in search of christmas

Several days ago, I went to see my rolfer for a session.  My fifth (?) in the ten series I’m taking.  It was pretty unusual for a few different reasons.  One–I’d just gotten resolution and a real break from school.  Two–it was an evening session on a weekday (not my normal Sunday). And three–we talked.  A lot.

It may have been the caffeine from the splurge mocha I had just before. (It was disappointing–sigh).  Or maybe I was just decompressing.  Finally.  After weeks of feeling like a cornered animal on the verge of meltdown.

I don’t normally talk–except to tell her when I’m about to cry out from pain.  Rolfing is not exactly relaxing.  It’s work–for her and me.  I have to be in weird positions at times.  She’s all up in my fascia.  It’s strange, even with clothes on.

This particular session hurt.  A lot.  We’d moved to more core things–like my legs–which are particularly troubled due to injuries throughout the years.  Your body keeps records, and moving things around? Not a pleasant time.  She also did the chest area–which is awkward because: boobs.  And holy oww painful.  I’ve learned that, while I have okay posture, my natural thing is to kind of hold onto myself.  A friend once noticed it in pictures I took of myself.  I’m self-contained that way, but it’s because I sort of curl inward.  I have a lot of problems with breathing deep, so one thing she’s done involves opening up my chest.  It’s amazing when she’s done because I can suddenly breathe like a normal person–instead of like the anxious asthmatic I am.  I even sit taller when it’s over.  But man, it hurts.

And I talked the entire time.

About life, mostly.  Education.  A lot of education–and how schools fail to prepare people for their actual lives.  How we need better advising and mentoring.  It was on my mind, I guess, because of how I’ve felt about school lately.  Rolfing brings things out of you–emotional crap just comes out.  I’ve never cried before, but some people do.  I mostly just feel really happy afterwards–lighter.

My rolfer is awesome because she’s adaptable and a quiet presence. Great for when you just want everyone to shut up.  But friendly and interesting to talk to.  She indulged my chatter.  It was nice.  At some point, I asked her about Christmas and her plans.  I knew she usually went home to Chicago for holidays.  Honestly–as weird as it sounds–I like hearing about other people’s plans.  People don’t share these things with me most of the time because they think it upsets me.  It doesn’t.  Contrary to popular belief, I don’t hate Christmas.

In fact–recently–I’ve come to the conclusion that I like Christmas again.  Don’t get me wrong–we’re not besties.  I will probably always loathe December 24th and dread its existence–want to fast forward through the whole damn thing.  But I’ve found evidence recently that I’m more okay with the holidays now.  Funny how that happens when you just accept where you are.

So–I was asking.  And she told me about her boyfriend.  How he has to work every year.  How his company has a party at the end.  How she goes and visits and drinks with him.  How they tipsily ride bikes home.  And then do nothing.  And it sounded perfect to me.

It was interesting because–for once–I stopped feeling shame about not celebrating Christmas the way I used to.  A subtle shift happened inside me, and I realized something big: The way I celebrate now (or the non-celebrating as I’ve thought of it) is actually completely normal.  The stuff from my childhood was fantastic–but many people don’t do that.  And I finally stopped judging myself for doing it like I do now.  And I shared my plans with her, and we agreed it was exactly as it should be.  For who I am now.  For what my life is now.

I’ve felt more at peace this year…like the joy I used to have for this season was more accessible.  Friends came to my apartment building (unbeknownst to me)–caroling–and I found myself humming along with glee.  Completely in the moment and grateful for the seemingly random visit.  Later, I found out my friend did it because he knew it’d bring some light to this grief season.

I’ve had these random moments a lot lately.  These things that remind me that the girl I used to be didn’t disappear.


Today, I’ve found myself bristling at various things–as I’m apt to do as I search for distractions so I can forget and be anything other than sad.  The biggest one has been people complaining about the ways in which they’re lucky.  I’d do anything to be that burdened.  And I wanted to yell at them–tell them to count their blessings and be grateful.

But I didn’t.  I instead realized it was about me and dug deeper.  Found compassion.

We all have ideas of what the holidays should be.  And this is where we find ourselves in moments of ungratefulness.  Where we stop being compassionate.  Where we beat ourselves up (and everyone else).  Where we focus on things being perfect.

I realized that these people who were aggravating me just a few minutes ago are in pain.  Not the pain I have over lost parents, no.  But pain, nonetheless.  And that pain isn’t all that far from mine.  It’s still loss.  Loss of what you hope could be.

I realized that there isn’t a typical holiday for anyone, and nothing is perfect.  Some people eat Chinese and watch Game of Thrones all day.  Some people have big, warm dinners with family.  Some have big, arduous dinners with family.  Some have two people over.  Some have friends.  Some are alone.  Some have cats.

All perfect and imperfect, all at once.  Painful and joyful, all at once.

The only difference really is what we accept.

If you grieve for things and focus on that grief, nothing will feel okay or enough.  And it’s so easy to focus on what isn’t rather than what is…to say you’re abnormal.  To miss the things that you think will fix it.  When the reality is–it can’t be fixed.  Just accepted and acknowledged as being the reality you’re in.

And that just takes time.  Sometimes, a long time.

For me, ten years.  Maybe longer.  It’s another thing to feel and release.

I’ll keep trying.  But for now, I keep remembering that this is my new normal.  Christmas is whatever I want it to be.  I’m the one driving what happens here.  I don’t have to keep fighting this enemy that doesn’t even know my name.


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