Whenever life got hard, Mom would often say, “it will be what it will be.” I assumed that she meant that things would turn out as they should — good or bad — and she would deal with it either way.
She never said that things would look up eventually because they always did. Or that tomorrow, or some other future date, would bring a happy ending. She just said that, for today, even though things were not exactly has she’d have liked them to be, she’d look that reality in the eye – and let it be.
That phrase has been on my mind more than I’d like to admit this week as Christmas approaches. I’m really struggling to get in the spirit this year. I don’t know exactly why. And I don’t quite know what to do with that. The not knowing why part.
Except maybe to let it be what it will be.
Honestly. I think it’s mostly grief. Not the usual stuff. But also, some of the usual stuff. The ongoing struggle over the loss of people close to me is never more magnified than it is at Christmas. I know it’s this way for many, many people at this time of year. This season is famous for rekindling the loss of anyone dear. It’s like walking into your own house – where family is gathered and the Christmas party has just started – but nothing feels the same anymore.
And, while I understand that the death of the people we dearly love is the price of our own survival, it’s the paying it over and over again part that is hardest. And then good, old Christmas is there waiting silently in the wings to shine its twinkle lights on just how much the landscape of our lives has changed without them. Another year has slipped away.
And there is something else too. This weird, unnamed thing that I can’t quite put my finger on. At Christmas, there is something in me that gets lonely for — I don’t know what exactly — but it’s something that I clearly don’t mind not having so much at other times. It’s a duller ache then. It’s a longing I suppose. It could just be nostalgia for good times and family past. But I think it’s more than that. I think that sitting on the surface of it all, if I were honest, is my own sense of family and home. I’ve struggled with that since I came out a decade ago.
I thought of it one night recently as we walked around the neighbourhood, looking at the Christmas lights and the night sky. There is something about looking up at the stars that reminds me of how big the world really is and how far apart we all are sometimes. The stars look like they’re so close that you could reach out and touch them. But you can’t. Sometimes things look a lot closer than they are. Families are often like that, too.
There have been times in my life — ordinary moments when the kids were small and glorious and again the week we all hovered together over Mom as she was dying — that I can recall wondering to myself if it’s possible to miss people while they are still alive and in the room with you. I believe it is possible. Because home is people, not a place. Maybe that’s really the weird, unnamed thing I couldn’t put my finger on before. The silent longing. I’m missing that kind of ‘home’ right now. And circumstances mean that I won’t see some of the people I most consider home again this year.
No one is to blame. This is just my work to continue to untangle for myself. To sit with. To be uncomfortable about. And to ultimately make peace and progress with. I just wanted to say that like so many things that we’re told should be wonderful and happy in this life, Christmas comes with heartache for many people, too. I think we need to make some room in the Christmas story – next to joyous celebration – for a little bit of sadness.
I was really beating myself up for feeling this way this morning. You truly have no good reason, I told myself. But I realized that I don’t need a reason — good or otherwise. I just need to let this feeling be what it will be. I don’t need to fix it. By looking on the bright side. By being more grateful for all I do have. Or, by putting on a positive face, or a positive spin, like some kind of magical propeller that will move me past how I feel. These days, we’re so wrapped up in a world focused on staying positive that I sometimes think we’re ashamed to feel anything else.
It’s alright if everything does not feel merry and bright.
It’s alright to accept and be in the discomfort of whatever moment you’re in.
It’s alright to feast, exult and celebrate this holiday season. As alright as it is to be sad, to mourn and to miss people – whether they’re right in front of you or you’ve had to let them go.
It’s alright to surrender. To give in. To give up even.
It’s alright to sit out this round, to drop the gloves, and dab a little mercy on your beat up soul.
It’s alright if instead of finishing the year strong, you finish it soft.
It’s alright to let it be what it will be.