During the holidays, #5 and I played a game with some of our children. In one round, we had to name campaign slogans. As I listened to the slogans, I was struck by what a great motto for The Unexpected Life each campaign could be.
Be All That You Can Be.
Just Do It.
You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby. (Shared by #5.)
As soon as he said that, it got me thinking about my life and my little family. I was overwhelmed and amazed by how far we’ve come in one year. Just since last Christmas. What a difference 365 days makes!
Last Christmas, 2009, was the first Christmas of our unexpected life. I was trying so hard to heal, to help my children make it through their unexpected challenge, trying to adjust to working full-time, and to hold on physically, emotionally, financially and in every other way, for all of us, back then. So I put on a brave face, tried to keep a few traditions and took my children to see Santa Claus one Saturday morning.
Santa chatted with each of my children but caught me completely off-guard when he had me sit by him, looked me in the eye, and asked, “What do you want for Christmas, Mom?”
I panicked. Did he know who I was? Did he know I was single? Did he know what a loser I had turned out to be, starting over in life, in every possible way, at 42? It had been years since Santa had asked me something like that! I wasn’t prepared with an answer. But for some reason, maybe because I felt so alone and literally was alone for the first time in my life, I took his query seriously. My mind raced with thoughts of everything I needed—courage; confidence; optimism; hope; anonymity; a life; emotional comfort; laughter; bravery; endurance; happiness; real smiles; joy, peace; and of course, money (those were the days when I couldn’t seem to get a break, I lived in shock and fallout from the trauma 24/7)—and because I’d been trained to only ask Santa Claus for one thing, without censoring my response I replied, “Peace. I would love to have peace.”
I don’t think Santa was expecting that. Yet he must have sensed the desperation I felt inside to share something like that with a total stranger, though the stranger be Santa’s helper, because he looked me in the eye, gave me a compassionate, soft smile, took my hand in his large, white gloved hand, and calmly and quietly told me to hold on, peace would come. He sat there for just a second, looking into my eyes, smiling and then patted my knee, offered me a See’s Candy lollipop and sent me on my way.
I walked away from my encounter with S. Claus uplifted. It was another one of those “Only in Utah” moments for me. (As in, only in Utah…would a shopping mall Santa Claus take time for you, despite a long line of believers and children, to give you a spiritual message!) I left his little village filled with hope, not just for the holiday but for my life. I believed Santa was right; someday it, peace, would come to me again. I was counting on that. I just had to hold on.
But that Christmas Eve, when the house was dark and quiet and I was up all alone late at night making my few small Christmas preparations for my children, the reality of my unexpected life hit me. Again. In that moment I was a little overwhelmed by my continued struggle to embrace a new life that was mine, but that I didn’t believe I had done anything to deserve and I still wasn’t sure I wanted! I’d do a little Christmas, then go up to my room, alone, and cry for a few minutes. Then I’d pull myself together, go down by the Christmas tree, do a little more Christmas, then go up to my room, alone, and cry. It was the pattern of a newly divorced, single mother, getting through her first Christmas. Alone.
After the holidays, #5 checked in with me to see how my “first Christmas” went. I can’t believe I told him the truth—that it was good overall, but that I’d had some unexpected sad moments too. He empathized, gave me some words of encouragement, asked me out for another date and the rest is…recorded in this blog.
However, Christmas 2010 was a completely different scene.
I took my kids to see Santa again, but this year he didn’t even ask me what I wanted. Maybe he could tell I have every important thing I need, especially peace. And Christmas Eve, although the house was dark and quiet, I wasn’t alone. I had #5 helping me with Christmas preparations. On Christmas Day, we had all eight of our children together. As I sat by #5, watching all of the kids talk, laugh, joke and enjoy being together, I felt such contentment and joy. It felt like family. It is our family. Everything is right in my world again. Different than what I had expected, as usual, but right.
I couldn’t help but think that had I only known last year what was in store for me this year, it would have been a heck of a lot easier to get through last year! Had I only known last year, what this year would be like, I wouldn’t have felt alone or felt sad at all. But that is just one more beauty and character-building aspect of life: the not knowing; and choosing to carry on anyway.
Striving to be all that you can be.
Just doing it.
Learning to thrive in whatever situation you find yourself in.
And acknowledging, occasionally, just how far you’ve come.
What you do with your unexpected life is your slogan.
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” (Calvin Coolidge)