Sunday, November 28, 2010

Where Did My Christmas Cheer Go?

There is so much I have to be thankful for, even in a year when I had major surgery, we have been touched very personally by cancer, and I lost my job.  I have a great family, a few wonderful friends, loving pets, a beautiful home, reliable transportation, and the ability to give my kids what I think is fairly good parenting (I hope) and a stable, happy childhood (again, I hope). 

The sad statistic is that there are many people at this time of the year who are reflecting on what they have to be grateful for and can't seem to count up many blessings.  They are either alone for the holidays or they have lost someone they love dearly and are suffering or they have no home.  Real, tangible things to be sad about.

And then there are those people, like me, who are counting their blessings and know they have it really good, yet are still sad and have no idea why.  For me, the glass has always been half empty, which I absolutely hate about myself.  I would like to turn that around and be a positive, cheery, perky (well, maybe not perky) person who sees nothing but the good in people and looks forward to every new day.  The fact is though...that just isn't me.  This has been a tough year and I can't seem to get past the bad things, even if it's time to move on and get on with life.  I just feel sad this year.

Justin and I took Jamie and Joey down to visit his parents and grandmother yesterday.  Justin goes down every couple of months, but it's a tough trip for me, because of my fibromyalgia, so I only go a couple of times a year, usually holidays.  Christmas Eve, we always spend with his parents, and at least one of the days of the Thanksgiving weekend.  He doesn't get to see them much and his grandmother will be 95 in April.  I know he wishes he could spend more time with them and I find myself feeling bad that he doesn't have that opportunity.  Justin and his grandmother are very close.  He can remember going over to her house while he was growing up and she would ask him to dust the furniture in exchange for a coke.  Since his mom restricted soft drink consumption, he would sneak over just to dust for Grandma. 

Justin has great memories of his grandparents.  His mom's parents lived two doors away and his dad's parents lived just down the street.  His great-aunt and uncle also lived on the same street and he can remember his brother being missing one morning when Justin was about seven and Monte was about four.  After looking frantically, they found him asleep in the back of his uncle's cow trailer.  Justin has lots and lots of memories about growing up.  He believes his earliest memory is of being in his crib.  That's amazing.  My earliest memory is probably from when I was six or seven years old and that is the memory of a lot of snow, because we lived in Minnesota at the time.

I think the reason Justin has these early memories and I don't is that he lived in one house his entire life...well, from the age of two, when he moved from a house "in town" to a house in the country, a few miles away.  In other words, he grew up in the same town, with the same people, until he was twenty-three years old.  He went to the same school every year, unless it was time to move up.  With the same group of friends.  What on earth is that like?

My dad worked for Honeywell and was transferred approximately every eighteen months as he moved up the corporate ladder.  I was thirteen when we moved to Virginia and, after a couple more years, he was offered yet another promotion and he finally decided it was time to find a job that didn't rip his kids away from their friends every couple of years.  I was so grateful he made that decision.  Virginia has been my home since I was thirteen, but before that we lived in California, Michigan, Kansas, Tennessee, Minnesota, and upstate New York.  For my parents, moving was kind of like breathing.  It was just something you did every couple of years or so.  In fact, I think they still get restless if they live anywhere for more than a few years.

Most people can remember things from when they were two or three years old.  I think that reflects a stability in early life that I didn't have because of all the moving around.  I don't hold it against my parents and I'm not angry about it.  But I didn't grow up surrounded by people I had known all of my life, the way Justin did.  When we moved to Virginia and were states away from both sets of grandparents and all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins, my mom decided we needed some traditions to make up for the lack of family and that's when my really good memories start.  Unfortunately, it's also when my mood disorder started and those good memories and stability are riddled with those horrible black depressions that made no sense and the feeling that nothing would ever be right.  What should have been the happiest, most carefree time of my life just, well, wasn't.

Holidays can be tough.  They were when we came to Virginia, because we didn't have any family or friends when we got here.  My parents took it in stride - they were used to moving around.  For me, I've always longed to be part of a big family with lots of sisters and brothers and a larger "family" of close friends that I grew up with.  It didn't work out that way and that's okay, but I still find myself occasionally struggling to get through the holidays, mood wise.  This year, again, something just doesn't feel right.

I have worked very hard to make sure my kids have stability, especially during the holidays. We have some simple traditions and the boys always seem happy to partake of those traditions - decorating outside with Justin the day after Thanksgiving, going to Justin's parents' on Christmas Eve, watching A Christmas Story while we decorate our Christmas tree.  Dinner is always the same, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I try to make sure that my holiday malaise doesn't seep into our traditions, leading me to be much quieter than I would usually be.  Justin probably wonders what happened to my non-stop voice.  The fact is, I'm simply trying to be positive (or at least not negative) because I don't want everyone else to be as depressed as I am.

I guess it's only natural to be depressed when you aren't recovering from surgery the way you had hoped you would, you've watched someone go through a horrible loss, you've lost your job...all in the same year.  Maybe this year my depression isn't so unwarranted or unexplainable.  Not to mention that when you have chronic pain, it's going to make you depressed at least every once in awhile.  My goal for the rest of the holiday season is to function as well as I can and give my kids the best Christmas I possibly can.  And hopefully make a few good memories for them that they can take out and dust off when they are dealing with their own adult issues someday in the future.

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