when holidays are hard (and relatives are harder)

let me start by saying that when i remember this thanksgiving, i will remember the smiles on the faces of our kids, the laughter, the macy’s thanksgiving parade snuggles on the couch, and the happy satisfaction of creating some new family traditions. our day was overwhelmingly happy and wonderful – full of moments that left us both wondering why we ever settled for anything less.

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but that is not to say that our holiday was easy and without heartache. it’s a tricky thing, when your invitations to family celebrations are absent and the holiday season feels tinged with sadness or absence. it’s even trickier when you have a relentlessly hopeful heart and aren’t quite ready to give up on people…even people who have consistently made it clear that you are not their priority. 

when you rearrange your entire holiday plans at the eleventh hour to make sure that one such person doesn’t find herself alone for thanksgiving, making arrangements to cook a traditional meal and cart six kids across town…when you let your heart swell with the hope that this could be a happy holiday memory for your fractured relationship…well, it breaks your heart in a way you couldn’t really see coming when that person calls you to tell you that she’s decided to have dinner with the very person who was responsible for the initial heartbreak of being alone on thanksgiving. the floor falls out from under you, the room spins, and there just aren’t any words to hide your heartache. because once again you find yourself letting other people make you feel not good enough…less than…second place…with tears on your cheeks, ruined holiday plans, and the realization that you fell for it again. you let yourself believe and hope and imagine.

but here’s the thing…that doesn’t have to be the way the story ends. you can cry…allow yourself (and your heart) to feel the pain and sadness, remind yourself that you will do better for your kids and whoever they decide to love. you can choose differently. you can write a different story.

and that’s exactly what we did. we let ourselves feel the sadness and the heartbreak (and, if i’m being totally honest, the foolishness, too). and then we picked ourselves and our feelings up, put on our big girl pants and remembered all the good things. we chose better for our family. we went to the grocery store for a few last-minute things (champagne…we really just needed champagne), prepped a thanksgiving meal with all of our favorite things, toasted our girls with sparkling apple juice/mimosas, dropped the kids off at the movies, and marveled at how crazy and amazing this little life is that we’re building together. and as we gathered around our table, there was no sadness…just full bellies, happy hearts, and smiles. 

at the end of the night, we fell into bed, exhausted, knowing that we had made a better choice for our family. i’m not saying we have it all figured out…or even that i won’t let my heart get broken by the same spirit of hope that crushed it yesterday. what i am saying is this: it’s okay to hope, even if it ends up breaking your heart…what you do with that broken heart is a choice…choose you. you are magic…don’t waste it on people who can’t see it.

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we all get to make choices…and i would choose this and her and every single one of these kids over anything else. y’all…thankful doesn’t even get close to how i feel when i think about this life.

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