Together in the darkness

It’s been a hard week, you guys. And month. And two months…this could go on a long time!

November was…a lot. It was just a lot. It left me pretty defeated.

For the most part I’m pretty open, and I do write about a lot of things that I go through, but there’s also a lot that goes on that I don’t write about and don’t share. Sometimes that’s deliberate, and sometimes it’s just too much to explain. And I’m sure that goes without saying, but I’m saying it in case you’re confused why I’m bemoaning November when the only post I made was about watching Christmas movies.

November was a lot and I was pretty happy to see it go. December, though. It’s letting me down a little, as well.

Especially this past week.

This past week was one of those weeks where it feels like the world is working against you. Where you feel powerless. Where all your efforts end up being all for naught so you start to wonder why you’re even trying in the first place.

I’m pretty done.

I know from past experience that if I start to type it all out, I’ll get halfway through and realize I’m already way past a full length post only to end up deleting everything, so I’m just not even going to try and get into it. It’s mostly all just medical stress, a lot of it bureaucracy. And I mean, yeah, I’m used to it, but this has just been one thing after another, each thing wearing me down a little bit more until I’m all but worn right down into the ground. Which is then of course when another thing happens.

Now, I have a four foot pre-lit Christmas tree in my room. This tree is probably my favourite thing about November and December. I love the warm glow of my tree lights and how they make my whole room feel cozy. They’re set up on a remote (thanks, Lisa!) and so the first thing I do every morning is turn these lights on, and the last thing I do before going to sleep is turn them off. And I know this seems irrelevant but it’s actually not.

Because on Thursday, after Thursday’s stressful stuff happened, I turned off my tree lights. It wasn’t even noon yet, but I was just beyond frustrated with everything and turning off my lights seemed like a good outlet for that frustration. Later that day, still frustrated, I texted my best friend.

Besties at Christmas

Oh my goodness how perfect is it that she’s the star!? Sharing her light with me our whole lives

This is not the first mention of her on this blog, but in case you’re new here, we’ve been friends forever. To the right is a seasonally appropriate throwback photo of us. Below is the text I sent her.

“Everything sucks this week and I’m angry and I kept my Christmas tree lights off all day in protest of the world because I’m mad at it.”

You know, like the mature adult that I am. And then I honestly forgot I’d even sent that text until just before midnight when she replied with the very best reply.

“Oh no, I’ll keep my Christmas tree lights off in solidarity.”

She then asked me what happened, and on Friday, after Friday’s stressful stuff had happened, I filled her in on everything that was going on, including that my lights were still off.

That’s when she told me that so were hers. And sent me the photo to prove it.

And I melted. I just felt so loved. And supported. It made my heart so happy. My favourite thing about how this all went down is that she told me she was turning her lights off in solidarity before even knowing why exactly she was doing it. Because she didn’t need to know. She simply saw that I was sitting in the dark, and she came and sat next to me.

It changed nothing, but it meant everything.

We all have darkness in our lives that we muddle our way through. And yet, we’re oftentimes just so uncomfortable seeing other people in their own darkness. It makes us feel helpless, and so we say and do things to try and pull each other away from it. When that doesn’t work, we end up feeling even more uncomfortable and helpless, and so we shy away from those people and their darkness. And then sometimes, their darkness becomes so dark that we can hardly see them in the middle of it.

Let’s not do that anymore.

Darkness happens. We can’t keep it away from ourselves or from each other. Not forever, anyway. But instead of trying to pull each other away from it, and instead of losing each other in it, we can sit together through it.

It’s harder this way. And scarier. Because we’ve all been through darkness, we all know what it feels like and so why would we ever willingly walk into that? Because. Do you remember what it felt like when you were in the dark? Do you remember how you felt when you didn’t think anyone could see you sitting there in your darkness?

That’s why.

My friend came and sat with me in the dark, just walked right in and joined me. She didn’t try to pull me away from it. She didn’t try to disguise it with some big, blinding spotlight. She just sat with me. She shared some of her light with me.

And then I wasn’t alone anymore. And it wasn’t quite so dark.

So I turned my tree lights back on.

And she did, too.

How to find happily ever after by Christmas

Something you may not know about me is that I’m somewhat of a holiday romance movie aficionado. I’m actually pretty stressed right now because there are more holiday movies on the PVR than I will be able to watch in the next month. Now, if you’re an astute person you might be thinking that perhaps I’m not actually stressed about getting through all the movies, but rather that I’m projecting all the stress from the other areas of my life onto the movie situation. If that’s what you’re thinking, well I’m sorry but you’re wrong.

It really is the movies. They keep premiering new ones every year and I still need to watch all of my old favourites plus all of the ones I never got around to watching last year because of this same predicament. How is a girl supposed to keep up?

