The holidays bring about ample opportunity to feel all the feelings. People are often stampeded by emotional forces that bring waves of anger, frustration, love, courage, stress, joy, overwhelm, exhaustion and regrettable behavior. For me this season is a blend of joyous wonder because I am living in my home town after years of being away. At the same time I have experienced loss around me that I wasn’t expecting. I have watched people I know, care about and love around me lose family members in an abrupt and sudden way and when this happens it puts so many things in perspective.
I have been mulling over the all too familiar feeling of regret that I both experience and witness from others when someone passes. It is not an unfamiliar tale to hear people lament that they just wished the effort had been made to see someone they just lost one last time, wishing they had taken the time to call or visit or write at the very least. I genuinely believe that at the very base of each and every one of us is a desire to be everything to everyone who needs us to be there for them.
Generally this idea is incredible, if we all just lived for one another and put in a little extra effort for those around us who we deeply care for then we could all just feel supported all the time. I hate to be the grinch but this isn’t possible. We live hundreds if not thousands of miles apart from our family members, from our friends and from those we love and cherish deeply. We no longer have an emotional circle that expands a few city blocks or miles at the most. Now we must allow our hearts and minds to grasp the idea that our best friend lives 1124 miles from us. That our parents are a full days travel away and that our cousins and college besties are over seas. Because of this and in light of this we are doing the best we can. In a world that is expanding, literally and figuratively, at a very slow but noticeably persistent rate what hasn’t changed is our own ability to spread ourselves only as thin as we can while still holding onto ourselves in the process.
It is the advice of any flight attendant to “tightly secure your own oxygen mask before that of others”; including our own children. The regulations of life and happiness and sanity and survival are no different. If we give ourselves away to everyone we love as much as we want to and feel the need to I fear that we will find ourselves even more anxious, distressed, burnt out, tired and stressed out than we as a society already are today.
There is an intrinsic guilt that comes along with life and all the choices we have to make. If we traveled to see all those we loved whenever we felt compelled one might comment that we are not prioritizing our home life or our career. If we worked as much as our job might demand and possibly as much as we desire people might say we have no interest in our family. If we stay home and pour ourselves endlessly into our children and partners people might observe that we are recluse and bound to the home. So there is no perfect answer and there is no choice that does not come with a cost.
I close my eyes, I take a deep breath. I hear my daughter spinning salad, I hear my husband grinding pepper, I hear my youngest cooing on the kitchen floor. I feel sadness in my heart because my aunt has died and I never got to say goodbye. I feel comfort in knowing that I knew her and I remember her as the Barbara Streisand of our family and I feel at peace with the promise that while distance and time kept us apart, my heart and my mind can and could be with her and with anyone at any point in time no matter how far the distance is.
Gratitude is my message for this month. Gratitude is my offering to each and every one of you reading this because gratitude allows us to walk through life without regret and upon my last breath my largest wish is to look back and know that I may have made decisions with consequences but I regret nothing. This article is dedicated to my tanta, a woman who could fill a room with laughter and a smile purely because it was her.
I am a mother, not a wizard. I share what is hard, what is scary and what is real. The rest I leave to you.