Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Christmas Spirit

It was driving down the highway on Monday, listening to the Vienna Boys Choir sing "Noel" in between the shrieks of my always-happy-except-in-the-car 7 month old while self-medicating on the Holiday M&Ms I bought to try to coerce The Dude into sucking down his prednisone Rx that I realized it...
I am having trouble getting into the Christmas Spirit this year.

It's crazy because theoretically this is supposed to be a really magical year for us, Christmas-wise. What with this happy little baby who sits in one place and marvels at the lights, and a 3 year old who barely remembers the year before, and a 6 year old that is just starting to be able to do the fun stuff.

And it's not like we're crazy busy doing holiday stuff.
We threw in the towel and decided not to do Christmas cards this year.
Mostly because they'd probably turn out like this:

And I made an extra special effort to have almost all of our holiday shopping done by Thanksgiving this year, like I usually do, so that we could just enjoy the wonder of the month of December.
I wrote out a calendar of December and all of the special things we would do each day, like we always do each year.

And then I lost it, like I do every year.
And who am I kidding anyway? By the time I get home from work each day I am surrounded by pure mass chaos, and we're really just hunkering down in survival mode...not exactly basking in the wonder of candlelight Christmas baths. (What was I thinking?)
The past several years we have gotten 25 Christmas books and wrapped one up for each day of December, along with a slip of paper listing the things we would do that day.
But last year, the books became a hassle. The boys were always fighting, and didn't feel like reading when we opened them. And didn't hear a word I said when I told them what fun we would have. And sometimes life got too crazy and we didn't have time to do it, and I didn't feel good about that.
So this year, I wanted to be more laid back about the whole thing. And I'm glad I did. The last thing I need in my life now is more pressure, but still.
It isn't the craziness of the holidays that has me so stressed out, though I suppose the pressure of upcoming school parties isn't helping.
It's just the pace of everyday life right now, and that bothers me. How can I continue at this pace, I find myself wondering? And then, I spend even more time wondering how I CAN'T.
This week, my twin sister found out that her 3rd round of fertility treatments didn't work. And I was surprised to find myself crumbling.
I know that twin sympathy pain is probably all a hoax, but I felt every twinge of hopefulness with her this round.
I have no idea at all how she must be feeling, and yet I know exactly what she went through.
Infertility hurts, and it hurts a lot of people. But this isn't just any people. This is my twin sister, and my best friend.
I've known her heart as long as I can remember, and her heart is to be a mother.
We played with dolls long after everyone else our age had stopped. We both knew we would be mothers. And mostly mothers.
And while I can vaguely remember going through phases like wanting to be a veterinarian when I grew up, I don't remember my sister ever mentioning anything at all.
She's grown up, and she's done a lot of things. She's been to lots of school. She's been a coach, and a substitute teacher, and a nanny and now she's a physical therapy assistant who works brutal hours doing a brutal amount of work, all while struggling with the daily pain of arthritis, and I know she does all of that well.
She's been an amazing aunt to my 3 boys. Flying in soon after each of their births, and for birthday parties, and Christmases.
She was meant to be a mother.
So we've been praying and hoping with her, and when the news came that this round, which seemed the most hopeful yet, had once again failed...something broke inside of me, for the first time in a while.
The Dude found me crying in the kitchen. "What's the matter, mom?" He asked, looking totally spooked out. I got down next to him to try to explain, but before I could open my mouth, he said "Hey! is my bagel ready?"
And I laighed and wiped my eyes and spread some butter on it.
Later, after dropping off The Dude at school, Greystoke and I wandered through Walmart looking for a Christmas tree stand, because somehow the 2 that we had last year have disappeared.
And the carols played, and the decorations were everywhere, but inside all I felt was...hollow. Hopeless, even surrounded by all those reminders of hope.
I know in my head that there is hope. For all of these hopeless things. But sometimes the sorrow and the pain and the can be a little blinding.
Work is increasingly difficult, and someone seems to have moved my cheese, and that is becoming hard to take. I have been at job #1 for 8 years, and I'm pretty sure I thought that's where I'd always be. But there have been drastic changes in the way things are run, and the services we provide, and they are only getting worse. As if trying to squeeze everything I need to do into the 2 days that I can manage to work wasn't hard enough, we are now asked to do the impossible every day anyway. We are down to a skeleton crew, and vacancies stay open for months because the pay and the hassle of it don't add up.

