When I was younger, my house in an agricultural town near Lake Ontario in New York, was filled with Christmas wonder. The tree was always beautifully decorated. Stockings were filled with oranges, mixed nuts, and things you needed like nail files and chap stick. Our door was always open. We did not do a dinner but rather my Mother would make a buffet of food. Ham and turkey with cheese for sandwiches. Crockpots filled with meatballs and pans of macaroni salad, cheese cakes and chicken cordon bleu. Anyone was welcome to stop by and we would have friends and relatives coming and going all day. There was always a chance to escape to your room and rest if you wanted to but it was a great day of community, love and sharing.
I loved this time of year so much and the snow, that I married on December 29th, in a holiday candlelight ceremony with a Christmas tree and poinsettia filled alter in a Methodist church that boasts the longest aisle in our City. The lead tenor for the oratorio society sang my favorite Christmas hymn “Oh holy night”. My dear friend sang my favorite church hymn “How great thou art.” My bridesmaids filed down that long aisle carrying a simple white candle. It was magical.
However, I knew that day that our love was not magical. I knew I loved him but deep in my heart, I knew there were red flags. What I did not know was it was not just immaturity that he would grow out of but rather the start of an abusive relationship that would manifest into something so evil over time that even someone with my resolve and strength could not figure out how to get out of it. I remember sitting in the limo and him asking me what was wrong and I said “Nothing. Just a long day. I’m a little tired.” The truth of the matter was at that very moment, when he was telling me how beautiful I looked, how perfect the wedding was, what a great job I had done putting it together and keeping it elegant and simple that I was hurt. He said, “I could not see your vision and you were unable to see it today, but when all the girls were filing in with that single candle, it was just amazing.” What was I feeling? What was wrong? How about you fought me on every decision I was trying to make. How about the Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde routine of “you handle the wedding, my only request is you don’t wear ivory, to why are you doing this and that?” I was sitting in the limo feeling resentful that he had given me so much grief and sucked the joy right out of my wedding experience that I was now angry that he was saying it was beautiful!
Who knew that 27 years later, my last five Christmases would be spent completely without my children because he refuses to follow the divorce decree his lawyer drew up. I no longer put up a tree. I am blessed to have friends who text and include me in their festivities. When he started putting the kids in the middle of trying to manipulate his time and the divorce decree, I gave up. I did not want my kids to be as stressed as he was making them. So what my kids don’t know? Every Christmas morning since that day, I wake up crying. They are not here, even every other year as dictated by the court, but rather with their Dad from Christmas Eve 12 noon to Christmas Day late afternoon. I get no Christmas and this year, probably because they are older, I did not even get a good morning Merry Christmas text from my boys. I will however say that hours later they both came home and said Merry Christmas and love you Momma once they were home.
The one thing you can count on is between Christmas and New Years, your abuser will probably out due last years gift from you and eventually you will be attacked verbally in an email or phone call about your shortcomings as perceived by the abuser.
So how do you get through it? If you are in a relationship, you need to be honest and open, try not to dwell and try very hard not to take the abuser’s words out on your significant other. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try to rationalize, you can’t. If you can’t, then eventually you need to have the “Come to God moment” and count all the blessings you have with that other person and apologize, even if you don’t share all that was said and done to you, it’s important to be thankful, validate all they do right for you and apologize. In years where I was not in a relationship I have found that quiet moments in church worked for me. It’s important to put your kids first and then treat yourself kindly during the holidays when your abuser makes it so difficult.
Today is the 29th of December, the day that would have been my 27th wedding anniversary. It would have been 35 years that we had been in each other’s lives, we would still be raising children, and by now we would be enjoying some time away from the kids but it wasn’t meant to be. He was never a father or a husband. So, the only thing I care to reflect on is not what never was but rather how wise I have become because now I listen to my intuition. How much stronger I grew. How proud I am of myself as a single Mom to persevere through one of the nastiest divorces. Every boulder he put in my path to recovery and discovery I was able to either climb over or walk around. I can’t help missing my children at Christmas but I can be proud that I put them first and didn’t allow him to cause them anxiety. I will cry quietly any day before I will have my children stuck in the middle of me and their narcissistic father.
I have a lot to be thankful for. I have a great future ahead. Kids who have worked through or are working through the trauma caused by their father and both working hard in college and heading towards their careers. I have learned that just like my own trauma, I have to be mindful of my children and allow them to travel their journey the way they see fit for them. I also enjoy not having to deal with my abuser’s abuse during the holidays. I would rather be alone than insulted and yelled at.
None of this is easy and it sucks always having to be the bigger person but it’s better than being like them. And I know someday soon, my Christmas tree will be back up with or without kids. I’m getting there. It has been a long 7 year journey and this was the first year I probably could have made it alone but I was so thankful for the company of my friends and my best friend’s wonderful calls and texts.
Christmas is over. We got this! We have 360 days to grow and prepare ourselves for Christmas 2018.