Christmas Is Not My Happy Place

Christmas Is Not My Happy Place.

Christmas Is Not My Happy Place

The holidays are not happy for every person. While people gravitate towards the magic of Christmas and the magic of family coming together, not everyone has the Hallmark family. Christmas was once my favorite holiday and I spent months preparing to embrace my family with the love and hope of the season. With Phil’s death, it is easy to concentrate on what I no longer have versus what I do have. I can sink into a morass of despair and wanting what I cannot fix, repair, or bring back. Airports literally are a sucker punch to my heart. I want the happy reunion and Phil was due home on Christmas Eve. There are days I want to rail against the cards I have been dealt, and yet….there is the spark that shines dimly, but like a blazing beacon.

 

Even in my darkest hours, I recognize that I am grateful for what I do have and for the time I did have with my Phil. Many people never experience the love and relationship that Phil and I shared. I recognize that redefines my paradigms. What if I can be thankful for those 23 years versus morning for what I no longer have? What if I can shift my focus from the dull ache into celebrating because I did have the magical holidays? If I can spark that gratitude, I can spark hope and something to hold on to during the raging storms of the season.

 

Gratitude does more than foster sparks of hope in me, it allows me to look beyond myself and the groans of my aching heart to other people who are walking wounded. I can see the downcast eyes, the withdrawing of the spirit, and I can perhaps be a reaching hand. Viktor Frankl wrote, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” While my holidays are no longer the chaotic happy family get togethers, they can perhaps light the way for another person. There is something magical in watching hope start to alight in another human being. In that spirit, I will rip a hole in the darkness and step into the light. I give thanks for what was, what is, and what will be.

The holidays are not happy for every person. While people gravitate towards the magic of Christmas and the magic of family coming together, not everyone has the Hallmark family. Christmas was once my favorite holiday and I spent months preparing to embrace my family with the love and hope of the season. With Phil’s death, it is easy to concentrate on what I no longer have versus what I do have. I can sink into a morass of despair and wanting what I cannot fix, repair, or bring back. Airports literally are a sucker punch to my heart. I want the happy reunion and Phil was due home on Christmas Eve. There are days I want to rail against the cards I have been dealt, and yet….there is the spark that shines dimly, but like a blazing beacon.

 

Even in my darkest hours, I recognize that I am grateful for what I do have and for the time I did have with my Phil. Many people never experience the love and relationship that Phil and I shared. I recognize that redefines my paradigms. What if I can be thankful for those 23 years versus morning for what I no longer have? What if I can shift my focus from the dull ache into celebrating because I did have the magical holidays? If I can spark that gratitude, I can spark hope and something to hold on to during the raging storms of the season.

 

Gratitude does more than foster sparks of hope in me, it allows me to look beyond myself and the groans of my aching heart to other people who are walking wounded. I can see the downcast eyes, the withdrawing of the spirit, and I can perhaps be a reaching hand. Viktor Frankl wrote, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” While my holidays are no longer the chaotic happy family get togethers, they can perhaps light the way for another person. There is something magical in watching hope start to alight in another human being. In that spirit, I will rip a hole in the darkness and step into the light. I give thanks for what was, what is, and what will be.

Christmas-Just Give Me a Reason

I didn’t do a whole lot today except play Suzie Homemaker. I went grocery shopping, have 15 bean soup in the crock pot, cornbread in the oven, vegetables chopped for salad all week, and I made 32 breakfast burritos for the freezer. My family knows that when I feel a little beaten down, I putter in the kitchen. I hate that no matter how far I come, certain windows are etched on my heart.
Today, the 83 year old bagger at the commissary carried on a conversation with the cashier about how young people do not know how to stay married any more. When he walked out my groceries, he told me that his wife was a cougar. They have been married 62 years and today is her 85th birthday. He assumed I was married to an airman and asked me about it. Well, sir, Thursday would have been 26 years and all I ever wanted was to grow old with Phil. That was my dream. That was my heart.
I am thankful for each and every day–even the hard ones–because I know what it is like to love and to be loved. If all I ever get is that 23 years, I was blessed. The etched window reminds me that my life has been blessed and it is still blessed. God knows that although I look like I have recovered, my heart is knit together like a patchwork quilt. Like a broken bone, my heart beats stronger, but even in mending of the brokenness, it aches in the cold.
I struggle with trying to figure out the holidays and with thinking I might forever be alone. Happy reunions at airports poke my heart not because I do not want others to have what I could not have, but because I wanted that for Phil and I. Holidays with Phil were magical because he didn’t grow up with family celebrations. Since he has been gone, I just can’t get motivated enough to try. I am working on it, but I feel like I have lost the magic of the season. As I putter in the kitchen, I hope that something sparks. Spark and just give me a reason, just a little bit is enough. I want to believe in the magic of the holiday….need to believe in the magic.

