Sunday, December 25, 2011

Things Fall Apart

(I wrote this on Christmas but had a hard time hitting "publish". It still feels a bit naked, but I think I'm ready.)

A few days ago, I was looking at pictures of my brother celebrating Christmas with my nephews. The boys were ripping through presents, and my brother had done a great job of capturing the looks on the kids' faces the minute they tore away enough wrapping paper to reveal the gifts inside. Wide eyes, open mouths, hands raised in the air in victory. It made me think of how Christmas really is a holiday for children - being around kids at Christmas is about as joyful as it gets. It also made me think of how nothing is really going as planned and everything is kind of fucked up and broken down.

It was December the 23rd when they were celebrating, for one. And instead of being tucked away in a cozy house, their cozy house, they were at a McDonald's - a temporary meeting place for food and fun and weekly visitation. Still, I guess you - what is the saying? - play on the string you have, and in the pictures it looked like they really were having a great time. There are worse things than boys having a loving father they see weekly, and celebrating the occasional Christmas at McDonald's.

I had dinner with one of my BFF's the other night. It was our annual dinner out to exchange gifts and celebrate Christmas and her birthday (also on Christmas). We started doing that in 1992, so, with the exception of the years I was in Japan and New York, this was our 19th celebration. Crazy. New friends are wonderful, and I'd like more of them, but there's so much to a friend who has witnessed 19 years of your life and history. We had a great conversation for hours mostly about how life is really just a series of losses. Don't you wish you'd been there? We're both, to varying degrees, existentialists, and that makes our conversations unique. Uniquely comforting, to be honest. My BFF is in a place of acceptance, of flow, and I'm so damn jealous. She's experiencing a lot of happiness and personal freedom. I'm in a place of complete opposition to the natural losses of life, and, it probably goes without saying, constipated. In terms of energy and emotion and direction, I'm plugged up. I hate it when I act in ways that aren't congruent with my beliefs, but there you have it. When the waitress came to take our order, she looked at me and said, "Can I get you a glass of wine?" I guess it was written all over my face because she quickly follow with, " . . . Or maybe a jug?"

I talked with my brother tonight and mentioned how much I loved the pictures of his Christmas celebration with the boys. I hadn't thought through my comment, and was initially surprised when he became emotional. But, of course, it's Christmas and we were talking about his boys, now far away, and their McDonald's holiday. He said it was sad and awkward to pull out the presents and just go for it right there in the middle of the restaurant, and then I waited while he cried.

I eventually said that there are all different kinds of ways for a family to look, and even different ways for Christmas to look. And that I think everyone feels the pressure to have things look a certain way, and then feels the sadness when it doesn't. And maybe his family and his holiday celebration in the middle of McDonald's took the pressure off some other folks who were feeling the same way. He said that a little girl was peering over the booth at the boys' unopened loot and said, "Are those presents?!" And when my brother told her that they were, she said about her family, "We don't celebrate Christmas."

I haven't felt right since my Grandmother died. Maybe before. I feel highly disturbed by all of the losses, big and small, in life, and largely unprepared to face them. And so, of course, with unreconciled cognitive dissonance comes some sloppy dance involving rationalization, justification, and employment of various defense mechanisms. Lather, rinse, repeat. I feel like I've been saying this for a year, but I'm working it out.


  1. I'm really glad you did publish this. I spent Christmas with a friend who is going through a divorce and who didn't get to see his kids on the day. He had brought them over to see me on Christmas Eve and I had been struck by how happy and oblivious they were to the emotional shrapnel flying around above their heads. Kids really don't know any different and just get on with having the best Christmas they can - whilst their parents sulk and cry, fret and squabble.

    I love the gentle thing you said to your brother about there being different ways for a family to look and for Christmas to look. I think it's important not to get so caught up in our unhappiness about the way things have worked out that we miss our chance to make the most of what we do have.

    2011 hasn't been my favourite year, either. It feels, at times, like the wheels are coming off my wagon and this road is getting bumpy. I'm still interested in finding out what's next around the corner, though.

    G x

    p.s. I have a friend who is doing a course in existentialism at university just now - he's found it profoundly depressing and he's lost sleep. I might put Camus and Sartre back on my shelf and stick to Dr Seuss for the holidays

  2. As you clean up what your losses have left behind, you'll come across other things you'd forgotten you had. The trouble with time is that it takes so long to pass sometimes; but it always does; and then you discover what little you have left after all your life's losses is precious and fine and just enough.

  3. You ARE working on it. As stuck as you might feel, you're shifting. Sometimes those shifts are so tiny they are hard to register.

    I think you wrote about your struggle beautifully here. There is a tinge of beauty in sadness, don't you think? We all experience loss and the fear of loss. Hell, I've spent most of my life paralyzed by the fear of loss.

    Maybe your grandmother's passing trigger something- death usually does- and you're just digging deep for clarity.

  4. This is beautiful, raw writing. I was literally clutching at my chest through parts of it.

    Every year I feel like I'm "not doing it right", because the holidays aren't joyful or breathtaking like they were back when I was a kid (and even then, there was probably oh, one or two Christmases that were really "right", but there you go). I know I'm old enough to know better, but it seems like there is this one time of year that all the crap from the rest of the year isn't supposed to matter, there is something to look forward to, and then it blows past and I realize none of it was any different from the rest of the year except that I spend more money and am more stressed.

    Sizzle is right, that there is beauty in pain. Perfection and contentment sound so bland. But some boring beige is nice, too. You are loved, Kimberly.

  5. Hey,
    Tell your brother I think he's brave. Very brave. And a righteous dad and that I'm sorry it has to be that way.

    For you; hugs. It seems the 40's are all about adjusting to whatever is is you've turned out to be and fine tuning it. Keep on keeping on. Thanks, I love how real this was.