Taking Down the Tree

Josh's ornament
We’re taking down the tree.

The tree that I delayed putting up. That A practically had to beg for this year. That we cried, decorating.

That Josh would have loved and sat near and gazed at with such joy.

The first tree without him.

We have lived through our first holiday season without our boy. Should I be relieved?

I’m not.

I feel like it would be better, easier, if we had melted down. Exploded. Imploded. If the world had just stopped.

It hurts more, somehow, knowing that we can go on without him.

Trigger Warnings & Facebook’s Year in Review

About a year ago, I read an article about high school and college students wanting trigger warnings for material on the syllabus. I was irritated and thought it was unreasonable. I understood that if someone had PTSD or had been raped, that certain material may trigger some awful memories and emotions. At the same time, I assumed that these students participate in the real world to some degree, if they are able to sit in a classroom and do homework. If that’s the case, these students are probably watching TV and skimming Facebook timelines, where they will see movie trailers, commercials, headlines and video clips that may cause similar distress. My conclusion was that if schools agreed to label the reading list with trigger warnings, it would become a never ending list. The best literature is often packed with the hardest things in life. Reading some of the things might be hard, but working through the book may be good therapy. Or not. Student’s choice at that point.

This past week, as each Facebook friend’s Year in Review popped up, I felt a little kick to my gut every time I read the words “It’s been a great year. Thanks for being a part of it!” In fact, the first time it popped up, I felt a little hurt- how could someone close to me say that it had been a great year? My son died on July 7 after a nightmarish 13 day battle with E. coli. It was sudden and shocking. We watched our child suffer in ways no person ever should and we witnessed things that replay in our minds every day, like nightmares on a movie screen as we try to live without him.

Trigger Warning
So, when I read a Huffington Post article yesterday, saying that Facebook had apologized to a dad who lost his daughter this year, I was torn. I feel for the guy. I know how jarring it was to see the automated prompt, with my boy’s smiling face in the middle and confetti all around. I knew what the last 6 months of my year have looked like and I didn’t want a replay. But, I did not have to look! I think the app was a great idea- it’s fun for most people. It wasn’t fun for me. It wasn’t fun to see everyone’s happy year end while mine sucks. But, that is my life right now. I don’t expect a trigger warning on Facebook, or on the radio before an ad for Whole Foods, where we bought the ground beef that made Joshy sick. I don’t expect companies like Folger’s to change their emotional commercials so that they don’t highlight, for me, the fact that I will never wake up at my adult son’s home and tell his children stories of his childhood. I can’t expect to avoid seeing adorable, blonde boys playing with sisters and friends, searching for bugs, walking their dogs. I shouldn’t expect to avoid the feelings that follow the most traumatic events and the biggest loss of my life.

Sometimes, life is hard. Sometimes it sucks and is unfair. Sometimes awful, unthinkable things happen. We can not expect the world to think of every terrible possibility and walk on eggshells to avoid triggering our nightmares. We must do the best we can to work through and live on, hopefully remembering the happy times more often than the worst.

Writing From Prompts (NaBloPoMo Day 9)

image
I’m having a really hard time with these December NaBloPoMo prompts. It’s not them; it’s me. It’s this time of year. It’s my life, this season, this topic- Joy.

I am trying. I’m trying to live. To be. Wife, mommy, boss, colleague, friend. Present. I’m trying to enjoy, while remembering; while missing. Constantly.
I’m trying not to cry when I hear Christmas music. Any music. To remember when it made me happy and go there instead. To dance and sing. To hug and smile. To write.

But, the majority of the December NaBloPoMo prompts just aren’t working for me. I’ll keep writing every day and I’ll try to publish my posts daily, but I’m trying not to be too hard on myself when I either don’t find/take the time or (more often) just can’t bring myself to finish or share what I write.

-M ❤

Food=Happiness (NaBloPoMo Day 3)

Today’s NaBloPoMo prompt: What food always makes you feel happy while you’re eating it?

As we established in yesterday’s post, it doesn’t take much to make me happy. Even with the restrictions my food allergies put on my diet, there are SO many foods that make me happy! (I love food!) I could get all serious and say that having food at all makes me happy. While this is true, I’m just not in the mood. I can’t do that today. Let’s keep it light, shall we?

I love veggie pakoras from pretty much anywhere, Silly’s sweet potato fries and Lime Leaf’s pad Thai. Even the smell of pizza makes me happy, though I haven’t been able to eat real pizza for years. I’m like a crack addict with sugar, but I’m also picky. I’m sort of awesome at baking, so I have high standards for sweets. My brownies make me happy- even more so when other people are eating and loving them.❤

The food that makes me happiest, though, is definitely Oleana’s falafel. I have been known to eat my own double order and then finish any leftovers from my fellow diners. It’s not just the flavor that contributes to my happiness (though it’s out of this world.) When I’m eating this falafel, I’m with my husband- either out with the kids or with good friends. Maybe celebrating, maybe out just for fun- but really enjoying the great company, in a great town, in a fantastic restaurant. It just doesn’t get any better.

My favorite! Falafel at Oleana in Cambridge.

My favorite! Falafel at Oleana in Cambridge.

Finding Joy When It Doesn’t Feel Easy

So, I’ve decided to take BlogHer’s NaBloPoMo challenge for December and post every day. The theme this month is joy- fitting for the season, right? It just so happens that it is the word I have chosen as my mantra these last few months, in hopes of more than just getting through.

This used to be my favorite time of year. This year, it is (as you might expect) very hard. Kicking off my holiday shopping at a fundraiser a friend’s store was having for our school, I found myself wiping tears away so I could see the toys and games. Shopping for the girls and seeing things Josh would have wanted was incredibly painful.
Having Thanksgiving with family, a little extra space at the table, was pretty awful. Hearing holiday music and seeing festive lights on the drive home was even worse.

Here, in this bright and cheerful season, my heart is struggling to feel the joy that usually comes so easily. I find myself cringing when the neighbors switch on their lights and my body tenses when I hear my favorite Christmas songs. It seems impossible to celebrate anything without the boy who brought us so much joy.

And then I hear his sisters laughing. There can be joy with pain. And pain with joy, I guess. This is our journey…

Where do you find joy?