The Easy Place

The Quest for Self Awareness One Moment at a Time

Blue Christmas

I always get a little sad this time of year, and every year I have to figure out why.  And each time it turns out to be the same thing – my birthday and the holidays are coming and I miss my family.

I lost my mother when I was in my thirties, and her passing left a big hole in all of our lives.  The rest of the family I grew up with, my father and brothers, are still alive, but our differences have created a gulf in our relationships that seems unbridgeable.    

Every year at this time I feel the empty places where they used to be in my life. And while I clash with who they’ve become, I still miss who they used to be – their younger, unfinished selves, the softer, less fixed people that were part of my childhood.

Christmas at the Elliott's For a long time I felt that the loss of my family meant that my history had been taken from me.  My younger brother’s unwillingness to talk to me made me feel like I’d lost the sunny little boy who used to entertain himself in the backyard by pretending he was the host of a TV show.  And it seemed as if the hours spent debating the existence of God with my older brother were voided when our conversations became terse and brief.  And my father?  It was as if his inability to relate to who I am today somehow cancelled out our quiet chats about the latest bestsellers.

It took me a while to understand that even though my father and brothers are no longer part of my life, they are still a part of who I am.  And while it’s hard for me to feel much connection with them today, I look back with love at the family who made me laugh, who took care of me, who tickled and teased me, and who could be endlessly entertaining.

So I guess I can still enjoy my family at the holidays.  I still have the memories of feeling special on my birthday, of dressing up for Thanksgiving dinners at Uncle Roger and Aunt De’s house, and of huddling with my brothers waiting for Christmas morning to begin. 

I may not have a lot of fresh material, but the old stuff is priceless.

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Are there any parts of your past that you can reclaim?

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8 responses to “Blue Christmas

  1. Beth October 12, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Melinda – this is such a heartfelt and peacefilled piece of writing. It is such a refreshing way to reframe the saddness you felt. I love the idea of reclaiming what is good and perfect in those past memories that are often accompanied by some emotional charge when recalled in the present. I was married on my 21st birthday. When my husband and I separated I felt this need to reclaim the date as my birthday so I could celebrate it separate and apart from all the memories of the many wedding anniversaries I had celebrated with him. In honour of that desire my husband agreed to participate in a church ceremony with me a year after our separation. We had a minister and two witnesses who stood with us as we went through releasing of our wedding vows, returning our wedding rings as a symbol of that release, and blessing each other as we moved forward into new relationships. We recovenented with each other to continue in our role as parents to work together for our children’s best interest.

    This was a powerful ceremony and memory that has made it possible for me to remember with fondness the anniversaries and the birthdays spent with family that are no longer a part of my life. As you say, those memories will always be a part of who I am. Reclaiming them is a way of acknowleding who we are and how connected we all are regardless of the change of form our relationships take.

    • Melinda October 12, 2010 at 6:17 pm

      Wow, Beth, you never fail to amaze me! What a great way to take back your birthday and reassert your identity (and help your husband do the same).

      As always, thank you for your contribution to the conversation!

      Melinda

  2. niki October 12, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    i wish they could see this because i know how much you all miss the fam…and at least that would be some common ground

  3. Debbie October 12, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    Wonderful piece, Min. Knowing you, it is so hard to imagine how/why your dad and bros would not want to be in your life, even if you disagree on a lot of stuff.

    You can still enjoy your family at the holidays. What you had is yours.

    Your article reminded me of a concept shared with me by a counselor after my mom died. I hadn’t done well after losing my brother so decided to proactively work through issues around losing my mom. The counselor told me of a writer/psychologist who suggests that our relationships with those we have been close to continue after their death, and can even change. I found that liberating. Similarly, perhaps your own beloved relationships from your youth are still alive for you to remember and enjoy and even participate in. These family members may be absent from your daily life but you can choose to maintain a relationship of a different sort, in a way that is meaningful and fulfilling to you.

    Thanks for writing this. Much food for thought.

    • Melinda October 13, 2010 at 9:40 am

      Thanks Deb, for your comments and your friendship :) I’ve heard of that concept, and it’s lovely. I think of my mother that way, imagining her growing and changing over the years, picturing who she might be today.

      <3 Mindy

  4. Jim Tolles October 13, 2010 at 9:56 am

    This is a touching and heartfelt post. Thank you for sharing it. It’s always hard to have people (especially family) cycle out of our lives. I’ve found that letting go has been extremely important to me, and in doing so, people who can meet me where I am continue to arrive and bring amazing gifts into my life.

    • Melinda October 13, 2010 at 10:51 am

      Jim,

      Thanks so much for your comments. I love the thought of people “cycling out of our lives” because that’s what truly happens – our ideas of relationship don’t align anymore and we both move on (hopefully). The problems occur when we try to force the other person to into our idea of alignment.

      I checked out your blog – love your message!

      Melinda

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