I am a walking, talking, journaling and intention-setting Instagram ad for the new year. I love an artificial deadline for self-improvement, and each Jan. 1, I wake up with a long list of habits to break and practices to cultivate. This year was no different, and I needed hope more than I usually do, so I bounded out of bed and began my to-do’s for the day. I intended to review my emails, write thank-you notes, make lunch at home, work out, start composting, and read a book to my kids. Before all of that, I planned to make Christmas go away so we could move on with our holidays.
In the quiet of an early morning house, I started the task of returning decades' worth of ornaments to their original boxes and carefully setting shimmering silver bulbs in their stacked trays. I smiled at the sand dollar I’d carefully drawn on from Monterey marking our wedding date and the kitschy double-decker New York City tour bus we bought the first time we took a family trip to my hometown. I latched the box as I made my way down the stairs to put the Christmas collection in the garage until next year. As I took my first step, the lid slipped and disconnected from the deep plastic container that held my most cherished recollections. I watched them bounce in one unit and then shatter, spraying colored glass and shards of ceramic down each of the nine stairs, landing in a heap at the base of the garage door.
I folded in half on the top stair, with my head hanging in my hands on my knees, struggling to find my breath. My husband, Dave, sent the kids to their rooms with the assurance Mama wasn’t hurt and sat next to me, rubbing my back and surveying the damage. I wanted to get back in bed and cry, knowing “irreplaceable” didn’t even begin to describe some of the remnants on the ground. When I stood up, I thought that’s where I was headed, but instead, I picked up a broom and spent the rest of the morning cleaning, vacuuming, and gluing. I wasn’t able to save too many ornaments, and in the face of the loss we’ve collectively endured, my decorations have absolutely no value. Still, maybe you need permission to celebrate not giving up? I definitely do.
I’ve had to let go of so many things that I both cherished and took for granted these past two years; the way my children attend school, the way I interact with my beloved colleagues, the places I can go, and the freedom with which I am able to move. I’ve missed milestones, lost loved ones, worried for friends and family, and established new, unwanted rhythms. Even as I think of it, the list sends my heart racing, and my hands begin to shake as I keep typing this. Everything feels precious and precarious at the same time. The sad kaleidoscope of ornaments splayed out across my hopes and dreams for 2022 was a very appropriate reminder that things will continue not to go as I planned. The turning of a calendar page cannot stop that, that people will come to my aid when I need them (even if I send them away), and that I continue to deal with the unimaginable. We all do; we are all planning in an unplannable world, waking up and moving forward when the steps to take are unclear and often facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles every day. Bring it, 2022.
As we went to bed that night, I told Dave I was impressed by the unexpected way I’d handled the ornaments. He agreed and told me he was proud of me. I’m sure if I’d asked about all of you, he’d say he was proud of you, too.