Her world as she knows it is falling apart. Christmas is right around the corner and she sits on her bedroom floor, staring at a wall, wishing she could just skip Christmas this year. The little faces who are expecting a Happy Holiday invade her mind and she knows that broken isn’t relevant today. Despite the lack of sleep from nightmares, the low energy from forgetting to eat and the brain fog from the amount of energy it takes to keep the panic attacks at bay, she stands up and walks out the door to find a way to make Christmas special for her family. She smiles weakly, but she smiles.
The mall is so crowded but to her, the crowd is magnified, yet she somehow feels so very alone and singled out, all at the same time. She feels so very different from everyone else she sees. She tries to act “normal” despite feeling like everyone is looking at her and that everyone knows just how messed up her life is. The shame for actions she didn’t even do is so incredibly heavy. Couples holding hands make her stomach churn. Young, pretty woman make her question her own beauty. Ethnic women make her shrink in her own comparison of herself to them. The displays in the front of the stores that sell provocative clothing mock her beliefs and question the fate of future generations. Her heart races as she fights the demons in her head that tell her this is all her fault, the pain will never end, she will never be good enough and she is the only one going through this, other women’s husband don’t prefer pixels to her, only hers. The demons that tell her everyone looks at her and knows why he chose to pay the prostitute as she was there waiting for him, starving for physical intimacy. She cannot remember who needs what gifts and that just proves to her why he chose porn over her. She grabs at anything she can find, just to end the assault on her brain.
As she drives home, all her senses heightened from the nightmare that was the mall, she feels like she is driving in rush hour traffic and every car is out to get her, despite the roads being pretty calm. Any movement caught in the corner of her eye makes her flinch and fear she is about to hit someone or something. She tries to distract her mind by turning on the radio, only to hear the song they danced to last year in front of the fire as the Christmas tree sparkled. It was such a romantic moment and she had no idea he was knee deep in an affair. How could she be so stupid and was anything real? How could he dance with her and act so normal when he was betraying her? Can she ever trust herself if she had no idea her own husband was someone she didn’t know? It’s not like there is a solution. She can’t divorce him, what about the kids? They need their Dad and she can barely function now, how would she even support them?
She carries the packages inside, the packages with gifts she doesn’t even remember buying or who they were intended for. What a horrible Mother she is, she can’t even do Christmas right. No wonder he cheated on her. She drops the keys as she unlocks the doors and when she bends down to pick them up, the lack of food makes her wobbly. Thoroughly exhausted and defeated, she is greeted by the very person who caused this, the man who swore to protect, honor and cherish her, baking Christmas cookies with the children and laughing. As happy as she is her children are having fun, the anger that wells up inside her feels inhuman as she watches him genuinely enjoying her favorite time of year while she feels like she is dying and it’s his actions that have her here. She musters a few fake happy words to the kids and rushes to her room where she can be free to fall apart.
The tears come despite every effort to stop them. She wants so desperately to enjoy her children and share in their childlike wonder of the joys of the season. But when trauma and grief talk, they are often deafening. She collapses into a ball and heaves while struggling to breathe she is crying so hard. She grabs the pillow and uses it in an attempt to muffle her cries so as not to scare the children. She screams as quiet as she can into the pillow and cries until she is utterly exhausted and numb. Heavy sighs fill her as she attempts to regain composure. The splashes of water on her face won’t remove the redness from crying. She applies some foundation to try and hide the evidence and walks out into the kitchen, to join her children.
Despite her horrendous day, she will show up for her kids. Not in the ways she wants but she will show up. She will know all the times she fakes a good mood for their sake and all the things she wanted to do this season but couldn’t. They will haunt her and tell her what a failure she is. Looking in at her though, I see anything but a failure. I see a Warrior.
Because she is an extraordinary woman.
So to all the extraordinary women reading this – you are doing awesome! I wish you could see just how strong you look as you are collapsed on the bathroom floor. I wish you could see what an awesome Mom you are as you count the traditions you forgot to do. I wish you could see the beauty that is you. You are doing the best you can and next year will be better, I promise. It probably won’t look like you are expecting but I promise you it will be better. Because you my dear are a fighter and you will win this fight, one way or another.