Friday, December 25, 2009

About Face

Usually I think very hard about what I'm going to write. I diagram, outline, brainstorm, and lay my thoughts and feelings out on paper to organize and make coherent before funneling them onto the monitor. But something is always lost in translation. Some nuance of emotion can never quite be translated and strung into a meaningful sentence. So I decided this time I would simply write what I'm thinking, as I think it, and hope that maybe what I'm feeling will take form in the written word. And maybe then I can look at it and figure it out for myself. Because I'm not exactly sure what I'm feeling.

My sister and my mother wrote two beautiful, but very different blogs today. Mandy wrote about what was lost and her reminders of last Christmas - when we knew our Dad would not be around for this one. She wrote about the last time we were able to really drink and laugh together, on her porch, freezing but letting the laughter and alcohol warm us. It was a welcome but fleeting relief, when we forgot about the chemo, the weight loss, the event we knew that would come, just didn't know it would be the following April.
She wrote about the mockingbird, the animal that's become a family symbol of the man we love so dearly and miss so terribly.

My mother however,  wrote about looking forward, about how Christmases will still come as people come and go. She wrote about how life gives us the gifts we need to accept death.
I had a hard time reading my sister's latest entry, maybe because it just hits so close to home with me. It must have taken so much out of her to write it, so honest it was. Maybe it was so hard because I've still, no matter how hard I try not to, have been dealing with this the best way I know how - through distraction.

The last time I visited my Dad's grave, I sat in the grass and talked to him until the dam burst and my grief came rushing out. I thought I would never get back off the ground, and doubted I had the strength strength to do so. Couple this with the fact that I have left who I still think may have been the love of my life - or at least the first person I was ever truly in love with, and one moment I'm full of life, the next I feel numb. One moment I'm grateful for what I have, the next I'm staring off into space thinking about Rhode Island or England.

I left my partner back in February to come home to take care of our Dad while he was sick. I thought the separation would be temporary. When I first moved up to Rhode Island to be with my him, I was escaping. I was escaping a horrible job in DC - and into the arms of someone who loved me. Before that, I went to DC to escape a stagnant life in Charleston. Prior to Charleston I was in England, a place where I rushed to escape a similar stagnation in Columbia.

I've been obsessed with changing who I was at any given point in life. My hair has been black, blonde red, and every color in the spectrum in between. My face has been pierced, then left to heal. I've had glasses, then contacts, then glasses. I've gained weight, lost it, gained it, and lost it again. I've always been obsessed with being different - not from anyone around me, but from whomever I chose to be previously. I've left jobs as I've been promoted, left relationships undeveloped, left friendships when my friends needed me the most, never bringing anything to completion. I think I've always been so terrified of losing anything, I've let it go before I could experience what it was to really have it. Maybe the distance I've put between my family and me at times is a symptom of that. And now I hold them closer than ever because I cannot handle losing anything else, while I learn to live with the loss I've had this year.

So here I am, home because I chose  to be home last Winter, to face my Dad's illness with him, and help my family take care of him. I did this after running further and further north, partly to escape coming out to my family, which proved to be at once easier than I thought and harder than I could imagine. I came out to them knowing I would not have the wife and kids my parents deserved after putting up with such an arrogant, rebellious child.

But when my Dad died, try as I may, everything I had ever run from seemed to come crashing into my backside as his death brought my life - and my running - to a sudden halt.

So now, this first Christmas without him, I find myself dealing with learning to live life while exorcising all the ghosts that seem to continue to catch up to me. I'm doing this while consciously leaving the person with whom I promised to spend the rest of my life. And my knee-jerk reaction? I'm thinking about a rooming list I need to get from a client, prospecting I need to do to make my goals. I'm thinking about my trip to DC to visit a couple of dear friends in late January. I'm thinking about everything but what needs to be dealt with - as I've always done.

So as I force myself to turn about face and close my eyes and let it come at me - all the things from which I've run - I'm finding the impact reshaping who I am. But it's forcing me to stop shutting it all out. I've opened the floodgates and let the waves crash into me, head on.

I had the opportunity to once again take a position in DC. I didn't pursue it. I've made the decision to stay home for once. I'll wait for it all to catch up to me, and I'll deal with it all, one item at a time.

Eventually I'll be able to call Rhode Island without crying - I'll have to. I owe him at the very least that much. As much as I don't believe my partner and I are right for each other, at least not right now, (and as I write that without the conviction I think should have, given my decision), I so badly want him in my life. I will call his beautiful family and maintain a relationship with them. I will visit my Dad's grave more often. I will pay off my debts, and I will stop running.

I have been at perhaps the lowest point in my life this year. What I've felt has not compared to anything I've ever experienced. It's as if I've stopped running long enough for the sand storm to catch up and scour my skin raw to the bone.

But what I've learned this year is not that despite the painful parts of life, I want to live. I've learned that I want to live.

I don't want to miss anything. I have so much to do yet. I have two nieces and a nephew to watch grow up. I have to make more money so I can spoil them as an uncle should. I want my own children. I want them to know their brilliant cousins and incredible, fiercely loving family. I want them to feel as lucky as I do, despite it what life throws their way. I want to teach them to turn about face and not make the mistakes I've made.

This year, as broke as I might be, I went a little overboard with the shopping. Because of what I've lost, I have a new appreciation for what I have. Any shopper's remorse I might have will be cured by huge blue eyes smiling through torn Christmas paper. It'll reinforce why I'm here, in South Carolina.

I love my job. Yep - I love it. It's been a very long time since I could really say that. I have amazing bosses and incredible coworkers. Yes, hospitality and I are going through a very extended, very messy divorce - but we're learning to live with each other for a while before it's finalized.

This Christmas my Dad's absence will be heavy. When we're all smiling, laughing, opening gifts and enjoying each others' company, it will be the elephant not in the room. I'll also wake up tomorrow morning thinking about someone in Rhode Island, and I'll go to bed tomorrow night thinking about him. I'll probably spend every day for a very long time wondering if I made the right decision.

But I'll also think about who's here. I'll hug my nieces and nephew a little tighter. I'll hug my Mom and sister and Bio-Dad a little more often. I will embrace what's here, because now more than ever I would love to realize how much I love something while I can still reach out and touch it.

For once I want to stop having one foot in Rhode Island and another foot in England, while admiring the world in front of me from a comfortable distance. It's what I've always done, and I think it's time to live and act here and now. It's time to end the permanent detour. If my Dad left me nothing else, if he never taught me anything else, it's just that - his last gift to me on the first Christmas without him.

Merry Christmas everyone. Hug your family. Love what you have.