Christmas 2017 + Hard Times

Pamela Petrus Christmas Tree and mug 2017This post is going to be a tad different than my usual post-Christmas updates. This Christmas, while I focused on being as positive as I can, was filled with a bit more heartache and a lot more loneliness.

This year, I went through a divorce.

The funny thing about divorce is that just when you think your emotions have leveled out, it all comes crashing back down on you. Shauna Niequist mentioned checking on our heartbroken people even hourly sometimes and that couldn’t be more applicable and necessary. The ups and downs and joy and sadness, spin around you like an uncontrollable whirlwind. No matter how hard you try, you can’t get a grip. You can’t organize the emotions into tiny, color-coded packages, reserving sadness for the most appropriate times. Instead, that shit sneaks up on you at the most inconvenient moments, often when you need to maintain your composure the most. When you have other stuff going on and have very little time to hop on a roller coaster of emotion, draining all energy and motivation right out of you. That’s what divorce is. A wild, noisy, dark roller coaster. Much like a real roller coaster is for me, it’s nauseating and I want to throw up and go home.

Pamela Petrus at Jonesboro LA Christmas LightsThe holidays season only makes these feelings worse. While I LOVE Christmas, this one shined a bright strand of LED icicle lights right on the spots that hurt. The places you’ve been carefully keeping covered are suddenly lit up like the big tree in Rockefeller Center. Not only are you forced to now acknowledge those dark corners, they’re lit up for everyone else to see too.

My last five Christmases have been a rush of hustle and bustle, quickly making our rounds through family events, near and far. Last year we traveled with my in-laws and had Christmas at the happiest place on Earth. This year, just 365 short days later, looks much, much different. This year, I didn’t celebrate the season with any of those that I’d grown to love so much.

I haven’t had grandparents since I was 12 years old and for the majority of my childhood, it was just my mom and I. Our big Christmas event was always Christmas Eve night and we didn’t do much else. I remember a few times going to my aunt’s on Christmas Day, but other that those sparse memories, Christmas Eve was pretty much it. When I got married, Matthew had a lot more to do for the holidays. We attempted to attend all family gatherings which meant we were often scurrying about, from one event to the next. I grew accustomed to spending almost the entire month of December with loved ones.

vintage Christmas ornamentsI lost all of that family this year. His wonderful, loving grandparents. His mom that I loved so much. Sitting through December with a lot more free time and tremendously more solitude proved to be rather challenging. It’s possible that I’ve cried more this month than I have since the beginning of this treacherous process.

I have been lucky to stumble across a few resources for people who feel things other than Christmas cheer. Maybe that’s because my mind was tuned in to things off the sort, or maybe because we’re becoming more understanding as a culture and dialed in to what our peers are feeling. Nonetheless, resources like Option B and the beautiful cards they had designed by Emily McDowell were wildly encouraging and I shared more than one of them with friends in similar situations. Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist was a gift and has been a timely reminder that good does often come as a result of the growth we experience in hard times. And this post by her. This post is life and I read it daily, sometimes hourly like she said.

Certain friends checked in throughout the month, asking what they could do. I never knew the answer to that question obviously (no one ever knows), and it still meant to world to me to have my pain acknowledged. To be seen and cared for.

Despite the unavoidable heartache, there were several bright spots throughout the month. There were fun parties, beautiful lights, and I adored my Christmas tree. I spent time with people I love and dreamed of Christmases to come. This holiday season wasn’t all bad and wasn’t all good, and either way, I made it through.

Bath & Body Work Christmas CandleIf you are in the midst of a hard time yourself, know that you’re not alone. Our social media might still look like sparkly goodness and we might be smiling in the grocery store, but there’s a tribe of us out there, feeling just like you on the inside. You’re not alone and this is temporary. It’s just a season that’s a little darker than most. Eventually the roller coaster will halt and your pounding heart can rest. Soon enough you’ll be back on the lighter side of things and until then, feel what you feel. Cuss, cry, or stay tucked away from the crowd. Tell your troubles to strangers or reserve time with your closest friends. Whatever you need to do to find a little bit of peace and relief right now, do that thing. Soon enough you’ll open your eyes again and the fog will have cleared. You’ll see a glimmer of sunlight, just enough to pull you outside, just enough to spark the hope needed to bring you into that next season. It will happen in due time and you can do this. Until then, just remember that you’re not alone.

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