It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Until maybe it isn’t.

retrochristmas

This week’s Robinson Drive flashback flooded over me, almost literally, in the cold bathroom of my lunchtime break stop. As I squatted to potty (yes I hover and yes I clean any splashage, don’t judge), Andy Williams and the Williams Brothers were suddenly shouting at me from above…”there’ll be parties for hosting (always a good time on Robinson Drive), marshmallows for toasting (yes, please) and caroling out in the snow. There’ll be scary ghost stories (wait, WHAT??) and tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago.” I usually think of ghost stories in conjunction with holidays like Halloween, but you do you, Williams Brothers.

andy-and-williams-brothers.jpg

Here’s what actually happened in that freezing cold bathroom. It was like being transported to pot-hole heaven, when Andy Williams started crooning. I could INSTANTLY see the regal, textured curtains in the living room of 38255 Robinson Drive. The floral couch, subtle (as opposed to ‘matchy-matchy’) against the wood-paneled walls. On either end of that precious couch were hanging glass light fixtures that could cause a mild concussion if you foolishly hopped up from playing, without paying attention to proximity. Perhaps that’s where I got my nickname of “Sh%# for brains.” Thanks a million for that, Ken.  It’s funny now, but I won’t lie, it stung at the time (both the words and the light fixture concussion;). I often joke that I thought that WAS my name (Sh%# for brains), until I went to Kindergarten, and they called me Tracy. That’s just how I have always handled my sensitivity to words and to the world around me – with humor. While sticks and stones have never broken my bones (yet, knock on wood), words have often hurt me. And Robinson Drive was a battle ground of hurtful words. Hurting people, hurt people…

70schristmas

When I think back on the ‘Christmases long, long ago,’ they certainly weren’t picture perfect, although the snapshot above could fool you.  Pure joy, running deeper than my dimples, when I discovered the baby doll in that box. The wonder, the magic, of how Santa knew EXACTLY what I wanted. My stylish big brother next to me, checking out my treasures; don’t you worry, Scotty Boy – you can play with it while I’m napping. 😉 The tree in the picture, that we most likely purchased from the Boys and Girls Club tree lot, and carefully (and very quietly) brought it home to fight it, usually crooked, into the tree stand. There was often (almost always) an energy of anger or irritation with Ken, that existed very close to the surface. Holiday traditions, such as putting up the tree most often looked (and sounded) like the furnace scene out of ‘A Christmas Story.’

a-christmas-story-a-christmas-story-17409240-900-506
Photo Credit: http://www.fanpop.com

And even that little girl, full of joy and wonder (and a fun nickname), knew to keep a safe distance from any project that might go south, especially during the holidays. Hurting people, hurt people…

70sdad

I don’t remember much about the guy in the picture above (happy Ken), but I sure wanted to know him. I’ve heard lots of stories about how he absolutely adored me as a baby, and toddler (the years I don’t remember). And I’ve seen a few pictures of my tiny infant self in his lap, next to an ashtray with a lit Merit Ultralight, which surely explains a lot about that problem I had with my brains;). I DO remember a guy who coached boy’s basketball through the Boys and Girls Club, and I think the team was quite fond of him. I heard he was a “nice guy,” but I didn’t really know that guy. I remember a guy who could sell lumber and nails with a smile to all the customers at Monmouth Building Supply, but I didn’t really know him either. *I* knew the guy who drank 4 cans of Hamm’s Light on the way home, just to be able to face an evening on Robinson Drive. Hurting people, hurt themselves too…

bikechristmas
New Bikes. And the infamous Green Recliner.

Ken played that Williams Brothers vinyl on repeat during the holidays, especially when he was on The Sauce. I thought of the year where he went out ‘shopping’ on Christmas Eve (pretty sure I was in middle school at the time), and as the day wore on and he didn’t come home, I knew he had taken a detour to Rocky’s. I don’t remember how bad the fight was before he finally passed out in the green recliner, but I’ll never forget that he actually bought me a gift that year. It was a white, leather-bound Bible and I cherished it. While it wasn’t popular on Robinson Drive to be a ‘Jesus Freak,’ it was my faith through those years (and still today), that gave me hope of a brighter future and a Father who loved me, despite my sh%# for brains. Hurting people, don’t mean to hurt people…

So it’s safe to say, I get a little sideways wonky around the holidays. Because, not unlike SO many other people I know – the holidays were some of my toughest, loneliest days in childhood. And no, I don’t live there any more. My childhood is NOT to blame for the challenges I face as a parent, or as an adult. But those flashbacks are very real, and the scars can be ripped open when certain memories are triggered. Because I’m human, because sometimes, I step into feelings.

