I texted my husband, from my old phone as my current phone sits in a bag of rice as I spilled a cup of milk directly on top of it: “December is stupid.”
He replied, “Sometimes. I think this is going to be a good one though.”
December is hard.
I mean, it’s hard for lots of people for lots of reasons.
Today it’s hard for people who lost loved ones to senseless violence; it’s hard for the survivors, hard for the loved ones of survivors, because they’re left wondering “what if.” And every December 2nd, they’ll relive the fear, the horror, the loss. December is hard for those left behind in the wake of Sandy Hook, the one that should have stopped this madness, but didn’t. We all sat and watched in silent horror, tweeting prayers and hugs; here we are again.
December is hard for those experiencing the holidays for the first time since the loss of a loved one. Or those experiencing the holidays a second time, a fifth time, the seventieth time since the loss of a loved one. I feel as though the grief feels more acute this year; last year my heart was surrounded by the bubble wrap of shock. This year I rolled out my grandmother’s table cloth and tears slipped down my nose, left grief spots upon the crisp white.
December is hard because we’re expected to do all the things for all the people and be in all the places at all the times. I mean, who in their right mind decides to get married in December? Oh, just us. And my parents. We’ll be celebrating their 35th wedding anniversary this year at Oglebay; for our 11th, I think we might see Star Wars as it’s released that day. Or we might just sit and stare at our fat little tree and thank the heavens we’ve made it another year. But the night before we’ll be at a Christmas program. A few days later, we’ll celebrate with friends. At some point, we might wrap presents we haven’t yet purchased because life is busy and hard and real.
Time for self-care? For a run? For a yoga class? For longer than a five-minute shower? For sleeping in? For going to bed early? It’s 11:12 PM as I’m writing this on the second day of December; there is no time. No time.
December is hard because while you’re trying to figure out how to budget for all those gifts, you’re really, really aware of how good you have it, how “lucky” your children are; how lucky is another way to say spoiled. You do not want for food or heat or anything. And you know that’s not the case for everyone, even when you give to worthy causes, even when you donate time and money and gifts and your heart and soul, you know it’s not enough. Not enough. It’s never enough.
December is hard because we’re all arguing over what we feel is right for the country or the state or the county or the town or the family. We’re arguing over who to invite or who goes where on Christmas day, and it seems so trivial while people are dying on our streets—our American, let freedom ring, don’t question my rights streets—by our own hands. Out of fear. Out of privilege. Out of hatred. Out of absolute nothingness. Dying. Dying. But the arguments about who brings what to dinner still matter, still affect us, still make us feel less than or more than or protected or lost. These little things, they matter; the big things begin as these little things.
December is hard because I miss my daughter. I miss holding her within my womb and knowing she was my own. I miss her physical being, who she is now—taller than me, more gorgeous than I could have designed myself, more talented than I could ever hope to be. I miss being her mom, miss the ways I didn’t get to be, the ways I didn’t know to be at the time. I miss her arms around my shoulders, her body leaning into mine to hug me as she says goodbye. Goodbye. Goodbye. Always the goodbye.
December is hard because I look back just one year and I don’t recognize who I was at that time. And I know, all too well, that there are people feeling like I felt one year ago. People struggling to find a reason to wake up, to get out of bed, to face another day. I know that there are moms who need help but are to scared to ask for it, for fear of being judged, for fear of losing the life they’ve managed to create. I know that there are women and men who are at the end of their ropes, who have been told by society that they don’t really matter, who have been bullied and beaten and are just done. I know that there are children who struggle to verbalize what they’re feeling, who can’t quite figure out how to tell their parents or anyone that they’re tired and scared. I know that the holidays increase the number of suicide attempts; I know. And it breaks my heart.
December is hard. Even when your life is in line and your presents are purchased and your kids make good grades and you have a good relationship with your parents and you don’t have to travel for the holiday and your best friends show up with wine and cheese and you manage to get all the things done that need to be done and you don’t even know why December feels hard, it just does.
Because December is hard. It’s busy. It’s fast-paced. We’re told what to do by everyone but our own selves. We’re pushed and pulled, prodded and poked, sweating while getting ready because it’s cold but hot. We’re tired and grumpy and we just want to have a good holiday, have a good time, a good month, a good day, a good hour, a good minute. We just want to remember why we’re here; we just want to know that we’re loved.
And we hold the hope that maybe, just maybe, this December will be a good one. Maybe.