24 December, 2013

You are not alone

If this year is difficult for you, if you're dreading the holiday season, then all I can say is "you are not alone."  Every year, as the memories of December (two pregnancy losses - one in December and one in January that started on Christmas Day) seep through the cracks I thought had healed, I am conscious that I am not the only one who might find this time of year difficult at times.

I recently met a friend of my mother's.  Her son lost his 24-year-old daughter to cancer just two months ago.  "They're going to have a very difficult year this year," she said sadly.  She went on to say how she then feels very upset at the pressure for everyone to have such a good time at Christmas.  She gets it.  We are not alone.

And I shared my own experiences.  The fact that many women who can't have children dread this time of year, the emphasis on children, the family or social gatherings that can bring painful reminders or see awkward gaffes from the insensitive.  And we talked about how Christmas is a very painful time for many people, not just those of us without children, but those who have lost someone this year, those who might be alone, or who are ill, or afraid, or who have lost their jobs, or who have to work and don't get time off to be with the people they want to be with, or those who can't afford to be with those they want to be with.  Etcetera etcetera.  Of course, it's not just the Christmas thing.  I suspect that this happens in many other cultures (Chinese New Year, Thanksgiving, as just two examples) too.  We get it.  You are not alone.

And so at this time of year, I always take a moment to think of those who don't have family or friends around them, those who are simply, sad or lonely or both.  It is tough for many people, and if we have ever been through this, we know how hard it is for others.  You are not alone.

But I, for one, also know that it gets easier.  And if you feel alone right now, I hope you feel less alone, and can take heart that you won't always feel like this.

Sending you all hugs, and love, and thanks for being here and reading me and sharing your wisdom in the comments.  And I give you all my very best wishes.

22 December, 2013

Blogs are like buses ...

... you wait for ages for inspiration, then two or three come along at once.

This year I'm hosting Christmas.  Two of my husband's brothers and their families are returning for Christmas here, with their parents.  I of course am hosting Christmas dinner/lunch, to take the burden off my 90-year-old mother-in-law.  That's okay.  I have it planned, and I have delegated some tasks to my sisters-in-law.  I'm a little nervous though - I'm cooking a turkey, and I've never done that before.

Every year we've hosted, we've asked my in-laws about my husband's aunt and uncle.  Usually if they are in town, they go to another niece's house for Christmas Day, but I have always wanted to give them the option of coming here, However, whenever I have raised it with the in-laws, my curmudgeonly old FIL has always grumbled at the idea.  And, feeling as if it is "their" side of the family and therefore their right to decide (I'm just the cook), I have always urged an invitation be sent.  (In my defense, it's a complicated family dynamic.) But I've never stood up to him, and for that I am ashamed.   Finally I spoke up a few years ago.

I pointed out that in case they haven't noticed, they don't have any children.  And neither do we.  And that when we are old and alone, we hope that if any of our brothers and sisters, or nieces and nephews are nearby, that they will invite us to spend the day with them.  That we won't just be ignored and pushed aside, as they both (aunt is MIL's sister after all) seem happy to do for this elderly couple.  (I have no fears that my sisters, and my sisters-in-law - husband's brothers' wives - would ever do this.) 

I don't know that he had ever compared our situations.  We don't discuss our childlessness with them, but I think they feel for us.  But they aren't very good at feeling compassion for others, and they're certainly not good at expressing it.

And so for the last years, we have just informed MIL and FIL that we are inviting them, and that they have no say in the matter.  (And to their credit, they haven't complained about it - not since my outburst).  This year is the first year A and H are coming.  (They have been unable to come previous years).  I hope they enjoy themselves, and feel part of the family.

PS:  I hope it provides a good example to my nieces and nephews!

Speed warning

I thought I would have a leisurely December, but no, it is full speed ahead and I fear I will just crash into the end of the year without getting much more posting done.  I have lots of thoughts and ideas, just no time.  And now all the relatives have arrived in town, it's only getting worse.  My first resolution for 2014 will be to be a better blogger here.

I did want to note one thing though.  In the spirit of the season, I was pleased to see that I changed a comment I was making on another blogger's post (she and her husband are childfree, but she is not an ALI blogger, and I don't know her story).  She posted about going to see a school play in her small community, and all the children who are part of her lives who were performing.  And I started to say how envious I was that she had all these children in her lives.  I don't have many children in my life.  Partly because the children of friends grow up and move away, and partly because many of the nieces and nephews live overseas. 

But then I paused.  Yes, I was envious.  I was also envious that the children had met my friend.  We have been internet (first blogging, then FB) friends for about seven years now, but I haven't met this friend who is freezing in Vermont at the current time.  But then I thought how petty it all sounded.  Her happiness doesn't change my reality.  I'm very glad my friend has these children in her life, and that they have her in theirs.  And as soon as I changed my comment, I felt uplifted.

03 December, 2013

The joys of a niece

I have just spent the last four days visiting my sister, brother-in-law, and five-year-old niece.  Since I saw her before she has started school, and on Friday morning I was able to go to school with her, see her classroom and meet her teacher.  She read her reading homework to me (her mother realising they'd forgotten to do it the night before when we arrived) in the classroom, and I saw all these five-year-olds get onto the classroom computers to sign in for the day.  

We spent a busy weekend together, and we had some lovely bonding moments.  I read her bed-time stories, and taught her to play Noughts and Crosses.  She played teacher and I sat obediently on the mat, as she rapped her wand on the whiteboard easel to get my attention.  Her uncle (DH) filled her paddling pool and almost gave himself a hernia making waves in it, to her delighted giggles.  We watched Tangled and Rio with her (and probably enjoyed them more than she did).  And we took walks with her and Jeff The Dog.  I felt sad that we don't live closer, that she really doesn't have a strong sense of who we are.  

But I didn't come away with a sadness that we don't have a child.  Not really. I saw my sister struggle - struggle with working and time and energy, struggle with a five-year-old who knows what she wants and DOESN'T want, and struggle with the particular health concerns that come with this particular child.  And I didn't envy her.  I felt compassion for her.  And I wished I lived closer - to help out, babysitting or cooking meals - to help make their lives easier.  And to have the little one in our lives.  That said, getting home last night, to peace and quiet, was quite a relief.