How I Plan To Celebrate the Holidays
It's dark and cold tonight and if you were here I'd ask D to make a fire in the living room. I'd bring out the colorful yarn afghan and we'd sit on the couch and look at the lights on the Christmas tree.
After a long silence, I'd whisper, "I don't know how much longer we have with my dad. I'm so sad. I should be grateful. I was so angry two years ago about the cancer. I was so angry knowing that he had to cancel his trip to Africa. All I wanted was for him to have the chance to go to Africa..."
And then he was "healed" long enough to go. And it was so amazing. And I was so grateful.
And now he's come home.
And even still I'm pleading - "No, not yet."
In 2014 I started a tradition for myself. For the entire month of November, I'd be purposeful about noticing and documenting and sharing my moments of daily gratitude. Inspired by the Whole30 challenge of consuming only food grown from the earth and the benefits experienced from cutting out all the junk (so I've heard), I called my practice of noticing and gratitude Wholehearted 30. I felt centered and connected and blessed and delighted. Wholehearted 30 was such a life changing practice, I continued far beyond the 30 days of November, and friends and I began to call it #wholeheartedforever.
I completely missed it this year. I've been so consumed by fear and sadness and making angry demands of God followed by desperate prayers for His grace.
Then on the day of Gratitude and Togetherness I started to notice.
I noticed the Facebook posts about the chair that was empty this year.
I noticed the Go Fund Me campaigns to support people who are loved.
I noticed when you told me - you thought you had accepted that you wouldn't have a baby. You thought you were over it. You told me you're not.
I noticed that you couldn't even say, "I still want a baby", because to say the words would be to experience the overwhelming disappointment and loss all over again.
I noticed that I'm not alone in this chapter of life called Grief.
Grief feels a lot like winter - dark, cold, and achy. And although I am afraid of the immensity and depth of grief - and its dark, and its cold, and its ache - I know what to do in winter, and so maybe in grief, I need to do the same.
Make big pots of soup and call the family over.
Make fires and sit close.
Sit under blankets and cuddle.
Go out when it gets dark and look for lights.
Celebrate the holidays and "get togethers".
I missed Wholehearted 30 this year, but I don't want to miss the rest.
This is my plan.
Show up where the people are. Even if just for a little while. I'm not going to lie. This. Is. So. Hard. I would really prefer to do something else, like, lie under a futon and go for long, silent walks alone in my mind while my fingers scroll, scroll, scroll, and my eyes glaze over and look at posts but don't really see anything. But I know deep in my belly that I will be so glad I showed up if I can just be brave long enough to get there. To help me "get there", I assign myself kuleana. This is really helpful if you are a hard core, do the right thing, duty bound, native/asian/mother/woman. Since I am all of the above, I'm on the planning committee of 2 Christmas parties. I will show up because I have to. I will stay because I always find joy in togetherness.
Showing up is not only about parties. The bigger challenge of showing up is being emotionally and mentally available when I'm at home. My plan is to make eye contact.
When Alana is spinning around and doing her ballet about the Christmas tree - make eye contact.
When Pono is showing me a gamer on his phone that he thinks is funny - make eye contact.
When Sam is lying in my arms drinking his bottle and pulling hair out of my arm because for some weird reason that is soothing to him - make eye contact.
When Honey comes up to snuggle - make eye contact.
When Kaniu walks out of her room and sits down to eat - make eye contact.
When D comes home after work - make eye contact.
I will notice them. I will see them. And I will allow them to see me - all of me.
Trust my tribe.
This means vulnerability.
This means saying, "I'm so sad."
"I need help."
Or the hardest, hardest, super extremely difficult, "I need you."
Practice as much self care as I can.
I don't always make good decisions to nourish my body, but when I do, I take gummies. I have 3 bottles of gummy vitamins - a daily vitamin, B12, and probiotics. I keep my gummies in my bathroom medicine cabinet so that it's the first thing I see when I wake up.
I've been using essential oils whenever I remember. Siberian Fir, lavender, frankincense, and whatever smells good on any given moment. I haven't been diffusing because I feel like that would take a lot of effort. I've instead been rubbing the oils in my palms to warm them up, then pressing my palms over my heart, my lower belly, the back of my neck, and I end by gently placing my hands over my face and pressing the last bit of oil on my forehead, my eyelids, my sinuses, my mouth, and finally, my ears.
I will continue practicing maitri - unconditional friendship and loving kindness toward myself. I will be gentle with my fragile heart. I will not demand that my holidays look like they were designed by Martha Stewart. I will not judge myself for feeling moments of joy and thrill and excitement in the midst of the journey of grief and loss.
And most of all
I will take pictures,
and drink invisible coffee poured into tiny cups poured by a toddler,
and say, "Cheers!"
and allow for moments of anguish and demanding to understand why,
and allow for moments of peace and acceptance and trust,
and be so grateful -
so very, very grateful,
and the gift that is