I’m struggling, y’all.
Not every moment of every day, but enough moments of most days that I feel like I am dragging a bag of wet cement in each shoe.
I’ve written 20,000 words…in my head. I’ve rolled out from under the covers every morning and gotten straight to beating myself up for not being up already. For not exercising. For not writing. For not being happy all the fucking time.
For not speaking up about what is worst in the world right now. For not having gifts wrapped under the tree yet. For not making a casserole ahead of time and just skipping the pot luck. For not even trying to do teacher gifts and greeting cards and a new wreath for the front door and gingerbread people and a birthday party plan for Carlos and a haircut and cleaning out my voicemail box at work. For not. Not not not.
I can never do enough to keep the darkness at bay.
I have this little white ceramic Christmas tree that Daddy passed along to me years ago when our Aunt Mary Fuller died. She and Uncle Curtis lived in Avondale Estates for most of their lives, so they were city folk. They couldn’t walk out into the pasture and cut a cedar tree from the fence line. They had this little ceramic tree that lit up from the inside. I remember visiting them once in Atlanta. I fell in love with this tree and the tiny gold foil star that Aunt Mary Fuller had taped to the top.
Now it’s mine.
Like any inheritance, it’s past is so precious to me that I feel like I have to protect it from the present in order to save it for the future. Namely, I don’t want my kids to smash it. When Vivi was a baby, I put this tree on top of the bookcase in her nursery. Once she started toddling about, the tree stayed in its cardboard box for a couple of years, until I could trust her to not bring it crashing down. It lit up the dark nights in the nursery for Carlos’ first few Christmases, then back in the attic.
This year, I brought it down with all the other boxes of decorations. Each kid has a tree of their own now. There’s one in the living room and another in the den. Now that I could put Mary Fuller’s tree out, did we have room for it anymore?
I decided to keep it for myself, to enjoy it in the midst of my dark nights. This weekend, I set it out on a little table right by my bed, in the same spot that the bassinet stood. Vivi and Carlos placed the tiny plastic “bulbs” in the holes on the tips of the branches (and I didn’t even rearrange them to even out the balance of green and red–they were going for a lava flow effect and I think it’s pretty cool). We flipped the switch and sat in the Saturday morning glow of the 1970s. I told them how important this tree is to me and asked them to be very careful around it. I’m trying trust. We’ll see.
At night, I leave the little tree glowing after I set the alarm, write my gratitude in the journal, and turn out the light. Some nights, I cry. Some nights, I don’t.
It’s less dark. And that’s the reminder I need–a gentle push from the past. A reminder that we can only appreciate the stars when it’s dark. We have to trust our fragile hearts to a world that’s likely to break them.