My son told me I should ask for a certain something for Christmas. That’s when it hit me.
No one asks me what I want for Christmas anymore.
When I was little, my parents did. When married, my husband did.
Now, middle aged and divorced with deceased parents and young kids—no one asks.
While I’d love to have someone in my life that loves me in that way again, I am where I am—a year beyond a finalized divorce—for good reasons.
I’ve gotten a few really big presents—larger-than-life presents—this year. Presents that come without bows. Ugly presents that I’ve learned to appreciate. Think duct tape and brown paper bag presents. Useful, maybe, but nothing you’ll smile about when you open them.
Gift No. 1: I’m sure of who I am. It’s not that I was confused about my identity prior to this year. I knew who I was. But this knowledge was untested. You can say you’re kind, brave and honest but how do you actually know unless you’re put in situations where being kind, brave and honest have no reward other than being true to your core? I’ve not responded calmly and without anger to every putdown, sarcastic comment and nasty remark thrown my way this year. But my responses have always been true and the best I have to offer in that moment. I harbor no resentment. I don’t wish anyone ill. I am living the values and attributes I thought I had within me. In the middle of a stream of vitriol, I can step back and not partake. Not hate. That’s who I am. Proven. That knowledge is a gift beyond compare.
Gift No. 2: Joy visits me. I used to think joy should be prevalent in my life. That if it wasn’t a part of each waking moment, I was doing something wrong. But I’ve realized that joy visits us. It is not a constant companion. It likes to surprise us. And if we look for it only in good times, it is a fickle friend. During the months preceding my filing for divorce, there was very little joy in this house. That has changed. Joy now visits me on nights alone with nothing particularly special happening. A feeling envelops me—I might notice the wonderful feeling of calm and peace in my home. Or, savor the taste of a new wine. I might feel the comfort of our large dog, hearing her snore lightly next to me on the sofa. I like these joy visits.
Gift No. 3: I am a survivor. As I sat crying on my sofa roughly two years ago, amazed at the flurry of unpleasant discoveries and events that were occurring, my sister told me I would be OK because I was a survivor. Ironic, because as she told me this, I was in the same bathrobe I’d worn all week, sitting on the same sofa, crying the same tears. A survivor? Surely not, I thought. Guess what? She was right. I still have financial fears. I am not sure what the future holds. But, I will get myself and my two sons through it. I know that now. After getting through the past couple of years, I know I can and will face whatever life throws at us.
If you are divorced or going through one, you’ll understand what I’ve written here instantaneously. If not, any tough event in your life can bring some of the same gifts. Not pretty gifts. Certainly not gifts brought about by anything we’d ask for (divorce, death of a loved one, etc.). Probably not even recognized as gifts at the time they were bestowed. But gifts nonetheless.
They are better than anything my small human brain could have thought to ask for.
As I look ahead to a new year, I hope I am now better at recognizing gifts as they occur. At saying “thank you” immediately to a universal power that sees a vast plan I don’t.
My mother had a folksy saying, one many of you may already know. When my sister was getting divorced, Mom sent her a card on which she had written, “When God closes a door, He opens a window. Yours is about to open.”
My sister sent me this card on one of my worst days over the past couple of years—and said she knew Mom would send it to me if she were still here to do so.
I’ve accepted my ugly presents with grace, despite not asking for them. I’ve asked them what they had to teach me. I’ve stared at the closed door and pondered why it shut.
Next year, I look for the open window. Or rather, I let myself be guided to it. And when it opens, I jump. Knowing I will land lightly and solidly on my feet, leaving gifts sans bows behind. Instead, welcoming joy in all of its sparkling wrapped wonder.
I wish the same for you.