I see you.
Maybe, when driving past glowing strands of jewel-toned Christmas lights, you feel a sudden ache in your chest.
Maybe you’ve lost someone you didn’t think you could live without.
Maybe your body wants to slow with the waning light, to tuck yourself beneath blankets when the sun slinks away in the afternoon.
Maybe you simply “can’t quite get into the spirit this year” and are not even sure why.
As humans, we suffer in a patchwork of ways. We lose people we love to death or divorce. Our bodies betray us with illnesses, physical or mental. The holidays, with their Hallmark mirage and impossible expectations can bring all of our pain rushing to the surface. If something in our life is amiss, that pain can feel magnified against the backdrop of chipper carols, clogged calendars and bright signs pulsing the word “JOY.”
And our bodies remember.
I wonder—because of the vividness of this season with its gleaming lights, the smells of cinnamon and pine, the familiar music—if our bodies imprint memories more easily this time of the year. If our neurons fire more rapidly, shooting through our brains like silver pinpricks.
Fourteen years ago in December, I lost one my best friends. My body knows it. The lovely strands of lights and the cool air bring her to mind more than usual, because they were there when she died. Even subconsciously, seeing Christmas lights and feeling the chill of winter brings the missing, the yearning, to the surface. My body remembers.
My body remembers my brother, who died almost 17 years ago. Somewhere in my mind are thousands of snapshots of the two of us leaning over shiny ribbons and wrapping paper. Making sugar cookies, pressing small crescents of cherries into the middle. Yelling, “No fair!” when the other received a coveted gift.
And it hurts.
The holidays can throttle these aches up from the quiet nests of memory, bursting them into our minds, squeezing our hearts.
But we’re not alone.
I see you, bent over old photographs. I see you, crying in your car when an old song comes on the radio. I see you, crawling beneath velvet-soft blankets, searching for comfort.
Together, we shine lightly in these sometimes difficult days.
May we find glimmers of light in the darkness. May we remember, with our bruised hearts. May we still see the beauty shining against the night. May we soften our hearts to ourselves, and to everyone we see.
May we see each other, in all our complicated, painful, gorgeous being.