As we near Shelby’s 11th Christmas, what will be our third without Megan around, I’ve got my head down. I’m powering through this week at work, excited more for the 4 day break from the monotony than any festivities. Every activity, preparation, and event seems more like a “have to” than a “get to”. Wrapping gifts, baking cookies, school Christmas recitals, stringing lights along the house, shoveling snow, and trimming a tree are all perceived as just “one more thing I need to take care of”, rather than “another thing I GET to do”.
I’m stressed. Work is extra busy. There are countless projects at home that we have to take care of before this weekend. I’m sick of looking at blinky lights, knowing that I have to pack them all back up within a few weeks. All of the beautiful snow we had last week has now melted into a sloppy wet mess. The house feels cluttered and somehow smaller than it already is. Bills still need paid. God I hate this time of year.
I don’t want to be a humbug...I really don’t. But damn, the holidays are just hard. They’re tiring. When there is a free, lazy moment to appreciate the season, then the whole “dead wife” thing seeps into every crack. It really doesn’t help that we’re still in the same house that we celebrated so many holidays in. I can’t retreat to a bedroom to have a breather from stress, because the very fact that the bedroom is empty CAUSES stress.
Largely, this is because of traditions. Even the new traditions that Shelby, Sarah and I have begun are vaguely similar to the old (or rather, “ongoing”) habits. When we bake cookies together, it’s not that much different than when Megan and I did so with Shelby. The tree still gets trimmed in the same manner as it has for years. There is no escaping the knowledge that Megan and Sarah are analogous in these activities. It’s not a comparison, nor do I expect any of these things to be done in the same manner as they always have been. It just...is. I mean, it’s Christmas, it’s pretty much all planned out already.
So for the past few years, it’s been this way. I just want to get through it all. I want a break. I get on edge, I don’t sleep well. I’m ready to get the tree down and the lights put away on December 26th. The last week of the year is spent in a war on Christmas, almost as if I’m trying to wipe out the memory as soon as possible, so I can get on with things.
I love the fact that Shelby still gets to have a Christmas. I enjoy that Sarah is getting to form and experience new traditions with us too. I am happy for them and I will gladly do the work and experience the stress to make it as merry as possible for them. I appreciate all of the work that Sarah puts into it too...I know it’s not easy for her either.
Death has a way of putting a damper on happy times. ~Captain Obvious
I almost feel guilty for enjoying any bit of it. Like I don’t deserve it. Megan doesn’t get to set up ceramic houses or eat cut-out cookies, so it’s not fair that I get to. I might as well trudge through it, for Shelby’s sake, and feign interest to make her happy. We’ll go for drives to look at Christmas lights and play Christmas music, and decorate the house because “that’s would Megan would have done”, rather than true Christmas spirit.
Ah, but our children have a way of keeping that spirit alive. For all of the bitching and moaning I just did above; for all of the stress and work the holidays are, I’m still celebrating them. Should I not have had Shelby, I would probably do none of it. Most likely, I would disappear into the woods for a week, only to resurface around new-year’s day. Shelby’s very presence absolves me of the survivor’s guilt. I am here, doing all of the holly and the jolly, PRECISELY because Megan doesn’t get to. It is the best way to honor her memory. Forming new traditions with Sarah and Shelby now, however similar they may be to the “old” ways, is not forgetting or suppressing Megan’s memory, because, let’s be honest, Shelby isn’t 7 years old anymore. If Megan was still alive, we would surely have formed new traditions ourselves.
Eh, I’m rambling again. I GET to go to my work Christmas party this afternoon. I GET to watch Shelby unveil a banner tonight, downtown at the city skating rink. I GET to watch her bound down the stairs Christmas morning. The more and more I say that I GET to do this stuff, the less I feel like I HAVE to.
And that’s my mental trick for getting into the holiday spirit. I can whine and moan all I want about the stress of the holidays, but at least I GET to whine and moan about the stress of the holidays.