I slid my feet into my winter boots, pulled on my toque and mittens, zipped up my coat and slipped out the front door. It was 2am on Christmas morning. Sleep had escaped me again. This night was no different from the eve of every other special occasion. I stepped out into the freshly fallen snow. Pure white and untouched, each flake preserved in the perfection that God had intended. The lamp post across the street cast a warm glow showcasing each new flake, glistening as they softly fell. The darkness, the quiet, the majestic feeling that a Christmas Eve snowfall brings. I paused for a moment to breathe it all in. I grabbed the shovel from the corner of my porch and began to clear a path through the snow. My parents would be arriving in a few hours and I didn’t want the pathway to be a concern. Besides, the cool crisp air would be good for me. A reprieve from the vicious thought cycle of worry and fear stuck on repeat in my mind. I’ve often wondered if this is how children develop a fear of the dark. The monsters may not be under the bed, but they aren’t pure imagination either. They emerge at night when the coast is clear and they think they have you all to themselves. On this night it was fear for the morning and what it may bring. Fear of another holiday marred by change and difficult differences. Fear for little broken hearts trying to make the best of a situation that they do not deserve. Fear of my own inadequacies and if I would have the strength to endure every hard moment that was coming. I could feel it descending on me with each pass of the hour hand. The steady ticking of the clock reminding me that imminent pain and heartache was barreling towards me.
I leaned the shovel back on the house in the corner of the porch and headed over to the wood pile. I removed the top layer of wood and placed them to the side on the ground. I searched for pieces that were not yet covered with snow and could be brought inside to dry by morning. I meticulously inspected each piece checking for wet spots and thickness, choosing the ones that would burn the best. I carried my first armfull into the house, kicking the snow from my boots on the mat inside the door. Outside again, I dug through the pile carefully choosing my next batch. I cast the wood to the side that was too wet or too small, each one I deemed not worthy of our Christmas morning burn. The thoughts returned. The cold and distraction did not deter them after all. The thoughts reminded me that I too was not worthy. They reminded me of the words spoken so consistently for so many years. The thoughts had done it again. They had whisked me away in their time machine. My body was in my driveway stacking wood, and my mind had travelled all the way back there. Back to where the pain and fear started. I remembered the words he said. “You’re not pretty enough, not thin enough, not fun enough, not exciting enough. You’re an embarrassment to be seen in public with. You’re not in my “league”. You’re too plain and too ordinary.” The thoughts pressed in, not letting up. They reminded me of how he said I wasn’t worthy of his fidelity, his honesty or even his kindness. The thoughts reminded me that I would forever suffer the consequences of my inadequacies through watching the pain this loss has caused my children. A loud crack! My body jolted and it was as if my mind was immediately teleported back to present day, at home, in my driveway, in the snow. I heard the crack again. A gust of wind had blown the wooden hanger on my front door. Exhale. Relief. Time to go inside. I looked for a few smaller pieces of wood and decided that they might not have been the best in the pile, but perhaps they were worthy to be chosen too.
I laid the last armload of wood on the floor to dry. I walked over to the coat hook and removed my toque and mittens and unzipped my jacket. I glanced at the clock on the stove. 3:07am. I decided to vacuum and wash the floors. Not because they needed it, but because I did. I stood at the sink filling it with warm water. I squeezed a bottle of cleaner and watched the soap suds form as little clouds multiplying one on top of the other. I stood there mesmerized watching the soap clouds grow. It felt as if I could stand there and watch it all day. Probably a sign that I was tired and it was time to finally go to bed. Nevertheless, I might as well finish the job I had started. I submerged the clean rag to the bottom of the soapy sink, pulled it out and rang out the excess water. I crouched down on my hands and knees, dragging the rag across the floor from corner to corner. My thoughts were back. They had one last thing to say before I headed off to sleep. It was another reminder. It was a reminder of what was coming. A reminder that Christmas day and this visit with my parents would be the last of its kind for quite some time. “Remember what it was like?” my thoughts taunted. “Remember the last time? Remember months and months alone here?” “That was too hard for you,” my thoughts reminded me. “You didn’t do so well” they cruelly sneered. I didn’t need the reminder. Those memories, the fear, the pain, the loneliness- it was all still bubbling under the surface. I did remember. I remembered all too well. The memories came one tear at a time welling up and filling my eyes. The days spent stuffing the fears and frustrations down, trying to be strong because my little people needed me to be. Sixty-two nights of eerie quiet and unwelcomed solitude after the littles were fast asleep. Nights spent wondering and wishing. Praying and crying out. Nights spent reliving moment after moment that lead me to the place I currently found myself. Nights spent proposing deals and bargains with God, deals that I knew better than to ask for. Deals that I justified as fair because I was making them for my children. Nights spent angry with God for what he had allowed and then guilt for feeling angry with God. The tears flooded from my eyes and onto the floor. I captured them in one swift motion as I continued to run the cloth from corner to corner. All of the feelings, all of the emotions, all of the things I was forced to face and process. It was all right there. Tender and fresh like an open wound. I could feel the buds of panic forming at the thought of starting that all over again. “No”. I heard a voice firm and strong. I looked up and sat back on my knees. I remained completely still, listening. “Tick, tick, tick” went the clock, reminding me that although I remained on the floor frozen in time; time itself continued to pass by. It was my own voice I had heard. I pulled myself up off the floor, plunged my hand into the soapy water, pulled the plug, and tossed the dirty rag inside. 3:27am. It was time for bed.
Christmas day came and went. It was magical and memorable, just the way I hoped it would be. I spent time on Christmas day planning and prepping for what was to come. I reminded myself that I do not have to succumb to the fears and sadness, and that even when I am alone, I am never truly alone. I reminded myself that if I have sad, hard days, that’s okay too. I decided that a winter walk with Jesus each of the coming days would do my heart a world of good. Some things are just hard. And it’s okay. It doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t mean you are a failure. Your time during the next few weeks may look different than someone else’s and that is okay too. Situations are not the same and cannot be compared. Start your day with Jesus. Give yourself grace on the hard days.
Do the best you can. That really is enough