Anyway. While there are still dozens that I haven’t seen, I’ve watched enough to have a pretty good idea of how falling in love works this time of year. And today is your lucky day because I’ve gathered all of my research and I’m going to share it with you.

First things first. Relationship status.

If you’re single and looking, then you’re in luck, because your chances of being engaged within the next four weeks are pretty high. If you’re single and not interested in being in a relationship, well, change of plans, because your engagement is likely imminent as well.

For those of you who are in a relationship, I don’t know how to tell you this, but according to the movies you’re probably not actually right for each other, it’s just that you can’t see it yet. You will also likely be engaged by the end of the month, but just not to the person you’re currently dating. The only exception, happy relationship folks, is if you get to be the supporting characters in someone else’s December romance. Then you can stay with whomever you’re with now. So you’ll have to work that out amongst each other.

The next thing we need to discuss is setting.

Ideal settings for falling in love this time of year include toy sections of department stores, baking competitions, small Christmas-themed towns, family businesses or the family home you’re back visiting for the holiday. There are others, but these are the most tried and true. You’re in extra luck if the store, business or small Christmas-themed town is on the brink of bankruptcy and about to be bought out by a larger company or put out of business by a big box store. If you’re unsure where to start, I suggest the toy department of Sears.

And of course, you can’t have a romance without another person. So let’s talk about who you should be looking for.

Is there someone you can’t stand? Because chances are that they are actually the love of your life. If they hate the holidays then those chances are even higher, provided you’re prepared to win them over with your own endearing Christmas joy and holiday traditions. What about an old flame? Is there someone you used to be in love with that you have unresolved feelings for?

But don’t fret if those scenarios don’t apply to you. There are plenty of other good options.

You could try the nephew of your beloved boss who is about to retire. Don’t ask me why these successful business people never have their own children to pass their businesses onto; I don’t make the rules. Widowers with young children also make great candidates. No need to worry about how the child will take to you because they will instantly love you which will help soften their parent towards you. Another option is someone socioeconomically better off than you, particularly if they have staunch parents in need of your holiday whimsy. Bonus points if they are royals.

Now, don’t be thrown off if your love interest is in a relationship already, particularly if their current partner is a bit uppity. The same goes for if they have a meddling ex trying to get in your way. While you might think this would be a problem it actually works in your favour and helps highlight what a breath of fresh air you are.

Ah, and let’s not forget the fake relationship turned true love scenario. In this case, you just hastily find someone to pretend to be your date or fiancé. The goal here is to avoid looking bad in front of an ex or being the only one in your family still single. Sometimes even both! There is no technique for picking the right person to be in a pretend relationship with. No matter who you pick, statistics show that by the end of December you will be actually in love and likely engaged. I’m thinking of trying this one this year so just a heads up family, I’ll be bringing my (fake) fiance to Christmas dinner.

Now I will give you some tips for how to keep things on the right track to reach happily ever after by Christmas.

I hope you enjoy snowball fights and ice skating because they are a must, especially skating as it gives you a reason to hold hands with the other person. You also need to pick out a Christmas tree together, but only if you both end up at the tree lot at the same time without planning it beforehand.

Falling off a ladder is also really important. There are a few rules, though. You need to be up only one or two steps of the ladder, and you’re not falling for any other reason other than your love interest is right behind you to catch you. As with ice skating, the goal is physical contact followed by that awkward moment where you really look at each other for the first time.

The safer alternative to falling off a ladder is to end up with food on your face and then be incapable of removing it yourself, leaving the task to your love interest. The end result is the same, the awkward but necessary moment where you first really look at each other. Seeing as I don’t eat food and won’t come across this moment organically, I’ve decided to start carrying around a bottle of ketchup with me at all times to smudge on my face at just the right moment. I was going to go with mustard, but ketchup is a more seasonally appropriate colour and it’s important to take such details into account.

A few final rules for happily ever after.

You cannot discuss the important topics that should be discussed before getting engaged. If you are playing the role of “happily in a relationship supporting character” then you cannot be alarmed that your family member or friend has found love so quickly and is getting married without first discussing said important topics.

There also must be snow. If you live in a place where there is not usually snow on Christmas, fear not, because the moment that you finally share your first kiss on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, it will start to snow. Because meant-to-be trumps meteorology, obviously.

One last thing. There must be music playing at all times.

So you see, it’s really not that complicated to find love before the end of the year.

I look forward to seeing many of you at Sears tomorrow. BYOL – bring your own ladder. Ketchup provided.


Chronic illness: fire by fire

It’s a pretty long and complicated story and I’m not going to get into it all now, but in the spring, after I had genetic testing done, I was undiagnosed with EDS and re-diagnosed with something different. It caught me off guard but with time and research I was able to wrap my head around things. The reason I didn’t say anything is because even though the geneticist diagnosed me, I was waiting until I saw a specific specialist to clear things up further.

