Yesterday was July 4th and it was rough for me. Didn’t expect that. Actually, expectations were probably a big part of it. Instead of embracing life on life’s terms and for what it offered at that moment, I found my mind wandering into past neighborhoods where one should really not go alone. I also spent a good amount of energy managing fear and dread about the future; how sad will it be when my two youngest kids go off to college this fall? How sad will it be if they don’t?!?! In these pandemic times, our plans our subject to change on a daily basis.
Trying to predict the future and anticipate how I will feel about it is a taxing and fruitless activity. I am tempted to do it pretty much everyday. But, as our country celebrated (or at least tried, given the strict boundaries of a nation-wide pandemic), I think the bigger emotions I have are coming from a bit of sadness, grief, and longing to celebrate the 4th like I have in the past.
For many many years, our family took a vacation that seemed to fall during the 4th. We were all together by default at places like Disneyland and Williamsburg. The kids had no options other than to hang with their parents and each other. Even though they might have preferred it another way, we all enjoyed it I think and have some good memories because of the forced family time. When we were in town, we had a couple family friends who we would cook out with and then walk to nearby firework show that was down the street from their homes. Over time, kids grew and life brought about events that changed all that.
My expectations for the 4th are based on years of celebrating with friends and family. An all day event where where we bake cakes with red white and blue sprinkles and buy t-shirts from Old Navy that match for family photos (ok-we did that once…) and sit by a pool somewhere and eventually watch and light off fireworks in some parking lot so as not to burn down the neighborhood.
But kids are older and we are in a new life stage with different (but good) friends. I am not discontent about these things, but am just missing and feeling nostalgic about some of the old times. A little like how Christmas might feel to a teenager who remembers the enthusiasm and adrenaline of the season but can’t quite embrace it again, and probably won’t until they have kids of their own. Like there’s an outline of the holiday but it’s not colored-in anymore. Its’ just a faded shape, awaiting new and vibrant life to fill it.
I have been here many times; wishing for what was and worried about what will be. It’s a disease I have that is incurable but manageable if I turn it over to God. It’s better if I do it as soon as I feel it bubbling up inside me, but unfortunately, it usually takes a couple days of rolling around in the muck before I realize what’s happening or before I am willing to loosen my grip and give it to him.
I think it’s ok to be nostalgic and even hurt a little bit for the way things used to be. “That’s perfectly normal”, is what I would tell anyone else expressing these feelings. But the past is not a safe place to live. It robs today, the present, of what could be (as does living in the future, but that’s for a different blog).
Last night, my oldest was in California and my daughter was at a pool party and my son was hanging with some good friends he has knows for years. All good things. We spent time with my parents but as time rolled around for fireworks we were on our own, heading to a friends house to “crash” her party (which had been going on for a couple days!) and watch a fireworks show that their neighbor was putting on.
Ya know what? It was nice. Nice and new. And even though I still miss some of those celebrations of the past, I know God is doing a new thing in me and my family and has provided many new friends and potential future celebrations with people we may not have even met yet. I have said it before, but since we joined a new church and recovery groups, battled Leukemia and started new jobs, our circle of friends and acquaintances that have blessed our lives has grown by 100+. I am definitely not suffering nor do I have any right to claim loneliness unless I choose to.
I love this quote by Marianne Williamson:”The only meaning of anything in our past is that it got us here, and should be honored as such.” In other words, “Stop being a baby, Heather!”. Acknowledging the sweetness of the past is fine, but it’s not a good place to live.
God-Help me to embrace and be grateful for what is in my hand right now. Tomorrow is so uncertain, as we have seen first hand with this pandemic and how it changes our plans daily. Let my past be simply an album of memories-some tender and some terrible-that bring me to who I am and where I am today. Today. Today. Today. Amen.