I did my best not to put any expectations on it: if it wasn't going to be difficult, I didn't want to make it so by my expectations that it would be. I just wanted to "go with the flow" as it were, to see how I felt and when, to see if there was anything in particular that gave rise to feelings of sadness, guardedness, anger. I wanted to see if laughter and smiles rose to the surface without being forced. I wanted to be open to whatever emotion I experienced.
The most difficult moments for me came during church services. I felt neither comforted, nor joyful. Most of the time, I crossed my arms defensively as if to protect myself. My lower lip quivered, and my throat tightened to prevent any telltale sobs from escaping. Anything resembling joy eluded me.
In Christmases past, I could join the choruses of joy and hope with such a full heart. And it really was joy: it wasn't just the experience of happiness or beauty, but something deeper and more profound. It was the recognition that at the perfect time, Jesus came to meet our very real need. But this year, all the talk of angels hailing Jesus' birth, the repeated mentions of a firstborn son, and all the proclamations of joy to the world offered too stark a contrast to what I've been feeling lately. I wanted to put up a shield to deflect the joy, joy that was being sung all around my broken heart.
In my world, the proximity of death makes it difficult to experience the joy proclaimed by the Christmas hymns. Joy seems to be the upward movement of a human soul when after a host of wrongs, something -- for once -- goes right. A lack is filled. A deep need is met. After centuries of slavery and oppression and darkness, a redeemer comes -- just as He promised.
Right now, everything feels wrong: the loss of Ewan, the incessant lack of job opportunities for James (for nearly two years now), the consequent pressure that puts on us both as individuals and as a couple. The list could go on and on. But it occurred to me that the sorrow we experience now is priming us for a joy that is coming. The beauty of this is twofold: I don't have to pretend that it all isn't just plain awful right now. Because it is! I don't have to act like I feel better than I do, or that things are better than they are. And secondly, something better is coming. It may be in this life, but I don't bank on that. Definitely in the next. Someday.
I find myself thinking of "someday" quite a bit lately. I will be honest: I hate the idea of someday, as in "someday it will be better," or "someday it won't hurt this much." As true as that may be, it points to a rather nebulous and undefined point in the future when things are better. Sadly, this does nothing to help me with today. In deferring to "someday", it is almost as if I'm being asked to hang my heart in the future while dealing with all the harsh realities of the present. It's asking myself to pretend today for a sake of an imagined tomorrow that hasn't happened yet.
And as much as I want to throw off this burden of sadness, as much as I wish sometimes that I really could just snap out of it, I can't do it. It doesn't work. There is no detour, there is no quick fix, there is no truth, however brilliantly phrased, that will make this all better. Today must be got through, and then the next day, and then the next -- moment by moment is the only way to make it through.
Even if it doesn't particularly help today, it is still good to know that someday is somewhere out there waiting for us. I don't know when it will get here, or what it will look like. What I do know is that when joy comes, we will be ready.