I finally saw that specialist on Monday. Though I thought I would be writing a very different post this week, frustratingly, nothing was cleared up; a lot of what she said was opposite to what the geneticist said. It was very confusing. Also heartbreaking. Because for now, I don’t have a diagnosis. She’s looking into things more and so this heartbreak might all be for naught, but I’m currently undiagnosed. And crushed. And out of fight.

And I know that unless it’s happened to you, it’s hard to understand why I’m so upset about this, why a diagnosis even matters. Here is why.

You live in a house.

This is not just any house. This is a house that you never get to leave. And that sounds suffocating but it’s not because it’s not that you never get to leave this house, it’s that you never need to leave it. You work, play, sleep, eat, and socialize in this house. Everything you need is inside this house.

Until one day, out of nowhere, one of your rooms burns down.

How strange is that? You didn’t even know that individual rooms could just burn down like that. You talk to a house expert who talks to a house sub-expert and they tell you that sometimes rooms just burn down for no apparent reason. That’s a bit unsettling, but eventually you just have to accept what happened. It complicates things, sure, but you’ve still got a house full of fire-free rooms. You’ll make do.

Until one day, it happens again. Another room burns down.

Okay. Wait just a minute, now. What is happening here? This must be related to that other room that burnt down, right? You consult the house experts and once again they tell you that sometimes these things just happen. You don’t totally buy it but what else can you do? You’re not an expert. You just have to readjust.

And then, before you know it, another room has burnt down. And then another. And another. Plus four other rooms are on fire.

Okay, now there’s no way this isn’t all related.

You bring in a house expert who calls in another expert. And when that one doesn’t know what to make of your house another expert gets consulted. And even more after that.

They all start off the same way. They stand on your front doorstep, confident that they can figure out why your house keeps burning and how to make it stop. They reassure you that together you’ll figure this out. And because they’re the experts, you trust them. You believe that they will help you, and so you let them in.

After they do their inspection, each new expert realizes that they really can’t figure out why your house keeps catching fire after all. And because of course if the expert can’t figure it out then it must be your fault, some of them ask if maybe you’re starting the fires yourself. What a ridiculous question. Of course you’re not setting your house on fire! They tell you to try not to let the fires ruin your house, which is just the most baffling thing because by its very nature fire is destructive. They tell you to just keep breathing. Do they not realize how hard it is to breathe when every breath you take is full of smoke?

And then, despite what they said, despite how they promised to help, the experts end up shrugging their shoulders and walking out the front door. After it happens enough times this stops surprising you, but it never stops hurting you.

Hurt as you may be, you resign yourself to just try and keep breathing while you wait until another expert comes along.

Meanwhile, your neighbours keep offering you ideas about how to stop the fires. They’re not house experts, and their own houses have never been on fire like this, but that doesn’t stop them. Try water, they say. Use a fire extinguisher, they say. You’re so confused because of course you’ve tried those things already! Some of them tell you to just stay positive and then your house will stop burning. You’re not really sure how smiling at the flames is going to help matters but you’re doing your best to smile anyway.

Somewhere along the way you start wondering if maybe you are in fact starting the fires yourself. Even though you haven’t used your hair straightener since the first fire started, maybe you left it plugged in. Maybe you left a candle lit. You don’t own any candles, but maybe that’s what happened anyway. Maybe, if you just stop thinking about the fires then they will stop happening.

Except that doesn’t work because while you’re trying to ignore the fires another three rooms burst into flames.

You look out the window and see your neighbours living their lives in their houses that aren’t on fire. It’s been so long that they hardly even notice the rubble within which you live anymore. What you would give for a breath of that clear air they’re breathing; they don’t know how clear their air really is.

A few more rooms have now burnt down. Even more are on fire.

Now your awesome house with everything you need is not so awesome. You’ve lost the kitchen. You’ve lost the office and the rec room. So many other rooms, too. You’ve lost most of your windows and doors. You don’t get to work in your house anymore. You don’t get to have fun in your house anymore. You’re always exhausted from trying to stop the flames, from trying to stay one step ahead of something that’s one hundred steps ahead of you.

Now you do feel trapped in your house. And scared. Because you keep losing rooms and no one knows why. Because you’ve already lost so much, and as time goes on and more of your house catches fire you’re left with less and less. You don’t know when the next room will be destroyed.

Your house was everything and now the fires have left you with almost nothing.

It’s clear that something is wrong with your house. Everyone knows it. They can see it. They just don’t know what’s wrong. And they don’t know why ‘the what’ matters.

But there you are, choking on smoke while, fire by fire, your house burns down around you, and there’s only one thing you know for sure:

It matters.