Sunday, December 2, 2012

Unpacking the Boxes

Last year I couldn’t bring myself to unpack any of the Christmas decorations that were stored in the garage. 

I was in the midst of divorce proceedings and the thought of celebrating the holidays was too much.  Not only had my marriage blown up, my oldest son had moved away and would not be home for the first time.  I still needed to be upright and semi-normal for my youngest son, but my heart was not in it.  

We flew to Colorado to spend time with my sister and her family instead of facing the emptiness of our house, skipping decorating here altogether. 

This year, I was apprehensive about bringing down the boxes of decorations, stockings, and lights.  What would I find in there that would bring back memories of when we were a cohesive family of four?  What kinds of objects would I lift out of the box and be reminded of my ex-husband and happy memories of Christmases past?  Would I cry when I saw his stocking?  Would I weep over ornaments?

Evan was home from college at Thanksgiving and he climbed up in the rafters to get the giant box with the tree down.  Then came the big box of decorations.  Evan was not particularly interested in helping me decorate, and I thought it might be better if I faced the unpacking of the box by myself anyway.

I sat there in the living room, my heart beating hard.  I took a deep breath and I lifted the lid of the box.  There they were: the familiar ornaments, the red and white Santa hats, and the colored lights. 

I lifted out decoration after decoration and looked at each one and guess what I quickly discovered?  That man I was married to me didn’t have much to do with Christmas at all.  

Apart from about two ornaments, all the others were ones I had purchased or my friends had given to me.  My mom had made our stockings.  All the lights and all the decorations were of my choosing.  I had picked them out, I had brought them home, I had hung them, and I had gathered the family around them. 

Yes, he would grudgingly help when I asked, but I was the one who had orchestrated everything, who had cared about it, and who had turned our living room into a sea of colored lights and had made Christmas magical for the kids when they were little. 

As I looked through the box, I realized that in the past I would have never taken sole credit for making Christmas happen.  I had created and guarded the picture of the happy couple who shared in the preparation for the holiday.  

In short, I had not wanted to admit to myself that I had been virtually alone in the effort. Sitting there, surrounded by the contents of the box  I had an odd combination of feelings.  Slowly, I felt a strange sense of freedom as I finally gave myself credit for making Christmas happen at our house.  However, I also had a foreboding sense of realizations to come. 

I had to wonder. 

What other truths await me about the relationship in which I invested thirty years of my life?  In what other ways did I contort the picture to make it what I wanted it to be and not what it actually was?  


There are so many other boxes to unpack, both real and metaphorical.  It will take bravery and unwavering honesty to open up some of those boxes and sort through the contents.  Chances are I am going to find some things that will be hard for me to face and to admit.

Scary?  Yes.  Painful?  Yes.  Worth it?  Also yes.  

My Christmas tree is lovely because I had the courage to open the box and deal with the contents, sorting out what was real and valuable and getting rid of those ideas that were, in the end, counterfeit.

As painful as it might be, I am determined to decorate this new life of mine with lights that not only beautify, but more importantly, illuminate.  

Thanks for going on that journey with me.


Shelly said...

What a powerful piece this is, and what a powerful woman you are. No matter what you find in those boxes, you have a resiliency of spirit and the perseverance it takes to sort through all the contents.

Way to go, Betty!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Betty - that was such an interesting read ... I wonder how many of us would have scrabbled through without thinking too much - good for you and I'm so pleased life has done such a turnaround for you.

Cheers and much happiness in the future ... Hilary

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Every box will be different. Just tackle them one at a time.
Glad you decorated this year though.

Tabor said...

You need to take these posts, edit and enhance them and put them into a book. It is a good story of a brave woman facing a major change in her life. It is an Eat, Pray Love journey, and it would sell, really.

ellen abbott said...

Wow. I know the feeling of facing illusions. Things you thought were real, shared, were only illusion. It made me feel very stupid.

Empty Nester said...

No matter what you write about, Betty, you always write it beautifully. I'm still waiting on you to write a book.

Olga said...

This is just so touchingly truthful and brave. I also agree with Tabor. There is a book in you.

Leah J. Utas said...

What a tremendous well of inner strength you have. Good on you for doing this. It'll only get better.

Unknown said...

Oh my what a great revelation to have! It's also a great sign that you are moving on with your life and doing just find. And this is the best part of your story.

Lin said...

I think most women are alone in the decorating...married or not. And we are also alone in the gift buying, wrapping, social event scheduling, card sending, and other assorted crappy jobs. There is just some unwritten law that deems us the person to have to do this stuff--even though we may not like it very much. I don't.

I'm glad that you got through the boxes this year. I think that's important to do for you, but also for your kids. It is still their childhood memories that you have to honor and if they are like my kids, there are certain decorations that they remember as kids and want to see them up again---no matter how bad they are.

You are a strong lady, Betty, and I'm glad you found that out in all of this. Go BETTY!

Unknown said...

You are strong and brave, Betty. I am so proud of you for facing those Christmas boxes and decorating in spite of your initial trepidation.

jenny_o said...

And maybe you don't need to be as worried as you fear - maybe Christmas was just something he didn't feel strongly about. But whatever awaits you in all those 'boxes', you have already demonstrated a beautiful strength and determination to go through to the other side. You are an inspiration, and that is not a fuzzy overstatement, Betty.

Ann said...

The more of the past that you face the stronger you become. I hope that you truly enjoy this holiday season

Nicolasa @ {My}Perspective said...

I'm so glad you're decorating this year. Going through the boxes will most definitely be scary but if you can slowly begin to heal while doing so, it's worth it. Hugs!

Alison said...

Lin's words have a lot of wisdom. I hope that, like the Christmas box, the others are less difficult than you expect. Surely the passage of time will soften the impact.

Hilary said...

You inspire. You have a wonderful knack of seeing truths and bringing them to light. Your journey is such a joy to read. I have to agree with Tabor about the book.

The Green Streak said...

Christmas is the promise of light in the darkest time of year and the promise that life will return, despite the cold and dark. Your journey is the epitome of that promise. Congratulations on returning to the light!

My Mind's Eye said...

another well written post that I assure comes home to any folks...putting it on paper has helped you and others
Madi and mom

Chuck said...

Betty, you need to post some pics of your tree!! After that story it is a must. I am glad this turned out happier than you thought it would. Happy Holidays!

Judy said...

I'm cheering you on to the best Christmas ever!
Go Betty!!

Baby Sister said...

Such a powerful post. I'm glad you felt able to decorate this year and to go through all of those difficult memories. You continue to be such an amazing example to me.

Sally Wessely said...

This message should be read by every woman who thinks she is in a marriage that has never been a partnership. Betty, you have done the work to get to this point of vulnerability and transparency, and your honest evaluation of Christmas past teaches the rest of us much. I so admire your ability to see things as they are, not how you wanted them to be. I'm thankful you are out of the denial. You will go forward a much stronger person. I do hope you will compile these blog entries on your divorce and your recovery into a book sometime. It would help others immensely.

Sally Wessely said...

I see others are saying there is a book out there for you. Your readers have spoken. Perhaps the book is still being written as you progress, but I hope you will consider writing a book that would be so beneficial.