Woo, chil’, what a Christmas season.
I have to admit, as a single mother, I had learned to appreciate and enjoy my “days off,” especially through the holidays. Initially, they were daggers through the heart, and I would haunt my empty house and think about all the things I wasn’t able to do with my children, worry myself over what they were doing at their father’s. Were they doing the things we traditionally do? Was their father hijacking those traditions? Were they being so spoiled they’d be disappointed when they came home? Are they on schedule, remaining in their usual dietary guidelines, getting enough sleep? Man, I tell you what- I used to twist myself up into a thousand knots…which primed me to jerk all those right through their little booties when they inevitably did come home whacked out and pushing buttons.
I have previously been guilty of self-fulfilling prophecies.
However, after getting unceremoniously smacked over the head with a divine two-by-four in the court case with their father a few years back, I began the process of gentler and more flexible living (read: understanding what I can’t control). At the time, I so badly needed space to minister to myself, and I actually did have that space, which I was filling with wringing my hands. I had gotten so used to years of straight shit-storms that I stopped opening the windows I had boarded up in myself. Turns out, this makes it very hard for the sunshine to come in. Who’d have guessed?
As I’ve chronicled here, after realizing the time of survivorship qualities had passed, I felt compelled to start the odyssey of recovering myself- not to rehab from the wounds I’d sustained or figure out life in light of them, but to pull out the structure within myself that predated them and would bring me back to myself afterward. This, being easier said than done, required time to myself and experimentation not suitable for children, and, thus, I learned to embrace time away…even during Christmas.
Which is great because, having just finished all that up, I now have kids when I don’t have my kids.
We are all the time with the kids.
Kids are errwhere.
–All of you who decided not to have children are welcome for all the humans we’ve produced to replace you as far as paying into Social Security is concerned.–
All of this is to say that I’m worn slap out from inner work, outer work, and Christmas-ing our progeny for weeks until school started back for them today. On New Year’s Eve, as D and I ate our lucky pork tacos, I looked back at what an undertaking the year was and could not believe the productivity or the distance we achieved individually and together while largely operating off intangible, gut feelings and faith. I probably annoyed the shit out of him, whiskey in hand, with my unrelenting amazement and, Good Lord- we did so many freakin’ things. Like, ALL the things, babe! every thirty minutes. He really is a good sport; although, in my defense, my spiritual gift has always been Wonder and Awe. I can’t help myself.
There is joy and hope and confidence in my fatigue now, at any rate, and these things have been missing for a very, very long time. In my mind’s eye, I have tried several times to pinpoint when I last felt like I was making new, forward progress rather than simply trying to regain lost ground. I picture myself in the middle of rewinding the tape, skipping over the last decade or so as though it could be pulled out, unnecessary to the context of my future life. As though it was a painful and time-consuming mistake, and I should begin from my last point of progress. After all, I am more like her who was breaking new ground than I am the woman who has been battening down hatches. But I always stop, right in the middle of the muck and mire, because it was not a mistake. In my current understanding (and we all know how that evolves and changes, so I won’t get too friendly with it), it seems to me that it was exactly what I should have been doing.
Had I not done it, the plot would not have developed to this point wherein the future is so compelling. I have always been a passionate person- or a person of passions, depending on your view of such things (and my apparent love of alliteration)- and while life experience has tempered and developed my control over the exercise of emotional depths, it has not changed my relentless pursuit of a full human experience. Depth of feeling is the currency by which I both pay for and am paid for this experience, however high the exchange rate seems to have been. The value and richness of emotions both positive and negative that I now possess to address life as I, at long last, take brand new steps makes me a more accessible and genuine human. I have never felt gratitude so strongly as I do now, exiting the gauntlet.
George R. R. Martin doesn’t have shit on God’s plot twists and story arcs.
So, here I am, nearly embarrassed by how excited I am to be excited about a new year. Having finally come to a place where I feel like I’ve wrapped up all but a thing or two from said difficult and confounding chapters (some things don’t change or disappear, but at least now have more space to themselves), I’m wandering around surprising myself on a regular basis. Crises tend to require so much restraint and carefulness to bear gracefully. Now that I look around and see the safe, stable, sustainable environment I’ve built and have my bearings, I’m accidentally flexing some long-lost sass. Sometimes my sass-mouth and mischief make a run for it before I realize I’ve even raised my eyebrow. By the time D looks at me with a mix of startled confusion, bemusement, and border-line eye rolling, I’ve already been taken aback, as well.
To be fair, he found me in the process of clawing my way out of an abyss, so there was no warning about this other colorful bit that, until now, only made guest appearances.
I feel playfully aggressive again, provocative and fiery. I want to debate, to play devil’s advocate in discussion. I am inclined to advocate for myself and put weight behind my words or ideas. Despite being busy or tired, my mind wants to be stimulated, to learn something new or practice a useful skill. In that I’m well on my way to having rebuilt a strong physical platform, I want to use it. I’m moving around comfortably in my skin and feel in full possession of my body’s faculties for movements smooth, powerful, violent, and controlled. I’ve rekindled my love affair with firearms, shooting, and archery. I’m smoldering over Harney and Son’s Hot Cinnamon Sunset tea.
I get the feeling like this is my end-of-section test, though, to see if I was paying attention to instruction. Now that I’ve been purged and purified and tempered a bit, I feel like this is the application and critical thinking part. When you’re in the shit, as they say, it’s so much easier to practice purposeful and intentional speech and action because it’s integral to survival. I have previously mistaken restlessness or discontent for some of these spunkier tendencies in and out of the shit, or I have otherwise misused them to create scrapes when they join together with arrogance or pride. Let’s not forget that I’m a button-pusher who likes to ribbon dance with red, warning flags. Some of what I love most about myself can easily become dangerous qualities. In that respect, I’ve noticed the better part of a week or so being unconsciously spent attempting to learn how to ride this new bike with proper balance.
I imagine this will be a fairly entertaining endeavor to watch and that the number of face-palms would make a fun drinking game.
Regardless, I think here is another moment wherein I realize I’m on the precipice of new ventures, new tasks, and new challenges- somewhat like this time last year (discussed in Panning for Character Gold, when I recognized it was time to slough off attitudes and characteristics necessary to endure post-divorce, single-working-mother struggles), only bigger. The changing of this season is probably one of the most significant moments of my life, but for all the fanfare it feels like it deserves, it also feels contradictory to what the triumph actually is to make any further to-do about it. The point is simply that, until death, it truly is all life, and the beauty is always in the duality. It requires faith to commit works, and the works sustain faith. Dark periods illuminate sources of light so as to better identify shadows threatening brighter times. The foundations of who we are support the change and growth necessary to be who we are foundationally. And triumph cannot exist without trial, which requires that we not always be triumphant.
So onward and upward (or down, around, up a little, back down, and then way up again), my darlin’s. I give my love and respect to this crucible, and I let it pass on from this acknowledgment and plate full of platitudes.
And, while we’re at it-