I feel I’ve been slacking on the posts lately but that actually makes me quite happy. For a time, I was clinging to this blog. Now, I’m finding it as a supplement versus all that I have. I’ve started writing outside of the blog. I’ve started what might be a book or another unfinished project. I write every day but not always for the blog. I feel that’s somewhat of a win for me because I don’t feel like I need to continue to put myself out there on a regular basis. Wait. Maybe, just maybe, I’m actually putting into practice what I’ve been writing about. Maybe I’m finally feeling like the words I say are reflected in the way I’m living my life. Well, that’s cool. Let me self-five about that for a moment.
The holidays are odd. Maddy and I found ourselves out with one of my oldest friends last night, talking about our mom for a little bit. We laughed about it. We spoke fondly of our time with her. As I watched Maddy sip her bourbon-based drink, I saw a grace in her I haven’t ever seen. I don’t know if it’s because she’s getting older or if she’s just coming into her own amidst the hot mess that are your early 20s. Whatever it was, it radiated when she spoke of our mom last night.
This is the first Christmas we’ve spent together in the past two years. I can’t speak for her, but I know for me, for a while I felt obligated to talk about Mom, especially on holidays. I felt like I needed to bring her up, to remind myself that she was here at one point and that life hasn’t always been without her. I know that sounds odd. It kind of makes me squirm as I write it because it feels vulnerable, honestly.
As a family, Mom included, we had decided to not let her journey run our lives. That included when we lost her. To be honest, I don’t know if it was ever a discussion or if it was just how we just lived. We left the day she died and had our first experience as a family of three that same day. We just did. The day one life ended, three other lives seemingly started this brand new chapter. From there, it’s been what we called our “new normal”. Sometimes, in the “new normal,” I have to sit and remember. If I don’t, I get overcome with a massive wave of grief and I tumble around for a bit. I find this important around the holidays. I immerse myself in whatever is happening during the holiday and afterwards, find myself with a grief hangover.
So I would force her into the conversations. I clung to traditions. I sought out things that were missing due to her absence and made sure to point them out. I worried about how I’d feel if I didn’t. I worried about how it would be perceived if I wasn’t wearing my “grieving daughter” hat. Oh, how broken we allow ourselves to be sometimes.
For some time since Mom died, I’ve always relied on the word saudade to describe how I’m feeling. Good ol’ Wikipedia defines saudade as “a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone that one cares for and/or loves. Moreover, it often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing might never return.” I used to think grief, or saudade, and happiness were mutually exclusive. I’m finally realizing I was very wrong. I saw that in Maddy last night.
Remembering Mom is more than just bringing her up in conversation or clinging to a tradition we once had as a family of four. After seven years, I can truly say I haven’t dreaded this holiday season. I haven’t gone into it anticipating it would be tainted by the loss. No forced traditions, just ones that fall seamlessly into our holiday, like watching Christmas Vacation with Maddy. No forced tears or conversation, just the sharing of memories as they flicker across our minds. It’s finding small moments, like watching Maddy laugh, that remind me of who Mom was and the ways we still carry her with us, even if we aren’t outwardly honoring her. I’m learning, after seven years into this grieving shindig, that the best way to grieve is to live.
The holidays are odd. This holiday season, though, I’ve found myself letting go of the things I’ve so desperately clung to and identified with. I’m learning it’s okay to take off my “Grieving Daughter” hat and throw on my “Happy Dani” hat or my “Creative Writer” hat. It’s okay for me to not wear any hats some days and stop thinking a bit and just do.
Here we are at the end of another brain dump post that I can’t figure out how to wrap up in a nice, neat bow. I guess I can end it with a “Merry Christmas” and call it a post. That’s what I shall do.
Merry Christmas, friends.