Merry Grinchmas

My first Christmas with grief
was a mere three months after Paul passed away.
I didn’t even have time to prepare,
I didn’t even know such a thing was impossible yet then-
the pain was palpable,
cold and on the surface,
the loss starting to etch itself in my eyes and skin.
I barely remember it, though I do remember drinking my way through it
and at one point booking a tarot card reading. I recall that the reader said
“you’re trying your best to celebrate but you’re depressed”
to which I replied
no shit.
I went to have dinner at his parent’s house on the 25th.
His mom was sick and after saying a cordial hello,
spent the rest of the evening upstairs in her bedroom.
I didn’t blame her.
It was unbearable to try to celebrate without him there.

My second Christmas with grief was better.
Mainly because I decided to skip the whole thing all together.
I didn’t send anyone any gifts. No christmas cards. I wished everyone a merry grinchmas and allowed myself the freedom to do as I pleased with my feelings.
The only celebration was an intimate Christmas day spent with my then-
roommate and her immediate family and her boyfriend in Fort Collins.
Christmas morning I woke up to snow and tears.
Merry White Griefmas.
But they didn’t last all day, the snow and tears- and they didn’t keep me from getting dressed and playing white elephant for the first time with everyone else around the Christmas tree.
I felt loved.
It was nice.
But it all was still heavy. To me, anyways.
Probably because I was sad and sadness weighs a ton.
The thing about holidays is that they make the loss feel fresh all over again,
it’s like the scars are picked by the fingertips of
each encounter forced upon you,
each table you sit at surrounded by couples and family members,
and then there’s that damn empty chair beside you,
the thought of the perfect gift you would’ve gotten him this year,
the memory of your very own christmas tradition you had created together-
brunch with a lot of Champagne and just a little bit of Santa,
just to say you celebrated it properly,
a balanced holiday affair,
if you will;
Fresh tears and blood start to flow with
each christmas card that arrives,
joy and love so clearly stamped on your friends’ faces
it’s so awful and conflicting
to feel so happy for them
and so sad
for me.
Self pity comes easy then. Automatically, even.
But that was my second Christmas with grief.

My third Christmas with grief was 4 days ago.
I spent Christmas eve at his parent’s house, with his immediate family and growing parts on his brother’s side.
His mom and I were in high spirits.
We spent the day cooking up a feast and she ordered a special riesling
to go with dinner and she even baked a pie from scratch!
The house was decorated with wreaths, the Christmas tree hung with vintage, curated ornaments his parents purchased in different parts of the world,
shelled nuts ready to be cracked near the fireplace…
it was the image of a Scheffler Christmas.
It may have been missing my favorite Scheffler of all, but there was joy
in that house that night,
and it felt good to be able to actually feel a bit of that infamous holiday spirit again.
But no one talked about him.
We didn’t want to remember his death on Christmas eve or day.
The afternoon and evening of Christmas was reserved for a close group of friends, a night spent drinking and eating, surrounded by good people.
I came home around 10:30 pm.
I was starting to feel worn out from all the holly jolly,
I could feel the sadness starting to seep through…

On the 26th, when my third Christmas with grief was supposed to be over,
that’s when the pain hit.
that’s when the loss refused to be pushed aside any longer,
that’s when it took over,
the wave I have come to know so well, knocking me down,
bending my body forwards,
making my bones heavy
and cold.

The next three days were a blur of takeout, hot tub dips, wine and beer, absolutely no exercise and 12 hours of sleep each night.
For dinner one night I ate a 12 inch pizza, 8 chocolate chip cookies,and half a pint of ice-cream.
I was desperately trying to make myself feel better, instinctively, in any small way I knew how.
I couldn’t talk to anyone.
I couldn’t deal with anything.
I felt exhausted and sad and fat and
alone.

Then, on the 29th,
I woke up and noticed I didn’t immediately dread
the fact that I was alive.
I fed myself a healthy breakfast and sang some songs
and worked on the book, and took some pictures
to remind myself that I’m beautiful,
and cleaned out my closet, vacuumed the carpets,
drank a green juice for my afternoon snack,
witnessed a sunset from the hot tub
and thanked the heavens
that the holidays were almost over
and that today,
I was feeling better.
That meant the wave was passing,
the worst had been felt,
there was lightness of being to look forward to again.

It’s not that my third griefmas was easier than the ones prior,
it was just that the days of sadness were fewer than those of happiness
and when grief hit, I knew
it was just another wave I had to ride through.
By then, I guess you could say,
I had a bit of experience
with grieving during the holidays.

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just a boy

I’ve always been a fan of the fixer uppers,
maybe because for a while there
I thought of myself as one, or maybe
I was so broken that I thought I deserved the same,
some more jagged sharp edges to pierce my center,
another critical mind to judge me harshly,
or maybe I was just as shallow
in my simplistic demands for passion,
maybe just as dumb to think I could keep
fire separate from warmth;
hands separate from love…
a line drawn in the middle with an incredulous finger
when it became obvious he had no heart to gift back.

was that really a choice or just me giving in?

Now he calls me a girl
as if he hadn’t yet met the woman I’ve become
and I call him a boy
because that’s exactly
who he is.

what’s the going rate on an artist’s soul?

there is a price to pay for making art
there is a price to pay
if you want paper
to turn into soul
in someone else’s hands

it’s not easy-
reaching darkness
just to later walk out of it

and I just hope
that the light you have
is bright enough
to bring you back
I just hope
you don’t forget
none of that darkness
belongs to you
or is yours to keep

treat it as a brief encounter
a first date you never want to see again
get what you need
and leave it just where it is:
behind you
a story now of your survival
a testament of your strength.

planting sunflowers

He was enough
just the way he was
the day he helped me plant my first sunflower
and as if speaking to the child inside me
he told me to not be scared for the worms
as I dug my shovel into the clumps of soil,
putting all their lives in peril.

And I remember smiling at the fact that
we could yell at each other
and then spend the rest of the day’s light
playing in the dirt
together.

saturday night

You get in your bathing suit and go sit in the hot tub. It’s dusk. You bring the new book you bought earlier but don’t read it. Instead you sit there thinking about your dead ex-boyfriend and of how proud he would be if he could see how mature and stable and sober and responsible you’ve become. You start to cry because you miss him, because you feel lonely, because it’s saturday night and you wish you were somewhere else, doing something fun, not sitting here, alone. But what if spilling tears in a hot tub is what your heart needs now? What if this is how you heal? Maybe sitting in silence submerged in water without any substances in your system will finally give you the clarity you’ve been seeking. God knows you tried all the opposites already. God knows you’ve tried to outrun all these thoughts already but you’re never fast enough.

You recline your head back and look up at the now dark sky, sprinkled with stars. You try counting them and get to fifty, unsure if somewhere in there a plane or satellite snuck its way in. Apparently you need glasses now. Still, you see three of the stars that make up the big dipper and that brings you comfort because you remember spotting them in Brazil as a child. Maybe not that much has changed, after all.

When your skin folds in like an old woman’s, you leave the hot tub, shower, and feed yourself popcorn and a frozen entree for dinner as you watch a series about an orphan girl called Anne who is all alone in the world.

It seems appropriate.

Around ten p.m., you drift off to sleep as Anne finds a family and falls in love in the background.