I love Christmas. It is by far my favorite time of year. It has always been a time full of family, magic, and excitement. It is the time of year that I am a little less cynical. People are a little kinder. The harshness of day to day life is softened for a month. A month centered around generosity, joy, and miracles. And you can’t forget the trees and lights! In that aspect, this year is no different; but this year is different. The landscape of my life looks different than I thought it would last year. But the landscape also sharply contrasts what I thought it would look like six months ago. Thank God.
This is the first Christmas with my son that he is going to experience some of the magic. Last year he was only eight months old. He was adorable in his matching pj’s and sleepy smile. But he didn’t understand the joy of ripping wrapping paper. He didn’t giggle at the chaos of a Christmas morning or the traditions forming around him. But this year- this year he is older. At 20 months he still doesn’t fully have a concept for Christmas, but he will relish in the new toys. The day spent in our new matching jammies filled with family visits and Christmas movies.
This is also our first Christmas just the two of us. I have an appointment with my shrink this Thursday. She liked the idea of touching base before the holidays, just in case emotions popped up that I may need assistance processing. So far, I don’t. Honestly, I am a little surprised by this. I know that this new life is what is best for Moose and I. This is a healthier situation for both of us to flourish in than the marriage and household that once existed.
But I still thought that there would be some mourning on my part.
Mourning of what I thought was. What I thought our future would look like. Instead I am filled with unfettered excitement. I feel like a kid again.
My older brother is spending Christmas eve at our house. He will partake in the laughter of Christmas morning with Moose and I. An activity we have not shared in almost 20 years. I cannot put into words how excited I am to have him part of our Christmas celebration. Part of not only Moose’s memories, but mine. It is the best present I could have asked for. It is the one I am the most excited about. And it is something I wouldn’t have ever gotten if my life hadn’t changed so drastically six months ago.
I have tattoos. Nine to be exact. Bear with me- I know this seems like a rabbit trail- I assure you, it is relevant. They range from super tiny to the size of my hand. They all had tremendous amounts of consideration, planning, and meaning put into them before being added to my body.
They are all part of the tapestry of my skin that chronicles my life to this point.
My favorite is the one I share with my best friend. It is the ever constant reminder that I will never be alone. She will never let me fall- nor will I allow her to. We will catch each other when we cannot catch ourselves. It is an honor to be her trusted person. A position in her life that I do not take lightly- or for granted. She trusts me. I trust her. Trust that has been earned time and again. We know that we will never leave each other. Positions that are hard to come by in both of our lives. This foundation has been tested. It will not be broken.
In contrast to that body art, I have another piece. A piece that does not share the same affection. I applied this particular art to my ribs nearly eight years ago, on a day that was meaningful to Moose’s father and I. A day I thought was made more meaningful by his desire to adorn his body with something “more permanent than a wedding ring”. We both spent weeks researching our respective tattoos. The design I gleefully applied to my body bears his initials. A decision I never realized I would regret. Yet, here I sit.
So in addition to my usual Christmas glee, the excitement of a holiday shared with my strong brother, and the new beginnings of traditions with my son- I have the childlike enthusiasm of a gift I am giving myself. Closure. This upcoming weekend, I will alter my tattoo. I will remove his initials from my tapestry.
I am a sentimental person. I attach meaning to things, places, smells. So the act of changing the mural of my body is big for me. Keep in mind- I am not erasing our history. Though at points in this journey- this destruction and rebuilding- I have daydreamed about eliminating our past. Removing it from my memory. But I no longer wish that for myself. For one, our time together has made me the woman I am today. A woman I am no longer ashamed of. I don’t love her yet- but I don’t think I hate her anymore either. That is a pretty big deal. A statement I don’t think I have ever been able to say. But also, our union created my greatest gift in life. My son would not exist had it not been for the extraordinary love I had for his father. That is a legacy that does not need to be abolished. The fiery end to our union should not negate the good that was there once upon a time. But I am ready to move on. To embrace the new woman I see in the mirror every morning. To nurture her and help her grow. Assist her in continuing to find herself. In hopes, to love her one day.
So when I apply new ink to my body this weekend, it isn’t to blot out the history that once existed in that space. It is to memorialize it’s evolution. The emblem will no longer be a tribute to the love that he and I once shared. It will be tribute to the transformation of that love- Moose. That little man now holds the key to my heart. A responsibility he will hold until I am withered and grey. When my stretchmarks are overshadowed by wrinkles and laugh lines.
To people that don’t have tattoos or aren’t particularly sentimental, the importance of this gift I am giving myself my escape you. But it is one of the most important things I have given myself. It is the outward symbol of my excitement for the future. The mark of pride in myself for not only picking myself up- but thriving in this new chapter of my life. It is reverent closure to the life I once lived. The love I once thought would be my last. The end to a journey that provided me the most beautiful beginning.
This Christmas I am not sad. I am excited. I am living this season with wonder. The past year has brought more heartbreak and change than I could have anticipated. Something I have reflected on a lot over the last few weeks as the close to 2017 approaches. My reflection does not integrate longing. Instead, it has contemplation, growth, pride, and hope. The years ahead will not be easy. Navigating the path of co-parenting and adjusting the experiences and traditions I expected to have with my son is going to be a rough road at times. But it is the new reality. It is a circumstance I cannot change. It is a fact I no longer wish to change. Regardless of my awareness of the difficult times that will arise, I have so many more moments of laughter ahead of me. Moments of delight that I didn’t think I would experience again. Parts of me that are no longer locked away.
I hope that your holidays are filled with family and happiness. Individuals that bring you joy and support, whether they are related by blood or enduring love and affection. My wish for you is that your reflection of 2017 brings you smiles, even through the pain you may have endured. That your daydream of 2018 is full of hope. I pray you give yourself the credit you deserve for the steps you have taken- whether they are small or large. The courage you manifest to adapt and grow- to better yourself. I hope that your holiday is full of magic and laughter, no matter how you celebrate it.