During the Holidays it’s especially important to be mindful that a photo is just that; a moment in time that illuminates that split second but rarely tells the entire story. As the phrase goes a picture tells a thousand words; which is true but behind those words are thousands more left unsaid.
Personally, I need to remind myself of that as I scroll social media and longingly remember how I loved the Holidays; and it has taken a long time to find some peace how they have altered. How much of what I loved has been chipped away over the years.
The Holiday season has a tendency to magnify feelings we have often buried for the entire year. I am not alone comparing this year with those before nor comparing gatherings of others to my own. Often with a wistful envy.
I hope it is helpful to hear a bit of the context behind these shots from my Christmas Eve.
The photos above for instance if someone scrolled by would have no idea it is only the second time in a year I have eaten a dinner at a dining room or any table for that matter. It’s hard for me to be completely upright while I eat. I get a bit lightheaded and try to eat but the process is tiring. The hours before this shot were not pleasant - my doctor had called with some test results. I was feeling the weight of trying to be “up” for my parents and frustrated that I wasn’t the one making a dinner. To keep it simple I was a hot mess. Through grit or grace and makeup on I pulled my tired body and soul out of my room for the early evening.
It was wonderful to have a meal with my parents sitting around a dining room table; where Daisy joined us. She patiently waited til some steak was placed in her bowl; and a few handed to her. A few times I lamented that all the food I loved was not present; mashed potatoes, peas, sweet potatoes etc all now come with a flashing warning light. I was debating to be a bit risky and make a White Russian as memories of my glamorous Park Avenue roommate and I would have before we went out in college. I decided a new drink wasn’t worth the risk of not being at the dinner table.
Simultaneously, while being sad for what I no longer could consume and how difficult it was to be even at the table; I looked around at my charming home and a great weight descended acknowledging all those this year that were struggling to put any food on the table. Fellow Americans by no fault of their own or lack of independence; some never before were now depending upon the kindness of strangers filling up food pantries to have their basic needs met. The families counting down to evictions or wondering if their job will ever return. Perspective. It is easy to get lost in our own challenges especially when those of so many are so daunting. The families that are mourning a loved one that is not there.
Our minds can hold so many conflicting emotions all at once. Grateful and mournful. Celebratory and solemn. This becomes the paradox of the Holidays; joy rarely stands alone.
As dinner was finished; I felt well enough to help clean up. Then I decided to open one present from my mom’s friend which was a beautiful plaid shawl. It looked very Scottish and I was transported to a scene in Outlander; my summer binge. Oh could I ever be as tough as Claire? Well perhaps with this shawl I could pretend; she was a doctor after all and I’m named based on my Scottish roots. Could I lean upon a stone and magically be transported to another time and place? It was a lovely surprise as I had wanted something plaid but hadn’t told anyone.
Then my mom told me there was a present for Daisy.
Nothing has been more shocking to me watching this little girl understand and love getting gifts. Apparently we have something in common. She slowly looks in the bag and tries to get the gift out and in startled confusion pops her head out and stares at the bag. Similar to a child’s reaction to a jack in the box. I wish I could get the video to load; until then take my word it had us in stitches laughing. Once she removed the little duck she was whipping that toy around showing off the hunter DNA she certainly won’t be using under my guide. And there I had it after an entire day of forceful emotions an hour of just being; just being in this moment. Unencumbered by the omnipresent weight. Ease. Joy. How it use to be.
Waiting for more...
My parents and Daisy left for the evening around 7pm. I got into bed and began my personal tradition; watching my favorite movie The Family Stone. My mind wandered of Christmas’s as a child where we had big family gatherings and all the chaos that ensued. I never imagined myself married or with children; I did however imagine myself arriving from some random city with someone I loved to participate in a big family celebration. The individual much like Meredith in the movie being scrutinized and analyzed by an array of this loving but sarcastic and tough crowd.
Never did I imagine most years I would treasure the quiet of Phoenix alone or if home participating in such a limited manner. My mom and dad; rather than myself taking the reins on whatever our new tradition would have become. However, as the movie is playing its impossible not acknowledge how blessed I am that my parents are here with me. It’s easy to see what you don’t have when what you do have is right in front of you.
All of a sudden I was a bit startled as I heard a car horn beeping and a large group of people outside my bedroom window. I was on the phone with my friend and said I think people are cutting through my yard to look at my trees; oh no wait they are singing! Had I just fell into the Hallmark channel? Outside in the frigid night air my Aunt and Uncle and my cousins families that are in town were Caroling! I opened the window pulled up my chair and took in this serenade of kindness; singing through masks in this unusual year. In a flash I had that big family back; even though I hadn’t left my bedroom. It wasn’t The Family Stone; it was my family and I was so grateful. ( Even though they didn’t manage to bring Ben Stone with them...)
Memories are a double edge sword. They are a mirage that can lift your spirits, reflect on how far you have come and also how much has changed. They can bring boisterous laughter and heartbreaking tears. Like the photographs we scroll through some reflect the moment while others show a sliver of the moment captured; leaving the before and after up to the viewer. Be mindful; what you are viewing may not be the story one has attached to the image displayed. Don’t ever diminish your story while watching snapshots of another’s.
I hope each of you reading this had moments you can hold onto that become memories you will cherish. Repeat the sounding joy best one can.
xo xo H
What a beautiful and thoughtful post, Heather. I especially related to your line that the holidays can amplify feelings we've buried all year. Whew was that ever true for me! By Christmas evening, I was badly crashed - too many days in a row of ignoring my limits and pushing myself. I was curled in a ball on the couch when my mother finally texted to say "Ok, we're ready for a Zoom!" I explained I was very sick now and couldn't even sit up - could we do it tomorrow? She replied with her typical ignorance/denial of my condition: "It's only 9! You can sleep in tomorrow!" So, I sent my sons to go chat with their grandparents, I crawled up the stairs and curled up on the bathroom floor sobbing. It was horribly upsetting.ReplyDelete
Anyway, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings so openly and beautifully.
Here's to a happy & healthy New year!
Live with ME/CFS
Oh Sue...my goodness the fact that you have been there after all this time is heartbreaking and affirming. I apologize I hadn't been receiving any notifications of comments...so I just now saw this as a friend asked if I had gotten a recent one. Guess the timing is a bit on point. I hope this holiday has you more rested and more compassion some will never get it...xo xo HDelete