This is my symphony

What I read & what I lived …

I’m happy and relieved to have weathered my first holiday season alone. Or, truly alone, I should say. Last year we were busy caring for Mom and making her last Christmas as lovely as possible under the circumstances. I was surrounded by extended family and hospice workers, and I was busy as heck.

In the past twelve months I’ve become even more acutely aware that I need to take hold of happiness wherever I can, independent of others. (Thanks, Mary from Alanon!)

Believe you me, I grabbed that brass ring this holiday whenever and wherever I could. There was a quick trip to Frankenmuth and new ornaments. A gnome puzzle and light show at Fredrik Meijer Gardens with the Littles. Holiday gatherings with friends. Snow shoveling. Keeping the bird feeder filled for my feathered friends. Christmas ham with corn pudding. Cookies, even, although only one batch. Christmas Eve mass in the middle of a blizzard. A New Year’s Eve reservation for one. All moments of happiness and blessing.

Which is not to say that in light of my losses there wasn’t loneliness and tears. Only a little, though. I’m learning–bit by bit–to embrace the life I’ve made and let go of expectations. Because it’s those ‘shoulds’ that mar my peace.

To close the year, I finished a most amazing book: Jean Hanff Korelitz’s The Latecomer. I haven’t read a single bad review, and there’s a reason for that, dear Reader. The Latecomer was thought-provoking, witty, and crushingly honest. The novel centered on a wealthy and privileged New York family, the Oppenheimers: wife, Joanna, codependent as fu** and her emotionally empty husband Salo, along with their in-vitro triplets who have no use for each other.

It took no effort to layer my own experience onto Joanna’s and see that it’s her storybook expectations of family and Salo’s secrets that get in the way of any possibility of happiness. (How’s that for art mirroring life?!) There’s this bit on conflict, and although not directly about family life, it’s apt:

Here is the sad truth about messy things: they did not resolve themselves. They got resolved … by grunt and confrontation and maybe a little screaming, followed by … deliberate and redemptive hugging. Mostly, though … messy things just jolted on until they shuddered to a halt in exhaustion.

p. 191 The Latecomer

And then there were four Oppenheimer siblings and their trajectory changed. Whether that latecomer is little more than a deus ex machina is up for debate, but I found her a clever plot-devise for breaking open the family so that it can heal. Or at least resolve their mess with “a little screaming … and redemptive hugging.”

This one’s a keeper.

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