This time last year I was dealing with saying goodbye to Hooper and managing my way through the first Christmas without Chris. I came down with the worst sinus infection and had to travel to Oklahoma hepped up on antibiotics and cold meds. When I look back at that time, I can't help but think of how ridiculously cliched it all turned out to be. I remember being so proud of myself, setting up the Christmas tree and making stockings for me and Hooper to finally replace the ones that had been destroyed, only to have to have Hooper put to sleep a week later. It was like my life was some sort of parody of a tragedy. And while all the grief, heartbreak and awful was crashing in around me, I kept insisting that I was fine. I was just fine. In reality, it would be months before I'd be able to pull myself out the dark hole I'd fallen into. I would go through the motions of each day looking like a normal human being on the outside and feeling like a scraped out hole of nothing on the inside. I even missed a couple of days of work because I was "too sad". I toyed with the idea of antidepressants. I toyed with the idea of just remaining in that dark hole, with the idea that it wasn't so bad down there. There's no rule that states you must be happy all the dang time. I remember meeting a guy for Sunday brunch. We'd chatted a lot through text for several weeks before he finally had a break in his schedule. He was nice enough. Polite. He kissed me at the end of the date and I felt nothing. Later he asked to see me again and I told him "that I didn't think so". He replied that he thought "I seemed really sad" and we never spoke again. Eventually the snow melted, the sun came out and things started to get better. This Christmas looks completely different. There are two new stockings hanging next to a different Christmas tree. On Christmas Eve, I get to help "play Santa" and fill those new stockings up with joyful surprises.
The contrast between this year and last is the starkest contrast. Night and day. At times it makes me feel a little short of breath, this sudden difference between this year and last. Michael told me over the weekend that his ex wife ended their marriage February 13th 2012, three days after Chris died. His Christmas wasn't much better than mine last year. Less death, but plenty of sadness. Michael is not a believer in fate or that things happen for a reason. I don't necessarily believe in those things either, but there's something to be said about the coincidence in timing. I've always said that the Universe talks to us and that it puts people in your path when you need them or when you're ready to meet them. We both had the same amount of time to grieve and lick our wounds. We were both on the verge of giving up on the whole online dating scene. There is an odd link to our last names. The Universe can yell pretty loudly when it needs to.
Yes, this year Christmas is different for the both us. I'm hoping it's different in a good way for Michael and the Cabbage. It's already better for me because I have these two to share this time with me. I will admit to being a bit nervous about how well they'll adjust to all the new people and the hectic pace my holiday always seems to take on. I know that it will be overwhelming for them with all the new people that they will be meeting. "People love you" Michael says to me often (except he's usually saying in a tone of voice that implies that this is a problem) and he's not wrong. I am loved. This knowledge is better than any present under a tree.
Things are going to be quiet around here this week. There may be a video posting at some point, but really, most of my energy is going to be spent soaking up family and friend time. Here's to a wonderful and safe Holiday to all.