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Have it both ways

With everyday blessings come everyday issues and I think maybe, just maybe, I am finally beginning to understand (and accept) that within the paradigm of family life it is temping to let the magic and joy fall away. When we get settled into our roles, there is inevitably a dynamic of warring personalities and willful sprits. Who is doing more, who is resenting what? It still amazes me sometimes how difficult it is to get right. It amazes me how much we can love each other and still get it wrong. It’s tricky trying to balance all of the needs all of the time. For example, this seems to be a hard time of year for my husband. He can’t stand waste and consumerism. This is inevitably a hard time for me because, well, holidays just seems to highlight the people that are missing. So at a time of year when I am in desperate need of magic and lightness and peace, he is grumpy and already over it. He also strongly dislikes burning oil when we can heat the house with our wood burning stove and I hate waking up to a 60 degree house that doesn’t get warm until 2pm. So I sneak around like I am having a torrid love affair with the thermostat and most times forget to turn it off by the time he gets home. He is annoyed, I am annoyed. We both want it our way.

Holidays are always a tricky time. I become hyper aware of my memories and the holiday joy I remember from my childhood and if my family doesn’t allow me to recreate the joy, gosh dammit, they are going to pay dearly. When we decorated the tree at my house growing up, my parents used to play the Jon Anderson Three Ships Christmas tape over and over again. I was overjoyed to find it on iTunes and the moment I hear it I am transported back. Come on, the guys who sang Owner of a Lonely Heart singing Christmas songs! It’s epic. Well, guess what? My husband barely tolerates that Christmas album. This year we were getting ready to decorate the tree and he said, play anything but that Christmas album. Normally that would be enough to spin me into a contempt filled temper tantrum, but this year I took a deep breath instead. I looked at this person who I know loves me and thought, he just doesn’t know yet what it is like to have to count on memories and that is okay. I never want him to know. Just because he wanted to listen to a different Christmas album this year does not make him a monster worthy of my rage. It’s a little insensitive at worst, but doesn’t he have the right to create memories that he will enjoy? I was able to shake it off for the first time. It felt like a victory. Every time I do something a little differently than I’ve done, it feels like a victory. Is he really beholden to recreating my childhood version of Christmas every year? What am I really trying to recreate anyway? It should be the peace I felt in my home this time of year. 

The biggest and most rewarding thing I can do for myself this season is to let my family just be my family. It is a constant tradeoff and compromise. But this is grace. This is allowing. This is not letting people walk all over you, but realizing that we are in it together. We are given an opportunity to practice joy in that moment when we want to completely lose our shit.

So, instead of being a victim and feeling like I got kicked in the gut, I played a new album this year because I know I need to make space to honor the people that I have in my life now. I can have my memories and make space for new ones. And the beautiful message I heard in meditation a few weeks ago came back to me. You can have your sorrow and you can have your joy too. You can have it both ways. I am your heart, this is what I am made for. And it is. Our hearts are made for all of this.

My husband thinks I am sensitive and overreactive and he is right. He doesn’t know what I know in the way I know it and that’s okay. When you have experienced the “life is short” one too many times, there are two ways it can go. You can strive and become fixated on the idea of perfection and perpetual happiness or you find joy in the deep acceptance of the unknown. That’s where the anxiety lies, but it’s also where the only hope for magic really exists. This is still the journey. The journey of finally letting go a little bit and allowing the poignancy of life to unfold and to let trust slowly build its way back into life.

Wishing you and your family peace and happiness. Wishing you the allowing that makes being in a family poignant and magical.

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