“I heard the bells on Christmas day. Their old, familiar carols play. And wild and sweet their words repeat of peace on earth, good-will to men…And in despair I bowed my head; There is no peace on earth, I said: For hate is strong, and mocks the song of peace on earth, good-will to men.” ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day
I really don’t want to write this post because writing this post means acknowledging lots of hard feelings I have this holiday season. In a lot of ways it feels like recovering from a broken heart but instead of getting over an ex, I’m “breaking up with” my parents and the toxic, abusive relationships of the past. I know…Advent’s all about hope, love, joy. And I’m just not feeling it.
Last Christmas I had some serious doubts that I’d ever be where I am today. Let’s be really honest, last year I didn’t know if I was going to make it through the end of the year alive. Last year this time, I’d just come out to my parents and I hadn’t processed my feelings about my church effectively ex-communicating and shaming me out of the congregation. I’m still not sure I’ve processed that.
I feel like I’m pushing myself into an uncomfortable space where I have to acknowledge my parens are awful while also acknowledging human beings can be that terrible to other human beings. And I feel like I still need to be gracious even though I wrote several posts about how I’m just going to be in therapy for a while because of fucked up relationships with parents and church.
Why do I even still care how others feel when their actions and words have scarred me for life? I don’t know. Maybe because I don’t know how not to be kind to others. Except I think I’ve forgotten I also need to be kind to myself.
Here’s the reality: I’ve been socialized to let others be cruel to me in the name of Jesus. I’ve been taught that it’s ok for adults to be bullies, pedophiles, and manipulative monsters to their kids in the name of Jesus. In the name of God, I’ve been taught that you’re always obedient and don’t question authority.
In this world, the Kevin Spaceys, Roy Moores, Donald Trumps, Matt Lauers, etc get to do whatever the hell they want in the name of the patriarchy. It’s just that in my world, God gets all the credit for men being monsters. Everyone gets blamed except the men.
So on Sunday, I opened my Bible and I sat in church a week before Christmas, and I still feel anxiety. And I sit there and realize my soul is asking questions my lips haven’t formed yet. Because how am I supposed to find hope here? Hope where there’s always been abuse. Where is that peace on earth and good-will after all that? I’m feeling more despair and grief right now.
And I don’t feel like church or my friends know how to hold all that in tension and let me live in that space when we’re supposed to “have a holly jolly Christmas” and rejoice. I don’t know how to be both sad and happy.
Because I am definitely happier this year than last year. This year I’m looking forward to getting married next year to a person who lets me be myself and I tear up thinking about that on a daily basis. The happiness is there and so is the sadness. I think maybe this year has been the year I’ve learned to truly live my life and the first time maybe that I’ve allowed myself to truly feel things about myself and other people. I’ve opened up my heart and the truth is, I don’t have to let people into my life who have tried to destroy me. But I also can choose to have people in my life who make me happy.
I don’t know how to reconcile all of that. But this is what is, and it’s my life. I’m thankful for both the happiness and the sadness because life is better than I ever thought it could be. And maybe it’ll keep getting better. Maybe there’s some peace on earth and good-will after all.
“I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” ~ Charlie, Perks of Being a Wallflower