A few days ago, one of my sons brought up Christmas. Filled with excitement, he imagined aloud what he might get for Christmas.
Far from feeling elated myself, I felt a surge of panic at the mere mention of any day not today. This year, Christmas for me doesn’t mean candy with a side of connection, or peace with a pile of presents nabbed from under a sparkling tree.
It means the promise of even more devastation than has transpired in 2020 so far.
This time of this year, anything bigger than this moment terrifies me.
I asked that Christmas list reflections be kept in Christmas lists,
for which my husband gently chided me:
Yes, there’s much that’s scary in the world right now,
but there’s still also much to celebrate.
My most recent post was thus a reflection of what I currently celebrate—
each of those small, precious moments in which my head, feet, and heart are in
precisely the same place.
When they get too far away from the same place, as happened for me a couple days ago, mayhem ensues in ways that require weeks of internal and external clean-up. Sigh.
Suffice it to say: For one with a history of chronic exposure to profound traumatic experience, “pause” can be hard to remember from within the throes of fight-or-flight borne from bodily confusing the present with the past.
But how am I to keep my head and heart and feet in the same place,
when I know case counts and hospitalizations and deaths are surging upward,
as was indicated by both real-world risk and public health experts for months?
How am I to keep my hands from tapping in the keys that will take me to all the newest counts,
which then causes me sorrow so deep I briefly forget anything other than sorrow could possibly exist?
How am I to keep my heart from cursing the wildly inadequate governmental response
that means my 5/27 “histories that weren’t, but could have been”
are so much kinder than the ones we may now endure?
How am I to keep my head from thinking that it has much say in how any of this unfolds globally, which keeps me grim and grumpy as I futilely plot one-woman public health crusades?
(Even I, as a relatively noob student of public and global health, know that “public health” and “crusade” are concepts that don’t tend to travel
well effectively together.)
Day after day after day, these days, I have to teach and re-teach myself:
I can read, and I can write, and I can attempt to long-distance advocate, but I can only do so well,
without further hurting myself—or those dear little ones who rely on me to keep them safe, nurtured and fed—if I only do so for just as long as that’s what keeps me completely right here, right now, this now.
Not one split-second longer.
I have spent precious little of my life being gracious with myself. Since I escaped deep and brutal childhood poverty and predation, I’ve always expected my vision of better, faster, bigger of myself, a life approach for which I’ve paid with my health for several years now.
This morning, thinking on all these things when I would more wisely have been sleeping, I went to a book on my bookshelf that my heart correlates with grace: Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.
I had to read only three pages before I reached the words I then needed to find to affirm I must extend myself extra kindness in these harder-than-usual days, for: “we cannot give our children what we don’t have.”
I cannot fuel myself endlessly on rage and despair, espresso and vodka, and expect myself to generate great, true tenderness fuel for my so-deserving kids.
To fuel them well, I need to fuel myself well.
When I feel most tired, most distraught, that’s when it’s absolutely most important for me to seek time and space to slow down, listen, and adjust course.
I wish it were easier, these days, to fuel myself well. I wish I’d had the kind of childhood that built well-fueling into my bones as inevitability.
But, in this world? I didn’t get to choose my childhood. I don’t get to choose today’s global realities.
The best I can do, for myself and my family, is to acknowledge and accept these realities,
and fuel myself to work well within them exactly as they are,
which, for me, looks like:
making friendship bracelets;
snuggling while reading;
writing a few imperfect words that,
despite saying so little, nevertheless
exactly capture all that is, all that I want
(for those sweet young sons themselves struggling),
and all that I hope may never come to pass.
Christmas is awfully far away.
A lot of what transpires between now and then may be quite awful.
And yet, where I have a chance to make it otherwise? I’ll take that, for myself,
for healing, for my kids, for my family;
seizing any chance I see to help unfold a world
of kinder possibilities, which cannot