I arrive to work, usually a few minutes late, hit the ground running, and don't stop until I'm heading out the door for mass kid pickups. I hurry through pumping and even pumping once a day extra on my days off, I m too stressed to make enough, and this week bought my first case of formula ever. Which might not sound like such a big deal, but it's always how I consoled myself as a working mom. At least you can still provide your milk.
But I can't. Even though I am also still nursing the little guy all night long.
Our schedules are packed with the everyday, and I feel out of breath almost all the time.
And the worst part is I am finally realizing that it's only going to get crazier. As the boys get older, there will be even more running, and even more working, and all I really want- what I really really want somehow is time.
I am pretty sure that if I didn't have to work, I'd be ready to have another baby.
I'm crazy, I know.
But I love these guys, and I'd love one more.
But that is not the hand we have been dealt. And anyway, I'm sure everyone would love to have one more...if they just had more money, or more patience, more of this or more of that.
But that is life, In the end, there are limitations.
Aquaman got the Principle's award for good character last week. Meaning that he demonstrates trustworthiness, responsibility, respect, caring, fairness, and citizenship daily in his classroom.
I was proud of him, but not surprised.
And as I watch him each morning, marching into the world, so big now, but still so small, I am struck with the sense of my own responsibility. Somehow I must continue to march this fine line of providing food for his mouth, and opportunities in life without missing the most important moments of jut being available to him. Not always rushing out the door to the next thing.
Today, The Dude had to stay home from school, because he's sick. For 2 weeks he has been coughing and asking to be carried everywhere, and Saturday night he suddenly started coughing the wheezy cough. To the doctor for albuterol and prednisone. By the next day he had a full blown nasty cold, and last night he had a fever,
So today I couldn't work, and I don't feel guilty about letting him watch Charlie Brown Christmas Time again from his bed on my phone, and so that is what he is doing for the next hour until time to pick up big brother.

And me? Well, I'm just sitting here trying to reconcile it all. The parades and the bounce houses, and the trains, and the Christmas lights.
The infertility, and the endless labor, and the hopelessness, and the limitations.

When the Vienna Boys' Choir stopped singing Noel and I realized how many Holiday M&Ms I had eaten, the "Christmas Shoes" song came on.
And I knew I was having some sort of hormonal partial weaning crisis, when I dissolved into a puddle of tears over the whole thing.
Maybe it was the way the boy was wearing old worn clothes, and how I struggle with watching my sons in their thrift shop clothes that don't fit quite right next to the wealthy beach side kids whose brand new raincoats have their names on them.

Or maybe it was the way that the boy called his mom "Mama", like my sweet Aquaman still does. How he just knew his Mama would want to look pretty for Jesus, and how I know Aquaman would know the same thing, because he has this special way of looking like he's not listening when he's really breathing in every word.
But it doesn't really matter, because the next song that came on reminded me how all these feelings make perfect sense. Why even though Christmas brings Joy to the World, it's normal to struggle with a new depth of loneliness and emptiness beforehand.
"Oh, come, oh, come, Emmanuel, 
And ransom captive Israel, 
That mourns in lonely exile here 
Until the Son of God appear. "

The haunting strains in minor key met my tense and overstimulated heart where it was.
In the silence of God.
There's a reason God was silent those years just before He sent His son.
The silence reinforces the emptiness, It calls us to something deeper.
It helps us open our eyes.
"Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee O Israel."
So I'm going out into the busyness again.
Stepping out into the impossible hopelessness of it all.
Looking for joy slipping into the unexpected places, in sorrowful chords that fall like rain around me.
It's Christmas. And there is joy in all of these unknowns. Because there is one great known,
He is here.
Emmanuel cared enough to come.

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