Broken Dreams Can Lead to Possibility

Broken Dreams Can Lead to Possibility.

Broken Dreams Can Lead to Possibility

People often put off doing the things they want to do because they believe that there will be a better time for it, that the financial or time commitment is too much or at the wrong time, or they delay believing that certain dreams are for other people. I know that Phil and I put off those couple’s only dates and vacations because we thought we had time. In fact, I pushed for a Phil and Linda vacation together before his deployment, but he wanted to wait because it wasn’t his top priority. It became the desire of his heart while he was deployed and we had plans for that magical day that we were to meet in Italy for a Mediterranean cruise. While he was deployed, we also talked often about our dream house and our next base. We made plans to run the Paris Marathon. I had dreams of growing old together, being grandma and grandpa together, watching Phil commission our youngest, and of Phil walking Emily down the aisle at her wedding. Not one of those dreams came true and all of my hopes have changed and shifted in a major transformation. As I ran the hills of the Athens Marathon today, I recognize a huge change that I have made.

While I believe that Colorado is the place that is home in my heart, I am not sure because home was always him, yet I see a day when I will own a house and when I will be retired. I hope that there is a chapter two, but I am not sure if that will happen. I know that I will be okay alone, though, and that is where the change has occurred. I am living my dreams. Some of these dreams have a financial commitment; some an emotional and time commitment, and still others a physical investment. I no longer wait for the “right” day, I look for opportunities to live my dreams. I recently finished my 50th state marathon and celebrated by using my vacation time from work to fly to Europe to visit my daughter and to run the Athens Marathon.

The Athens Marathon is special because the race follows the original marathon course from Marathon, Greece to Athens. The original participant ran the 26.2 miles to deliver a military message and then promptly keeled over and died. I am sure that his intention that day wasn’t to die, but it happened. His dreams ended that day. Pondering that story and thinking about Phil’s life being gone far too soon, made me think about all of the dreams and all of the events that were deferred for a better time. I am living my dreams because Phil’s death changed me, changed my dreams, and opened me up to possibility. While I would choose the life and dreams I once held over these possibilities that is not an option. Recognizing that what once was, is not coming back has opened my heart to possibility and looking at what I want. Does it gouge my heart and do I long for wanting to grow old with the husband of my youth? You bet.

As I have opened my eyes to figuring out how to live without the man who knew me almost as well as I know myself, my dreams have evolved. One of the biggest shifts is in the fire that blazes within me for my military brothers and sisters who have served, are serving, or will serve. That raging blaze led to me walking away from a job I loved teaching to go back to school in military resiliency counseling. Every day I get up and go to work with a sense of purpose and meaning born of heartbreaking loss. I simply must make something positive come out of the ashes and I must do what I can to help those in the midst of the raging storms of military moves, family separations, injury, loss, or having seen too much.

With my completion of my 50th state marathon which was one of my two promises to Phil, I have begun to reach for other things. I want to run The Great Wall of China Marathon and the Dublin Marathon. I am not recklessly pursuing my dreams, but I am coming up with a plan to make them happen. Like the ancient runner in Greece, I am well aware that there is always a cost—time, money, emotional, and physical, but the possibilities have opened my eyes to a new day and a new type of future. While this chapter may look nothing like the future I saw for myself, I recognize that I have the ability to make my dreams possible as long as I have breath.