12/1/12

I'm a Divorced Mom. And I'm going to survive Christmas, dammit.

Christmas 2012 will be the seventh Christmas I've spent as a divorced mom.  Normally, this time of year sends me into a psychotic, neurotic, eating-drinking downward spiral.  My usual reaction to hearing Christmas tunes on the radio and seeing all of the commercials on t.v. with twinkly white lights and perfect families opening perfect presents while sitting in their perfect living rooms clad in perfect pajamas is to mentally curl up in the fetal position and rock back and forth until December 26th.

But no more.  Not this year, not ever again.

I'm taking Christmas back, mother effers.

As I look back on the past six Christmases, I am filled with a sloppy mixture of grief, joy, regret and a weepy nostalgia.  They were all so different, and yet...so alike.

There was the Big Money Christmas of 2006.  Our divorce was finalized on December 6th, my ex bought his new house on the 10th and around that same time he introduced our four kids to the woman who had helped take down our marriage.  I was devastated, and most likely a tad bit insane.  That was the year my movie star alimony and child support had just kicked in and I spared no expense for the kids.  We  not only had a lovely Frasier Fir in the living room, we had one in the family room as well.  Just because.  I had my neighbor/photographer take pictures of the kids and I for a Christmas card and composed a "Hear Me Roar" Christmas letter announcing the new lightness and happiness we were experiencing in our home.  The boys had a new Wii and a new XBOX, and my daughter had pretty much every single thing available on the American Girl website.  I thought that having a mountain of gifts under the tree would help ease their pain, at least for a little while.

There was the Pauper Christmas of 2010.  The year I finally lost my house after the movie star child support and alimony abruptly stopped when my ex quit his big money job.  Our first Christmas in the rental house.  The only way we had a tree and some presents under it was due to the absolute kindness and generosity of some lovely "strangers".  A man I had never met, and have never seen since, dropped off a big bag of gifts on Christmas eve, all wrapped and labelled with my kid's names.  I cried as I placed them under the tree we got from a charity Christmas shop set up by the local food shelf.

Our Christmases have been varied, that's for sure, but all of them have had one thing in common:  I faced each one with a sick knot in my stomach.  I was haunted not only by the ghosts of Christmases past, but also by the ghouls called "What Could Have Been" and "What Should Have Been". I lived in the past and dreaded the present. 

I'm a slow learner, folks.  It's taken me this long to realize that it's not Christmas I hate.  I hate how I react to it.  Whether I want to admit it or not, my piss-poor attitude towards the holiday and all it encompasses has done some damage to my kids, and has definitely damaged me.

I have let my bad feelings leach the goodness out of the season, and in turn infect it with moroseness and gloom.  I've allowed my circumstances to dictate the feel of Christmas, to orchestrate every moment of it.  I started feeling it again, a few weeks ago, when I turned the corner at Target and saw their Christmas section, all cluttered and festive and red and green.  That old familiar knot started forming, just below my heart.  I think I may have actually uttered, "I hate Christmas" to myself.

But then, something happened.  I can't pinpoint exactly what, or when it hit me, but it did.  And hard.

My kids are getting older, older by the second.  In a few years, they'll be grown.  And gone.  Off on their own adventures, living their own lives.  Do I want their memories of Christmas to be of a sad faced mom, crying into her coffee as they open their gifts? Or do I want them to remember their mom embracing the season, grabbing it up in a big bear hug and telling melancholy and remorse to step off?

I think they want the latter.  And so do I.

So I'm taking it back.  I'm not only going to survive this Christmas, I'm going to love it.  Love it hard, like I used to back "before the divorce", like I did when the kids were little and life was seemingly perfect.  Because you know what?  It's still perfect.  It's changed, that's for damn sure.  But it's perfect in its own way.

I'm still broke, there still won't be a ton of gifts, there won't be laptops or cars with bows on them or iPhones or trips.  I have to wait until the 15th to start shopping, because this paycheck is already gone to my landlord and my gas tank and school lunches.  But I'm going to get out the decorations, I'm going to play Christmas music and we're going to make cookies in the shapes of snowmen and trees and candy canes.  I'm going to get my free tree from that same little charity Christmas shop and I'm going to drag out my vintage Shiny Brite ornaments and fill that sucker up. 

The biggest, and bestest gift I'm giving my kids this year is the gift of a happy mom.  A mom who will no longer cringe when someone wishes her a Merry Christmas.  A mom who may not be able to get them the coolest things but can definitely give them something priceless:  love.  Love, and a lesson.

Life can be hard.  It can be awful and mean and it can hurt like a bitch.  But you can't let it scar you so badly that things which are beautiful and simple and meant to be enjoyed become dark and scary and painful.  I want to show my kids that life is good.  Even when it feels like it's not.

You know what's funny?  I started out writing a very different post today.  It was going to be a divorced mom's guide to surviving the holidays.  Here's the kicker:  I couldn't write it.  I couldn't write it because, to be honest with you, I don't know how to survive the holidays.  I only know how to endure them. 

Maybe next year I'll be able to write a post about the holidays...but not only about surviving them.

About enjoying them.

Happy Holidays to you, my sweet readers.  I wish you all the best of the season. 