And now, as a parent myself, I understand how very hard it is, to navigate the holidays. I want to create lasting, positive memories and traditions. And while I want to see their eyes light up at the excitement of treasures beneath the tree, I want to make sure they know and experience the treasures that Amazon cannot deliver. I don’t want my hurts of a childhood lost, to become their burden to carry, so I work hard to be aware, to own my junk, to try my very best to choose a different path. When you know better, you DO better…

And what happens, when despite all of our best intentions, the most wonderful time of the year, is far from wonderful? What happens when we’re facing the holidays with hurts and with memories of broken promises, failed dreams, and loss? The most revolutionary thing we can do, is to choose love, to show up anyway, and to rush toward the heartache.

 ‘If there’s a silver lining to the emptiness, here it is: the unfillable is what brings people together. I’ve never made a friend by bragging about my strengths, but I’ve made countless by sharing my weakness and my emptiness.’
-Glennon Doyle Melton, ‘Carry on Warrior, Thoughts on Life Unarmed.’

So that’s the best I can give you this holiday season – my truths. Some days are hard and ugly and lonely, and even scary. There are days when the silence is deafening, and the rejection is SO very hurtful, from almost 40 years ago, and still today. Hurting people sure do hurt people. But guess what? Loving people, love people. So let’s save space today, for being the people we needed when we were younger. And for being the love we wish we had been shown. Love may not be a victory march, but it is always, always worth it. ❤

hallelujah

Advertisements

On a Brighter Note; Play Group and Broken Babies

wellbaby-tmagarticle

So it’s been a hot second since I’ve been in touch. I’ve crafted countless posts in my heart and in my mind in the past year, but they haven’t made it to this page. Why is that? Because you can’t stop to describe the waves that are overcoming the boat, when you are busy bailing out the water. Because writing from scars is so much more effective and healing than trying to tape back up, and tuck back in the gaping, oozing wounds that are still too raw to touch.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the play group days. At the time, I had convinced myself that I had officially “arrived”. I was straight up adulting, because I not only brought two beautiful babies into this world, but I somehow managed to get my postpartum craziness out the door twice a week, with those little miracles (born 22 months apart) in tow. And if you know me, you know both of my babies were born broken. Bro-KEN. Beautiful and precious as can be, but kid you not – if their eyes were open, they were not just crying, but SCREAMING. So this was solid gold stellar at play group, not if, but WHEN my little miracle woke up. Oh and by the way, my oldest sweet cherub had a bit of a feeding/swallowing disorder as a toddler, so if you offered her food, the mere thought would cause her to vomit. And we all know how popular snacks are at play group. So baby brother is screaming louder than a firetruck in a parade, and darling, older sister is yacking on the carpet and maybe even on a buddy, for seemingly no good reason. Awesome. Is she coming down with something? Choking? Nope – just an added little feature that required field trips to Mary Free Bed for Occupational Therapy, and produced enough self-doubt and frustration as a parent to fuel a guilt trip around the world. Twice. So, in other words, we were the popular ones at play group.

group-of-moms-talking

To make matters worse, I quickly discovered that when other play group moms asked “how are you”, they actually DIDN’T want a detailed description of the last 3 sh#% sandwiches life had served up. Rather, I was supposed to smile, and lie through my teeth that life had never been better. Living the dream, sharing the vision, right!? Except you can have that “dream,” especially when you add to it, a spouse that worked long hours in law enforcement and no family close by to provide respite after long days of colic and toddler temper tantrums. And it wasn’t exactly easy to find a babysitter (not that that was realistic to afford often on one income) for a colicky infant that even *I* struggled to not throttle. Those were some of the loneliest, most isolating and challenging years of my life. I remember leaning on my girlfriends who were in the same stage of life, but somehow feeling like my situation was different, because I had the “difficult” babies. And there was a good chance my house actually looked like we lived there, because I could barely keep up with the laundry and diapers and yack piles, let alone keep a spotless house.

