normal, or just me?

Navigating the world when you don’t have family is a bit of a learning process.  Harder yet when both your parents died smack dab in the middle the holiday season.

A lot of things that I wouldn’t have expected are difficult or worthy of much hand-wringing.

Like–when I start a new anything…a job, applying for an apartment…ANYTHING…they always want things like references and emergency contacts.  And, often, I don’t know what to put down.  Not that I don’t have friends or people–but–hardly anyone knows all the things that they’d need to know to truly be a reference or an emergency contact.  It’s odd. And surprisingly difficult.

Today, I had another one of these odd moments.

At work, I’m part of this committee…the Inclusion Committee.  Basically, we train our staff on being more inclusive.  We educate them on diversity recruitment.  We try to inform people about topics they might not know about.  It’s actually pretty cool.  It was a big reason why I joined the company.  I wanted to do more.  Well, for the holidays, every year, the committee sponsors different contests and runs a campaign to help bring awareness to all the different faiths and beliefs that are out there.  We’re referring to it as winter celebrations rather than holidays.  In any case, we’re holding this contest where people will share how they celebrate during this time of year–whatever holiday or religious event they choose to talk about.  We’ll also be writing educational pieces on all kinds of celebrations all month.  It’s meant to put a human face on these sorts of things to bring us all together.

Of course, since I’m on the committee, one of my jobs is to get people to participate.  Which means I need to participate.  I’m gaining a bit of a reputation for my creativity–I rocked out Homecoming contests–and my writing.  I’m blogging for our company, both internally and externally–so there are some expectations that my entry will sort of set the tone for the whole thing.  Pressure!  Ha.

But that’s where it gets awkward.

This is really the first year that I’ve actually felt good about the holiday season–where I wasn’t convincing myself to participate or where I wasn’t just full-on misanthropic.  Since my mother passed away on Christmas Eve, it’s a hard thing for me.  Always will be.  For once, I’m not dreading any of it.  I’m not even dreading being alone or the fact that I can’t even cook for just me because we’re in packing hell.  I feel like I actually have the Christmas spirit even more than normal.

At my old work, people didn’t talk a lot about their personal lives, so it was pretty easy to avoid the convos with people.  And if it did come up, I usually dodged things.  Here, I actually like my coworkers and want to get to know them more.  We have regular conversations about weekends and personal stuff–but I have always just kind of dodged these questions or diverted the convos elsewhere.

It’s not that I can’t talk about it.  It’s not that I even don’t want to.  It’s more or less this thing of managing other people and their reactions to my tragedy.  That sounds retarded, right?  But it’s like this thing happens when you tell people–like they expect you to fall apart or it’s like they never see you as you again.  They see you as that person who lost so much.  And it changes how they talk to you, how they are with you.  And that’s hard to take.  I’m alright with my mom being gone.  I’m at peace with that.  But being someone else and being expected to be broken?  That, I can’t do.

Part of me wants to talk about it.  To explain that I’m good now.  Really good.  But I think the rest of it is so loud, it might not be heard.  So, how can I be me while also honoring that part of me?

I’m probably going to talk about my family’s tradition of volunteering during the holidays.  Because that’s probably how I’ll be spending my days off.  I’ll pick up food for myself at Whole Foods, sure, but I’ll most likely be serving the homeless–as I’ve done almost every year since I’ve been little.  I might go to Mass for Christmas or maybe I’ll find a movie theater.  I don’t know.  But it feels odd to have to choose between being myself and being normal.  I’m not normal.  Even when I was normal, I wasn’t normal.  And I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything.  I guess that’s another boundary I have to think about.

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