Christmas was a quiet day in the Berkshires. We spent most of those silver hours cozied on the couch, our animals tucked around us in a soft, warm embrace of little bodies. We opened gifts. We ate cinnamon rolls made from homemade biscuit dough. We listened to holiday music and slid around the kitchen in our socks. It was only the two of us and we felt a little sad calling our faraway families, but also safe and content in our first home purchased this past July.
Our first Christmas in our first home. It’s official. The Berkshires have become Home. While I miss the ceaseless horizon of our birth state, Texas never felt this complete. I believe I am exactly where I have always been meant to be.
2019 was a whirlwind of personal transition and challenge, an exercise in perseverance. We hunted homes in a market we could not afford. We struggled with difficult jobs and demanding freelance, with anxiety and chronic stress, and there were health and family challenges, too.
Then summer came. We found our house, or rather, she seemed to find us, the entire process unfolding easily and without drama. The week we closed, I received a job offer. Let me give you an answer in four days, I said, after I close on the house, though I already knew I would say yes. Those days were dreamlike, fevered and rushing. I never knew if I should laugh or cry, so I made a cocktail of them both.
As I stepped into the second half of 2019, I was swept into a state of flow — that coveted condition where everything falls blissfully into place — and I learned again (for aren’t all worthy lessons taught and learned repeatedly?) that life’s brightness is always balanced in shadow.
Life’s trials do not stop, not even for Christmas.
When we called my mom that holiday afternoon, she said she was on her way to the hospital but not to worry. Your brother has overdosed again, she said. He’s being admitted for a mysterious infection in his arm. But don’t let it ruin your day, she said, followed by, I’m fine.
My heart clenched. My emotions shuddered, then stalled, then purposefully idled somewhere deep between chest and throat. Just breathe…
The overdose was two days before. No one told me. This happens sometimes, she said.
Heroin is a devil, and this path of pain is decades long. I hurt for all whose families are gripped by addiction.
The holidays are tough for many. We miss loved-ones who no longer walk among us. We feel dread as the new year approaches. Deadlines, broken promises, lost causes, forgotten dreams, misplaced desires pile up, have been piling up, and then suddenly are illuminated. We feel lonely. The bright magic of the season has a shadow, too.
The other day, I scrolled past a Pablo Neruda quote: Let us forget, with generosity, those who cannot love us.
This past spring I went to Texas for a reading of my recent play. I invited my mom and brother. The day went well. We had a nice lunch after. My husband and his parents were there, too. We laughed. I remember feeling surprised and happy that the day had gone so well, so easily…then came a call that evening from my mother. Something terrible had happened, something involving drugs and violence. Again. She sobbed on the phone as she rushed to my brother’s rescue. Then a day later, I woke in the middle of the night to a rolling text full of venom, low blows, and twisted knives. An attack on my character, my soul, my past…on my play. You are not my sister, he said. He let me go in that text, pushing me away with both hands.
Let us forget, with generosity, those who cannot love us.
I will never forget, and I will always love him, but I am learning to let go in the ways that will set me free. Just the other day I asked the Universe, what do I do about my family? She said in a quiet voice, let go.
I haven’t touched my play since; it’s too painfully connected to that text, but maybe in the New Year. In the New Year I have many maybes. Despite the darkness of the world, of personal challenges and pains, of hurt and illness and struggle in the lives of many that I know, I have hope for our futures, shared and individual.
Being so far from family, both immediate and extended, I am often lonely, but in the Berkshires I have found community in the greatest sense of the word, as well as a family of women who are mothers and sisters and they spread a spiritual salve on my soul more often than they know.
I said out loud at Thanksgiving that my New Year’s resolution is to say “no” more often, to protect my time and energy and save a little more of it for myself. My Creativity has been calling and I must turn my face toward her.
Even in joy, there is pain. Even in pain, there is peace. Even in loving, I can let go.
These days, I sleep deeply in my new home. When I dream, I dream of possibility…of running through a field, my new colleagues and friends racing along beside. We flew an enormous, bat-shaped kite that blotted out the Berkshire sun, then crashed into tall pines, bringing them tumbling to the forest floor and scattering us like laughing children through the tall grass. Above us, the sky was full of stars.
It was a dream that makes no logical sense, but in the beautiful chaos of imagination, the imagery carries a pure logic only rendered in the shadowed witching hours.
I must be feeling free. Free to dream, to rest, to adventure and explore, to reach far and wide, to let go and to love, to alter the states around me and smile, because destruction also looks like creation.
May 2020 be just what you need it to be.