He held out his hot little hand which was holding a crumpled single dollar and said, “You can have this. I know you are struggling today.” The dollar was from his advent calendar, a treat from the Elf desperately shoved into day one the previous night after realizing there were no Christmas chocolates or treats to give. I did not realize my struggle was so palpable. My ever perceptive 6 year old could sense my sorrow. Which made me feel more guilty and grinchy.
After almost two weeks in isolation in my own home and still wearing a mask every time I interacted with my immediate family members I was worn out. The fever and chills and body aches and loss of my senses had been tough. The isolation, fear, and guilt were oppressive. I still wore them along with my mask.
In a covid induced isolation, nothing seemed to fit. Not the expensive new fridge, the boxes of red and green Christmas decor piled high in the living room, or my isolation. The scale of things overwhelmed me. It all felt too big, too extravagant, too new and so very lonely.
The long-awaited fridge caused a battle royal. One that will go down in the history of our marriage as the Great Fridge fight. Having an epic blowout while quarantined takes some skill, but if 2020 has taught us anything it's innovation. Where would we be without angry texting and blanket judgment statements hidden behind our technology? As the texts flew through the walls of our quarantined household and the judgments mounted and the anger reached a boiling point it became apparent that the fight was not over the massive fridge that did not fit. We finally got down to the root cause and like all fights with our closest confidants, it was a different version of the same fight. Like all fights, someone has to budge, to shift an inch to let some space and light in. As we shifted, miraculously so did that damn fridge and suddenly everything started to slot into place. The fridge no longer stuck out and overwhelmed the room. The sheepish laughter and relief that followed was a welcome reprieve to the stony silence and cyber rants.
Yet, I still felt overwhelmed, discontent, frustrated, tired, guilty. In a year where so many have suffered physically and financially, we have been protected. In some ways, our life got bigger. Yet, it felt increasingly more isolated.
Since my son handed me his dollar to try and alleviate my struggle, I’ve continued to struggle. I’ve pulled out my tools and started meditating, light exercise, and reading, but I like things to happen quickly to come up with a tidy resolution and move on.
At the moment there is no tidy summation. Life is not suddenly all Santa and cheer. I find this so frustrating. I like conclusion and to put things to bed. I would like to take off this cloak of sadness, fold it up, and shove it to the back of my closet.
On my walk this morning the inspirational podcast speaker said that in life nothing should be wasted. She didn’t mean don’t waste time, opportunities, etc. What she meant was that no experience in life should be wasted.
That year I spent marketing a mall and getting yelled at because the fake snow was constantly showing bald spots where three-year-old hands had pillaged it was a low point. It felt like a wasted year.
Who knew that 15 years later while watching my kids and my husband fluff fake snow for the train tunnel under our tree I would see the joy in that experience. I would see it hadn't been a write off year.
I remembered my friend, the display designer, who at the time was as equally as depressed as I was at having to spend our Saturday nights hanging snowflakes from the mall rafters. I remembered how our chats about nothing and everything while sitting on the mall floor saved me. How we howled at the drunk Santa I hired who dropped his pants in my office to prove that the Santa suit I had given him no longer fit. As I sent her a photo of our snowy train and we laughed about that year I realized I would not trade it. It was not wasted.
The moments of struggle and flailing and discontent are part of life. We can't wrap them up in tidy packages. Life is messy and big and loud and sometimes you feel like you don't fit. At times you feel futile and like your efforts are wasted.
Sometimes you have to have a refrigerator fight to shift and gain a new perspective. Sometimes you just have to wait and wait, and wait until you giggle about that shite year where everything was awful except the person the universe gave you to sludge through it with.
This Holiday season I waffle between incredible gratitude and genuine moments of joy as I simultaneously wrestle with discontent and restlessness. Perhaps the gift of 2020 is to learn to embrace both the gratitude and the discontent and remember nothing wasted.