Oh, man. Christmas is almost here and I am crazy excited. Really! This week I’ve had a lot of time to think about it. I was supposed to be narrating this wicked cool audiobook about a Necromancer, but I was walloped with a cold (my kids have it too) and the cold went straight for my voice and snatched it. Saturday and Sunday I was literally unable to speak. I could barely even whisper. It made me feel a little helpless, and gave me flashbacks to last year when I really was helpless with my broken foot.
This year, though, my mom came over and so did Kealoha as well as my friend Katie. They made sure I didn’t talk (as much). Katie went so far as to make sure I mimed everything. And this year, I was able to take care of the kids unlike last.
It reminds me of how much can change in a year. The lowest point happened for me last year the day after Christmas. I couldn’t take care of the kids so they were with their dad. On Christmas, he’d had a family party with his then fiancée and I didn’t get to talk to the kids. Well, I did talk to my son, but it was after 9 and he was exhausted. It wasn’t malicious of my ex not to call, more like he didn’t know how to interrupt the family party and have the kids call me. And I’d spent the holiday in my empty apartment using crutches and crawling everywhere.
My sister came over the day after Christmas to take me out to the bar. We laughed and joked and met a few friends. When we came home, we realized that we’d locked the door and my keys were inside. It took four hours before we could get in. I stood in my driveway on my crutches, snow falling down, trying not to cry. Finally the locksmith came and opened the door. It was so slippery and the stairs were so narrow that I had to crawl up the stairs. I tried to stand in my kitchen and I slipped and fell to the ground and I just started crying. Me, in a my green cast, crutches splayed, crying.
My sister held me. I cried because of the divorce, and because I was alone. I cried because I was exhausted and terrified of not making enough money to support me and the kids. I cried because, literally, I was broken and could barely walk. I cried with loneliness and shame and despair. My sister held me. She said “Let it out, honey. Just cry.” And I did. It felt like I cried for days. “I promise you, seester, things will get better,” she said. I just stared at her and I said “I don’t believe that. Look at my life. How on earth could they possibly get better?” My sister told me she didn’t know how things could get better, but at least things probably wouldn’t get worse.
A year later, my life is drastically different. You all know where I’m at now. I still struggle with concerns about taking care of me and the kids. And I’m terrified that by losing my voice on this narration they might not hire me again. Voice-overs are my safety net in case my teaching contract isn’t renewed. Last night, Kealoha put his hand on my shoulder and said, “It’s okay. We’ll get through this.” And it was that simple use of the word ‘we’ that showed me how much can change in a year.
I have a lot of friends who are struggling right now. Holidays are great but they’re also incredibly difficult, especially if you’re alone or struggling financially. I guess the biggest thing I learned in this year was to have faith that life can get better. It really can. And even when you’re on your knees crying with a broken foot, if you don’t believe things can get better, at least try to believe that they can’t get much worse.
I think I’ve lived more fully in this last year than ever before. I’ve learned how to trust, how to love, and how to be okay with who I am. I think that was the surprising gift of last year. Honestly, though, I’m glad I won’t repeat that Christmas this year. The kids are coming over, my family will be here, Kealoha will be at my side. We’ll have Chex Mix and turducken and maybe drink a little too much. The kids will wake up here Christmas morning and we will open presents as a family.
I’m glad I listened to my sister last year. I’m glad I didn’t give up.