been here before and heavenly Dad has gotten me to the other side. I rejoice over the tiny accomplishments, like picking out my own clothes, and reflect on why the cards might not have made it to my mailbox.
There is still one week until Christmas, maybe these folks are just running late.
Maybe, like so many others, they have decided to stop sending Christmas cards.
Maybe they simply do not know what to do with our new “relationship.” I am not mad. I don’t know what to do, so how can I expect anyone else to?
The bottom line was stated in my time with my heavenly Dad, reading Wisdom Hunters: “Wise decision making is not accidental, but intentional.” What that means is that I cannot sit and wait for everything to get better and my symptoms of grief to go away or the cards to magically appear in my mailbox and then there is no reason to feel grief for this loss. Everything would be in perfect balance and life will be sweet. That’s not reality.
I have to choose to move forward. I have to choose to take the next labored step toward healing. I have to choose to heal. Time will not do that for me.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5
When I ask, then get an answer, sometimes I then need to choose to get off my heiny, even if I do not want to, and do the next right thing. And that dear friend, is called obedience. I either trust that He knows what He is doing or I don’t.
Romans 6:17 “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed.”
After all of this mess, and exhaustion from the inner battle with myself, two different people approached me about reaching out to another widow and someone else who was struggling. I, exasperated, turned to Taylor and said,”What the heck? I am a broken person, I can’t fix anyone.”
Then I paused, contemplated a moment and continued,”Maybe I’m not suppose to. Maybe I’m just suppose to open my tool box, show them what tools I have been given and share that they can ask for them too. Maybe my job is just to point them in the right direction.”
As long as I have a map (Bible), I have no excuse to not help others find their way back to the path heavenly Dad has specifically forged for them. It’s up to them to ask to the cartographer what tools/equipment they will need for their journey.
And that dear friends, is how I dealt with “it” this time, one prayer at a time.
Until January 2nd: Blessings!