Monday, December 17, 2012

Forging Ahead

When your world falls apart, I think you can do one of three things.

You can shut down.  Don't leave the house.  Don't leave the bed.  Leave the bed only to move to the couch. Don't take phone calls.  Don't answer e-mails.  Cut of contact with the outside world and try to create a cocoon that will make you feel safe and whole even though the entire reason you're shutting out everything is precisely because you'll never feel quite safe or whole again.

You can run away.  Get far away from the familiar.  Leave behind the people and places you know, the places that no longer seem to fit you because they were part of "before" and you are so entrenched in "after" that you scarcely recognize the old version of yourself anymore.  A change of scenery, a change of weather patterns, a change of wardrobe.  You know that new places won't make you forget the old, but maybe it will offer a distraction?

You can forge ahead.  I'm not so good at this one.  This one is awfully hard.  The only thing that makes is possible is that forging ahead doesn't mean you have to go out skipping with your head held high and your smile pasted on.  It's okay if forging ahead is more like trudging.  And if you cry while you're doing it.  You don't have to accept what happened, you certainly don't have to come to peace with it.  As my friend Sarah swears she doesn't actually say, you just have to keep on keeping on.

And what else can you do, really?  Because you can only shut down for so long before you become an unbearable burden on other people and you can only run away for so long before you have to feed your dog or mow your lawn or go back to work or whatever.  Escape is not as easy as you'd think, especially when you can't escape what's in your head.

Our hearts were heavy this weekend.  I was fearful.  I remember in the early weeks/months after Eliza died, I was so scared that David was going to get in a car accident on his commute.  I was tense and edgy the whole time he was driving home.  I was just so sure that if one terrible thing could happen to us that we were no longer immune from tragedy and I was going to lose everyone I cared about.

Those anxieties came back a little bit these last couple of days.  I'd be lying if I said that the idea of a gun man storming into the department store and shooting up the line to see Santa didn't cross my mind while we were standing there.

But what are you going to do?

So we forge ahead.  It felt a little callous, to go on with everyday life, especially fun and frivolous parts of everyday life, knowing how those families in Connecticut are aching with grief.  But it also felt wrong to let the private tragedies of individual families be so sensationalized that it would take away from our family's time together.  It's only Zuzu's first Christmas once, you know?

And so we decided to see Santa.

We made the trek to the North Pole Von Maur and waited in a long line.  Okay, David waited in line while Zuzu napped in her stroller and I wandered the store, browsing for things to make my own list for Santa and surreptitiously keeping my eye out for suspicious looking people.  (Everyone I saw looked not only normal, but actually nice.  And Santa promised me the fuzzy earmuffs I want.  I sure hope he remembers them come Christmas Eve...)

Our not-good-napper suddenly decided that she loves to sleep.  But only in her carseat?

We actually had to wake her up after an hour (yes, it was a LONG line) so that she would be prepared to sit on the lap of a strange chubby man with a big white beard.  David held our place in line while we went to the mothers' lounge for a snack and a diaper change and then we got back just in time for Zuzu to meet St. Nick.

This is my iPhone picture, which is less than perfect, but she did amazing!  Big smiles and happy girl all around.  She asked Santa for this version of Pride and Prejudice and some new outfits.

At the end of the day, she was pretty confident that she'd made Santa's Nice List.

Santa loves me!

David and I skipped Christmas for two years.  First because we shut down, and then because we ran away.  This year, we're easing our way back in, and it helps me to remember that this holiday is about finding hope in the midst of fear and light in the midst of darkness.

My friend Becca posted these song lyrics on her blog today, and I want to share them here, too.  I know what it is to feel despair at Christmas, and my heart goes out to anyone who is despairing this year.  May we seek out the good in the world around us, and may next year bring us closer to peace on earth.

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men. 

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
"For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men." 

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men." 

--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 


  1. It was a strange weekend, wasn't it? With a mix of sadness and Christmas busyness? That song has never meant more to me than it does this year.

    ZuZu looks right at home with Santa. LOVE the outfit.

  2. Did you hear that song playing in Altered State on Friday? It was, and I mentioned that I love it because our church played it during the first Christmas service I attended there. And several people have posted about it on FB lately, I've been hearing it everywhere, and it's kind of become one of those messages the universe wants me to hear, too. Such a great message.

    And Zuzu with Santa? That level of cuteness is off the charts. Glad you talked David into it. That picture is worth it. :)

  3. I'm glad you feel up to celebrating Christmas this year. It's a big step and I know you will be happy you took it.

  4. I lost my daughter on Thursday, she was stillborn after placental abruption. I had to push her out or bleed to death, and the birthing ended her life. She was my hope and my dream and my love. I went back and have been reading about your loss of Eliza. Thank you for sharing, if nothing else I feel a little less alone, and unfortunately, could identify with every word as if I'd written it myself.

  5. Yes, we have to keep living. And it's ok...we need to keep living. Somewhere, there is always someone enduring the most horrific tragedy. But also someone experiencing deep joy.

    To the commenter above me, I am so sorry for your recent loss.