I have been struggling for a week to write something. I have started a post on feminism, Christmas single struggles, an idea about why we feel overwhelmed with trial and tribulation – a whole list of potential thoughts. I write three sentences and just don’t feel it. I think “What is wrong with me? Why am I not feeling inspiration, as most of my posts come?” Then I remember. I am barely surviving this time of year. Again.
I have a lot of baggage. I own it. This time of year I am doing well to not crawl in a hole and self-medicate myself into the next year. Usually, it is a slow descent, but, because I am busy, I got an early start, so depression started hitting the week before Thanksgiving. I won’t go into what triggered it, but it was bad enough that my kids were worried for me. I was worried too. I was seriously wondering why I want to see 2017. Not really suicidal, just not seeing anything to look forward to. A loss of hope.
I have been down this road before, the three worst were 2009, 2012, and 2013, all in December. Now, December is already loaded (my “Why Christmas doesn’t matter” post last year), so I am always preparing for bad Decembers, but these three were especially bad. It seems all my greatest emotional hardships are December related. Doesn’t do much for handling the anxiety of December pending.
In 2009 I lost my family, my marriage, my career, my business, several friendships, and, quite simply, my mind. I sat in my second studio for a week in December looking for a reason to not die. I decided I couldn’t do that to my kids, leave them saddled with a suicide of a father. Once I decided that I had a reason to not die, I needed a reason to live, so I decided to get back to my roots making a living as a creative. That hasn’t really worked out so well, so far.
2012 was the year I died. I was already in a very bitter, angry place, and had no faith in God. As a matter of fact, I was pissed at God for all my loss, suffering, and failure. Here, I had died, and finally had my ticket punched: I didn’t have to be a suicide, I could be a tragedy instead. But God didn’t let me stay dead. I was dead for an hour, but recovered with only enough disability to make it impossible for me to perform in the next graduate philosophy semester. You would think that a philosophy department would be impressed that I came back from the dead to finish, but nope, they just wanted an excuse to get rid of the old, white, former cop guy (there is precedence for this, isn’t just paranoia). I was told I was being dropped because I had a 2.9 GPA the semester I died and I needed a 3.0 to stay. They told me this three days before I left for Ireland, ten days before Christmas. I had nothing to return from Ireland for.
Then 2013 I had a betrayal and abandonment one too many. That was the one that I actively was looking for a hand gun to resolve. I was done. The catalyst for my greatest accomplishment was the architect of my greatest pain. This time, the worst December led me to my faith. I had a complete 180º turn in faith, established a relationship with Heavenly Father, and haven’t looked back. I realized that I wasn’t being tortured by being kept alive. Actually, my Heavenly Father loved me so much that He didn’t want me to return to Him in that state of soul.
Having a renewed faith and relationship with God doesn’t mean it is going to be easier, it just meant that the next two Decembers of pain would also come with the love and strength of the spirit. 2014 ended with me hopeful, but still not thrilled. It was easier to bear than pretty much all previous ones and it was easier to navigate. I had a ward that loved me, I had new friends, and hope for 2015. I had come full circle in one year – from bitter, angry hater of God to being ordained a High Priest. It was an amazing experience. Still loaded, though.
Then, last year, I was actually looking forward to Christmas. I was in love, eternally and madly. I was excited about a marriage, not carrying when, just excited to find the first woman I had ever truly felt was my partner, my equal. I was on cloud nine just knowing my future was with her. I was so excited for Christmas this year, that I even went and bought her a Christmas tree, carrying it to her house from the lot, and participated in decorating it, which I had ever rarely done, and never with enthusiasm. I participated in Christmas activities excited for the first time ever, like Austin’s Trail of Lights, made ugly Christmas sweaters for her company Christmas party (the first party for me in over a decade), and enjoyed going to the ward Christmas party. For the second time in my life (the first being my boy’s first Christmas) I was looking forward to Christmas and feeling the curse and chain broken.
Then, on Christmas Eve, she ended our engagement and nearly our relationship. It was like getting hit with a base ball bat. I lost it, I couldn’t understand. Again, I am destroyed on a Christmas holiday. I stayed in bed on Christmas day depressed, crying, and angry. The spirit told me to read the Bible, I resisted, but eventually I did. The spirit told me to love her and hug her, which I did. Ultimately, we had a conversation, ate a Burger King Christmas dinner, and I gave her the space and time to think and be alone. She was confused and we had been undermined by an unethical and unprofessional therapist. By New Year’s Eve I had hope again.
And here we are. 2016. We never recovered from that therapist, and were never quite the same. The hope I had on December 31st blown to bits a month later by the same therapist. So now here I am, sitting in Phoenix, alone with the memories of the second Christmas I have ever looked forward to. But this year is different in many ways.
I was abandoned again. I am without love and a relationship – again. My life isn’t much different than it was those previous three worst Christmas’s except one overriding, exceedingly important detail: I have unshakeable faith in Heavenly Father. I trust my life to Jesus Christ, and I obey every inspiration and prompting now. Yeah, I am still wrestling with loss, loneliness, and poverty, but I am actually at peace. This is a new season for me; a new experience. I am still not a fan of Christmas, but instead of the soul crushing anxiety and depression I usually face, I have peace, calm, and strength. I know this is always going to be a loaded month, but I instead turn to my Savior for strength and trust that there will be a day where I will have a Christmas that I look forward to with as much excitement as I did last year. That is all that matters.
Our past doesn’t matter, though it will always have an impact and weight. What matters is the strength we receive through the spirit today, and the future we accept through faith and trust. I am lonely temporally, but I am not alone. And this year, that is enough.