mom-calming-crying-newborn

This stress took it’s toll on all of my relationships. I constantly existed close to tears, and complained excessively about the whole situation. It wasn’t an uncommon scene to find me bawling on my kitchen floor next to a tantruming toddler, while holding a screaming baby. But the pivotal moment was when one of my closest friends told me that I really might need more help than she (or anyone else for that matter) was able to give me. I’m sure the intention was good, and came from a place of genuine concern, but the statement cut so deep, that it took my breath away and just pushed me further into the abyss of loneliness and despair. My crazy was sticking out, and if I could just tuck it back in, that would be great.

Fast-forward almost 10 years later, when I was going through another very difficult time (they happen to all of us). I went out with some girlfriends and we were catching up and talking about life, and I made the mistake of being blatantly honest again. I described what I was feeling and then admitted that there had been times recently when I wanted to just drive my car into a ditch.You can imagine that little nugget of truth paired well with the chips and salsa!? In fact, it went so well, that the response I received went a little something like…”On a brighter note…” Not unlike my days at play group, I wanted to “magic myself invisible” (as Grant used to call it). If I could have disappeared, I would have. If I could have taken my truths right back in, like another huge swig of my margarita, I absolutely would have. But it was too late – once again, my slip was showing, and no one was appreciating my truths.

My point, besides wanting some cheese to go with my whine? We all have kitchen floor moments, we all have some version of wanting to drive our car into a ditch. Maybe you’re a lighter shade of crazy, so you would stick to riding your Schwinn into a guard rail (ring the bell twice while you do, for a little added flair). But I can guarantee, if you’re human, you’ve met moments of darkness and despair. And in those moments, did you want someone to give you advice and swoop in Superman style to fix it all? NO!!  Believe it or not, I DO realize that I’m not the only one who struggles. I realize my problems aren’t bigger than yours, and that they aren’t even unique. But when those moments of hot loneliness (as the beloved Glennon Doyle Melton calls them) creep in, all I want is for someone to sit with me in the pain, without judgement. I don’t need you to fix it, but please, whatever you do, don’t look the other way, or shame me for having a moment when the hurt and fear are a little bigger than I am.

I can tell you – I’ve spent the better part of my life in therapy, trying to ease the pain and grief even just a little, so I can take the burden off my friends. So I’m not “too much”. I’ve sat next to you at girl’s night out, and I may have shared my truths, causing you to change the subject and look the other way. Without a doubt, I went home that night and replayed our conversation, beating myself up for letting my crazy hang out again. I’ve tried watching your shows, and learning your sports terms, so I can talk about something other than my ditch moments. I’ve worked harder than you can even imagine, to fit in, at your play group, as a fellow dance mom (THAT didn’t end well), and in whatever new “group” my life as a parent has brought me to. And I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m just not willing to pay the price of “fitting in.” Sensitive is how I was made, and changing that, would change the very essence of who I am. I will no longer “tuck it back in.”

So, instead of working so hard to fit into spaces not meant for me, I’m trying something new. I’m creating a new table in the middle school cafeteria of life, where truths are not only allowed, but encouraged. Where we save space for you, even when your “crazy” is hanging out. Where you don’t have to be perfect to be accepted. I don’t care how clean your house is, or what size or brand of jeans you’re wearing. I hope you have a big zit on your face, or are wearing the same outfit as the last time I saw you, because that only makes me feel more human and more alive. When I ask you how you’re doing, I actually want to know. Good, bad, and dastardly – please tell me. And after you’ve filled me in on the latest show that is all the rage (I’m sorry but I SUCK at watching TV and I’m sure I haven’t seen it), let’s talk about the things that break our hearts, and the steps we can take to turn our heartbreak into purpose. And in those moments, when the hot loneliness sets in (because it will), this can be your safe space to sit with the pain, without being judged. Life is hard, it truly is. It will break your heart a million ways past Sunday, but you don’t have to stay stuck in the story and in the pain. On a brighter note…if you’re interested in having a seat at this “table”, feel free to send a note to :

lovesavesspace@outlook.com

With your permission, I may feature some of your stories here on my blog, and may even invite you to write your own post to be featured right here.

Saving A Space For you,

T ❤

school-cafeteria-tilt-shift