Sunday, December 9, 2018

Joy and grief


It's Adrian's first December and I'm struggling with the fact that I feel like this is supposed to be my most joyous Christmas ever!!! ™ and instead it's feeling like the hardest holiday season since the first one after my dad died. My dad's birthday was on Friday and I held it together all day and then listened to Gary Jules' Mad World in the car on repeat while I drove home from work and I cried. A lot. It was one of the last gifts we gave him - the album with that song. He heard it in our car and told Dustin he loved it and now I cry every time I hear it, thinking about him, thinking about death. This year is particularly emotional for me. I say my dad's name a million times a day now, since my daughter is named after him, and I feel like he has never been closer to us, or further away.

I had a resurgence of grief while I was pregnant - I didn't want to tell anyone about the baby, because every time I told someone it just reminded me that I couldn't tell my dad and stepmom. But I guess I didn't fully expect this December to be so hard. I thought that now that she's here I would be overwhelmed with joy and experience the holidays in a whole new way. (No pressure, right? Most joyous Christmas ever!!!)

And there is a lot of joy. Adrian will be eight months on Monday and I feel like I say this about every stage, but this is the best. She's crawling like a champ, and it's so much fun to be able to walk around the house with her following along. She loves being mobile and she's just delighted by everything and we're constantly discovering that she understands more than we think she does. It's amazing, she's amazing.

On the other hand, I'm coming off a particularly exhausting quarter at work, and combined with the sleep deprivation (I've just accepted the fact that she'll be continuously teething for the next two years) and the fact that my body is always fighting off daycare germs and my house is a mess because I never get past the bare minimum of tidying, every day feels like a crazy repeat of pumping and dishes and baby meals and I never seem to get ahead. I'm just worn down and it feels like my dad's birthday pushed me right over the edge because all weekend I've been crying, pretty much at the drop of a hat. For me, the holidays haven't been about gifts for a really long time. The feeling I strive for is peace. The quiet sense of calm when I would sit on the couch in front of the tree, with the whole house clean and a candle lit, the hours I would spend in the kitchen baking and then assembling boxes of cookies. I had a lot of time to myself, time to sit and think and remember the people we don't have anymore and feel grateful for the ones we do. I guess it was how I was coping, these December rituals, the hours I spent in my own head. And I'm realizing that it's going to be a while before the holidays look like that again. Don't get me wrong - I'm excited for this season of chaos, but I think I'm also having a hard time letting go of what it used to look like and I'm trying to figure out if there's some middle ground, where I'm embracing the insanity but also not living in a house littered with baby toys and abandoned cups of cold coffee (am I ever going to get to drink hot coffee again?). And beneath it all, constantly, is the grief, swelling up, brought so much closer to the surface because all my emotions are closer to the surface these days and it's scary but also kind of liberating and it's making me question the way I've handled emotions up to this point.

We are complicated beings, and I'm learning to sit in the middle of joy and grief and accept that I'll be feeling both, probably forever, but maybe not quite as intensely as I am in this moment. I'm probably going to cry a lot this month, and that's okay. The sweetness of watching my daughter gnaw on Christmas tree ornaments doesn't offset the sadness I feel, but it does bring a new dimension to my life, and I'm grateful for this experience, for this love, for this fleeting period when everything is new and fresh and my emotions are spilling out everywhere.

But I'm also going to try to use the rest of her nap to clean the house because let's be honest, there's only so much chaos I can embrace.

{photo of me and my girl, in front of a painting by my dad that hangs in her nursery - thanks to jamie for capturing this for us}