I have returned from our holiday trip and I have generally good news to report!
Donald and I were pleasantly surprised with a small gift exchange on Christmas Eve, in front of a fire with cookies and tea and a genuine giving spirit in all of us. The Christmas Eve church service in the church where we were married was quite moving and just the right thing. The incense made me cough, so I chose not to sing. Instead, I listened to Donald and my brother sing the harmony lines to familiar Christmas carols and my heart sang with them.
I regressed into a habit of talking about myself more than listening or asking questions. Donald helped me snap out of it. I have often experienced a conflict between who I am away from home and the person I was before I left, although this time I think it was easier to remember who I am now. I have more confidence, I have learned to express my needs and preferences more often, I tried to see everyone with new and fresh eyes, without the clouds of the past altering my perspective.
We had the traditional big Christmas morning breakfast and then visited with family friends for a large and celebratory Christmas dinner. It was there, while catching up with friends I hadn't seen in several years, that I clarified my understanding of my job and my career goals, a wonderful holiday gift to receive.
We gave my brother the game Settlers of Catan, which if you haven't played is well worth it. It was a huge hit and we played a game almost every day. Donald gave me a luscious pair of red high heels that I had been wistfully desiring - I danced around the living room trying not to squeal like a schoolgirl.
We spent a lot of time outside in the sunny California air, the skies mostly clear after some winds came through just before we arrived. We hiked in the mountains of my youth, although on new trails, and it all came rushing back to me just how important these vistas and views are to my sense of wellbeing. This is the source of my yearning for the West, these mountains are what I think about when I seek confidence or a sense of who I am. I have no idea how to meet this need of mine when mountains like this are not to be found where we will be living. Luckily, I have many people I can visit in wonderful lands such as these, so that will have to do for now.
The terrain I grew up in helped support me in my new being, to be present in the moment, to appreciate where I am, and to ask hard questions and be open to hearing the answer. On one walk, completely on a daring whim, I slithered between two parallel rocks sitting at a 45 degree angle to the steeper slope of the hill. I braced myself between them with my knees and made my way upwards, finding handholds in the rock above me and letting the one below me bear the weight of my back and feet. My siblings and Donald were impressed with me. It felt wonderful. There were a lot of bonding moments like that on this visit.
On another walk, this one with just my mom, a question popped into my head and fell out of my mouth, "Do you think I have compromised my values because of my relationship with Donald?" She was behind me on the trail so I could not see her face. She said yes. I asked her to tell me how. It was important for me to understand her perspective, even though (or because) this question is linked to my pain about whether she is able to support my marriage to Donald at all. Despite the difficult content, it was a wonderful feeling to have open conversations with her.
Donald left two days before I did because he had to work (I am still so overjoyed to be able to type those words... he had to work - can you see me jumping up and down with joy?). I was amazed at the change that came over me when I returned to my parents' home after dropping him off at the airport. I sat down to the table to eat and the silence was overwhelming. I felt like I had lost something very important. I think it was connected to who I am at home and who I am away. The loneliness departed and left me with a better understanding of myself.
How were your holidays?
I hope all of you end this year with happiness and celebration and start the new year with at least as much of the same. Happy New Year to all of you.