It’s a fact of life that Death haunts us most around the holidays.
The loss of loved ones swirl around our everyday thoughts, landing indiscriminately at odd, inopportune times. There are few people in my circle of friends and family who do not struggle to some degree with the holidays, to push past grief phantoms wearing chains that even Marley’s ghost would envy.
While watching TV recently, I found myself feeling jealous of a couple in one of those pharmaceutical commercials. You know the type I mean – happy, good looking people in some exotic vacation location who had struggled and overcome some chronic condition like scaly skin. Jesus – what’s wrong with me? I know this misplaced envy is not just about the actors skipping hand in hand across my television screen. It galls me that they can take a pill to improve their unhappy condition.
After my husband died a few years ago, I went on a mild antidepressant. I think they are helpful for many people. For me, though, they led to incredibly vivid dreams so realistic and involved I was left exhausted in the morning, and fearful of the next night’s sleep. I weaned off of them, and went back to my simpler, albeit still very vivid dreams.
I made a decision last year to try and break my Groundhog Day cycle of unhappiness through more drastic means, and so moved to another part of the country this past summer. I knew intellectually I could not outrun grief. But I will say the change of scenery has helped me. (Visit: https://stantonwithau.travel.blog/). I am trying to make new friends and connections, while still pining for old friends left behind in New England. Nothing is perfect.
But during the holidays, my resolve to keep at my daily mantra to count my blessings and find joy in my new town wear thin. The specter of Death still comes a’knockin’, having received my forwarding address.
“I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!” Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. “The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob; on my knees!” A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens
And so this holiday season I watch with milder pangs as couples stroll down the beautiful main street of my Currier and Ives Virginia town – making plans, buying gifts, snuggling close to ward off the cold. I don’t wish to “drive a stake of holly through their hearts” to paraphrase Scrooge in the Dickens classic. I know moving forward does not mean forgetting. We just juggle the past with the present, and struggle to find that livable balance.
Life is made of ever so many partings welded together. Charles Dickens