Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here.
—Sue Monk Kidd, 'The Secret Life of Bees'
When I was going through my divorce eight years ago, I had a handful of friends contemplating, initiating, or reeling from their own break-ups, so at least I had company. (Granted, not the kind of company you want for dinner unless you plan to hide the sharp knives.)
What we all wanted was resolution. Not a silly list of do’s and don’ts. Real resolution—an end to the re-hashing, the second-guessing and what-ifs, a giant kiss-off to quitters, cheats, Peter Pans and control freaks, a rousing ‘up yours!’ to the judges and lawyers playing God in our lives.
In a recent blog, I asked if there was any topic you’d like me to write about. I thought it would be fun to have an “assignment.”
Dave sent me this: “I would like to hear about your biggest challenges for 2018, challenges you know that if you decided to embody and embrace, you would uplevel as a mom or writer, and allow you to give more of your gifts to the world.”
Hmmm. This is a tough request.
This month marks the winter solstice, the shortest, darkest day of the year. It’s a time to turn inward and allow the shadows to loom up and over us while we patiently, trustingly wait for the light. It’s fitting then that when I wrote last week about some of my challenges as a single mom, I heard from readers who were remembering their own dark times.
Three women shared with me why it’s particularly hard to hold the light around the holidays:
Today I want to write about something I’m pretty sure I can’t put into words. I realize that sounds crazy and it probably is.
But isn’t that the fascination behind writing–that desire to brush against the ineffable? To come as close as possible to defining the formless?
It is for me. And since Christmas is the time of year when we make lists of the things we want, I started thinking about those desires of our hearts that we don’t write down, specifically the longings we don’t realize we have until something strikes a chord within us.
Here we are, smack in the middle of the holiday season, and I’m waffling on how much good cheer I plan to spread. Too much will spread me too thin, and too little will make me feel crusty and crotchety. I’ve already told my kids that I don’t feel like buying a tree this year. “Jeez, mom, why not just cancel Christmas?” my daughter said.
See? There’s pressure everywhere to be jolly and generous, to shine brightly, to bake and shop and make polite chitchat. It’s the time of year for white elephants—the kind that come in wrapping paper or as 2-ton grievances that crush the joy out of family gatherings.
Vince Reidsma started out as just my friend Martha’s dad, the guy who kept the pool clean so we could swim all summer. Later, when I was in my teens, he was the guy from church who spent a lot of time talking to my parents as their marriage was unraveling. More than 30 years later, as one of my mom’s best friends, he has re-entered my life wearing a new hat: seasoned writer.