20 comments:

  1. This made me cry...in a good way. I too used to say I hated Christmas. Years past it was because my EX's drinking always caused arguments that put a damper on everything. Last year it was because it was our 1st one after he left and our lives had been turned upside down. I tried to put on a happy face but I was scared and miserable and broke. The kids and I bought a small tree and put it up ourselves (twice...had to do it again after it fell over in the stand...luckily it was before all our ornaments were on). By this point he wasn't talking to the kids anymore and he didn't see them for the holiday and provided no financial support. But 2 weeks before Christmas, I started receiving anonymous christmas cards in the mail for 6 days straight...all addressed to our family and all with the return address of "Santa-North Pole". Each one contained $100 gift card to 6 different places...Sports Authority,Costco, Target etc. I cried for days and tried to find out who did it. Never did find out and nobody gave it away....believe me I asked and I looked for signs. It was someone who loved us and wanted the kids to have a good 1st christmas without their dad. We have tried to pay it forward so many times this year by helping others less fortunate...giving to the homeless, feeding an elderly lady in my neighborhood, donating to a womans shelter, buying Toys for Tots. It's not much but every little bit helps. I will forever be grateful to my anonymous Santa that made my kids holiday a little brighter last year..we are grateful and it made us realize that there are so many people who love us still and that we would be okay. After all, we had all we really needed...each other.
    Thank you for writing this...time is precious and our kids will remember what they see and hear and all they want is for us to be happy again(my 22yo son told me that this year).
    You are one special mom.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Sil!! I'm all weepy over here! I know EXACTLY how it feels to get cards like that in the mail. There are no words, are there? I love that you are paying it forward this year. I'm trying to do that too, and you know what? Every little bit does help. It all makes a big difference.

      You are another special mom, my friend. Your kids are blessed to have you!

      Jenny

      Delete
  2. Thanks for reminding me about the "reason for the season"! Ive been a bit down lately...we are a bit broke, and im having some health issues (getting old sucks!) But in the end, I have a beautiful, healthy family and friends, and there will be some gifts under the tree that everyone will love...and it could always be ALOT worse!
    Hugs to you Jennyfur!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hugs back at you my friend. I hope you are ok?? Getting old does suck, big time. You do have a beautiful family and yes it could be worse. But I know how it feels to have the bah humbugs. You'll be ok, my dear.

      Delete
  3. Man, between the original post and Sil's reply, this confirmed Scroogette is gettin' a little misty-eyed. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pass the tissues, Scroogette :) Sil made me cry too!

      Delete
  4. This is the best divorce blog post I have read in my last two years of hell. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very welcome. I hope this next year is a better one for you. Hang in there, my friend. You are not alone.

      Delete
  5. Great post -- this is the first time I've read your blog. This will be my 5th Christmas as a divorced mom. Each one has its own "flavor", but each year is definitely better than the last. My ex took a lot away from me and the kids when he left (and subsequently married the woman who had a part in tearing down our marriage) and moved an hour away. But I was *not* going to let him take away Christmas. The kids and I find as many things we can to enjoy about the holiday that don't cost much. We love to drive around and look at lights on houses, singing obnoxious songs in the car at the top of our lungs. We have a smaller house and there aren't as many gifts under the tree, but the love is there. Bless you all!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, and welcome! Sounds like we have a few things in common. Good for you for refusing to let his choices destroy the holiday for you and the kids. What you are doing with them is EXACTLY what you should be doing. They are truly lucky to have a mama like you.

      Blessings right back at you! Keep up the good work, my friend.

      Delete
  6. Glad I read this, don't feel so alone, this will be my 2nd year with my 12 yr. God I that this...I just keep remembering the old Christmases and get that knot too! I'm trying to create new "traditions" but it's hard! But you have inspired me, and I am taking your advice and taking control and starting "new" traditions or just being there and not being so sad this holiday season. God Bless and Merry Christmas!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Lorraine, thank you for reading. I hope and your child had a great Christmas! Sorry I didn't see this earlier. Blessings to you also, and here's to new traditions without sadness!

      Jenny

      Delete
  7. I am so happy to have found this blog. It gives me both comfort and a little fear - you are a few years ahead of me but our stories are so similar I can see my future through your posts. It is comforting to know someone is making it though and your posts prepare me for some of the obstacles I will face. I keep asking myself why this happened and what good can possibly come out of it but then I stumble across your blog and know your bad situation will turn into a positive when you write a best seller and touch the lives of many! Now I just have to figure out how I can turn my nightmare into a positive. Thank you so much for sharing your challenges and I hope all of your dreams come true!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi fradella! I'm so glad you found us. I'm sorry that it wasn't better circumstances that led you here but I'm so glad that you've found comfort! The fear? You'll get used to it. Going through tough times is an awesome character builder, ya know.

      I can't thank you enough for your kind and encouraging words! It's hearing from women just like you that keeps me going. None of us are alone in this. None.

      You hang in there, dear. Please let me know how things are going!

      Jenny

      Delete
  8. Great post as always-I want to share my 2 cents about it.

    I'm don't celebrate this holiday. All the friend/family gatherings, commercials, running errands, most everything has to do with it. I feel left out in some respects.

    But you know what? I feel lucky in some ways I don't have to deal with it; the family stuff, purchasing anything, buying into the mentality of spending money on people I don't want to, going to social events that are a drag, etc. On t.v. everyone appears to have the perfect family and all the members are happy/well-adjusted. I know this is a load of bullshit. Take a look around at the world-all the suffering and folks without the means to put food out regularily. It saddens me how commercialized this holiday is and in particular how people stress themselves out to have this fantasy day of good tidings.

    What I do like about it is sometimes someone who doesn't know me that well wishes me a Merry X-mas. It used to piss me off to no end but now I realize they are just wishing me well. I'll take those good vibes now. X-mas for me, back when we used to have snow, would be a day of cross- country skiing without a license by myself. I was living the dream of fitness and winter bliss. Now I just stay home and do house projects with the family around.

    Best wishes to you and the kids for an easy-going, successful, and happy X-mas. It can be whatever you want it to be, don't buy into that crap the corporate/ capitalized world of buying things tells you it's supposed to be.

    ReplyDelete
  9. That right doll, take the holiday season by the balls & say 'you're mine biatch!'

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...