Friday, December 27, 2013

What He Hasn't Missed

I think it's common knowledge by now that Soldiers miss a lot in their families' lives. Birthdays, anniversaries, Christmases, school events... Politicians talk about the "empty chair at the table" like they've personally sat beside one of those empty chairs and know what they're talking about. (Note: some politicians do actually know how this feels, but I think I'm safe in saying that's a minority.)

Anyway, that's pretty common knowledge.

It's easy to sink into that blue feeling, looking ahead at 2014. It would be very easy to think about what he'll miss this time around, what things I will be alone for, what things the kids won't have their father close by for, etc. If I'm not careful, that line of thinking can become very depressing, very fast.

Yeah, it's true he'll miss a lot. And there's a lot I'll be doing solo. But that ignores a very important fact, one I told my best friend 20 years ago when she asked how I could handle him being gone so much: "I'd rather him in my life when he can be, than not have our life together at all."

I started a different line of thinking today, to help me focus on what is more important. What he hasn't missed, what he's been here for, and what matters most.

He's been here for me through two surgeries, one minor and one more serious. He took care of me after both.

He's been here to help get our yard totally landscaped. You'd never guess, looking at his work, what this house looked like the day we moved in. He's even set it up so I can plant one last rose bush once he's gone, because we just haven't found the right one yet. (Ask me about the hole in the ground.)

He's been here to see our oldest graduate from 8th grade and from high school.

He taught her how to drive.

He has seen her first apartment, and met her first after-high-school boyfriend.

He took care of everything (EVERYTHING) while I was away this summer, caring for my mother. And then he drove us 14 hours to go back there to help her move.

He saw our Little G finish elementary school.

He put up the tree this year, all by himself, so I would find it lit and gorgeous when I got home from work. All we had to do was hang ornaments.

He puts out Christmas lights, each year a little more elaborate, whenever he's home.

He helped choose and care for our first tree in this yard. (And decorated it with a few pitiful lights that first year.)

He's rescued kittens from our back yard.

He's taken care of pests in that same back yard (including wasps, for which I cannot thank him enough).

He's cleaned and cooked and cared in every possible way that a husband and father can - which is why, this year, I will not be focused on what he's missing. I'll be taking photos and sending him notes and helping him "not miss" it so much.

Our Soldiers sacrifice a hell of a lot for this country. The least I can do is keep my focus on what is right, instead of painful, about being married to this one.

Monday, December 23, 2013

How We Do Christmas

It's Christmas Eve Eve and I am hearing a slow quiet rumble amid the roar of happy shoppers and people on break and everyone so happy for the season.

And the rumble says, "I am tired."

The rumble says, "I don't even have the tree up..."

The rumble whispers, so softly, "I have no Christmas spirit this year."

Some years, the Christmas spirit comes hard and fast and there is nothing but joy in the tree and the cookies and the gifts.  Some years, the list of to-do is the same but the heart is hurting or exhausted or just empty - and the list feels utterly insurmountable.

This year, for us, we are facing our first Christmas with the Big G away at school.  She has shoveled her front walk, finished her final exams, and is cozied up with some great books and hot cocoa and friends.

This year, we wait for my G to take a very long plane ride to a very long "away" and try to hang on by our fingernails to what joy we can, without thinking ahead to the pain.  But of course we can't quite do that as there are plans to make and our own lists to complete before he goes.  But we try.

So this is how we do Christmas during the stressful years, and this is what I would tell anyone whose heart is tired, whose list is too long, and who just isn't feeling it this year -

Do what you can.

Christmas trees and cookies and cards and festivals are wonderful, wondrous things.  But if they are sucking you dry in a season that should be delightful, then they don't have to be done.  Here's a novel thought - skip the tree.  Skip the cookies.  Skip whatever it is that you'd "like" to do but that you dread or just can't do right now.  If something else seems simpler and more "real" or even just more true to this moment right now - do that.

Go see the comedy that you've all been eyeing.

Order the deli tray and bakery cookies for Christmas Eve.

Ask your family if they really have to have the tree in order to feel the spirit - and if the answer is "yes" then tell them to get in the living room and get to work because the holiday is not about one person pulling the rest of the family together.

This is how we do Christmas...  We boil the holiday down to its most basic and most humble and simplest, joy-giving parts.  We do those.  The rest, we do next year or even the next after that when we have more energy and more time and more spirit.  We make our own way and our own holiday and we teach our girls to do the same.

Won't you join us?

Friday, December 20, 2013

New Life Rules

Time to write again, as there is another long "away" in our future. Between some work stress and some major life changes, it's a good time to reflect on what I want life to mean to me and what I expect from myself going forward.

This list is not conclusive and it's certainly going to need some additions, but it's what's been in my heart.

  • It's ok to ask for help when I need it.
  • Pray without ceasing.
  • If my heart is feeling sore, I need to state the truth, at least to myself.
  • Telling myself to "buck up" is not helpful.
  • Reaching outside my comfort zone, however, can be a good thing.
  • Even when things are dark, if I am simply trying to do the right thing and reflect God and goodness in my life, it does not go unnoticed.  I don't always hear about it, but it is not unnoticed.
Most importantly:

  • If I wouldn't give certain "advice" to a girlfriend, why do I think it's OK to give it to myself?
  • I matter.

Ultimately, the year ahead will have dark and light and strength and weakness - there will be times of sorrow and times of great joy.  I'm fortunate that this is just an "away" and not an "away and in danger".  I have a dear friend who has told me to take this year, search inside for the person I want to be and the future I want to share with my G, and build the foundation we'll need.  She, as always, has good advice.

Join me?