The Weight of Great Expectations

I took for granted when I was growing up in my parent's huge house that one day it would be full of their grandchildren. It never crossed my mind that not only would I not be spending the holidays with my parents, but they wouldn't be spending them with each other.
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Thanksgiving was fun. We spent a week at The Farm in Jasper, Alabama with Zeb's family. I love them and I have the best in-laws in the world. I don't even have to try to like them, because I just do. They are awesome. And I say that because I don't want anyone, anywhere to confuse what I'm about to say -- but sometimes, the holidays just suck.

Yeah, I said it.

The holidays suck. Maybe not for everyone, but I know I'm not alone in this.

I mean, I guess EVERYTHING about the holidays doesn't suck, but for me, anyway, they are almost always emotional.

You know that hollow, day after Christmas kind of feeling? That. I hate that.

I guess it boils down to expectations. No matter what, we always have them. Other people have different ones, and then we are all in the same place trying to celebrate and be happy, but there are kids everywhere and tons of people to be fed. And I crave the quiet corner in my bedroom but I'd be sad if I was there because I want to see everybody and do everything but that's hard, too.

My parents divorced when I was 16. It affected every member of my family differently, but deeply. Sometimes it still surprises me that my parents aren't together anymore. Like it just happened yesterday.

Then, in 2006, someone broke into my childhood home and burned it to the ground. (BTW, great job on never doing anything about that, ever, Jasper Police Department.) Thankfully, my mother wasn't in the house when it happened, but she lost everything. And for me, the last bit of "home" was gone. Even after my parent's divorce, home was still home. But then it was just gone and part of my childhood went with it. I miss that house, and the life I thought I was supposed to have pre-divorce. I struggle to this day with my expectations being so very different from my reality.

The day before Thanksgiving, I cooked dinner at The Farm for my wonderful family. The in-law family that has accepted me as their own for the last 16 years. My dad came by for a quick visit before dinner and I was so happy to be there with everyone. We ate dinner, my nieces washed dishes and cleaned the kitchen, and I went upstairs to the room Zeb and I share at The Farm and cried for two hours.

It wasn't about anybody or anything, it's just that sometimes, when you are broken, the things that are supposed to feel good, don't. I'm not sure if I should attribute this to being from a "broken home," having chronic depression, being human or all of the above.

I texted with my friend Heather, (because she's the kind of friend you can text the day before Thanksgiving, when you are crying in the bed), and just talking with her made me feel so normal that I cried harder. Mostly because I knew I needed to write about this moment, because I don't want you to think you are alone if having to force yourselves to keep moving forward through the holidays when you don't always feel like it.

I took for granted when I was growing up in my parent's huge house that one day it would be full of their grandchildren. It never crossed my mind that not only would I not be spending the holidays with my parents, but they wouldn't be spending it with each other. And every year, I find myself holding my breath around the holidays. Not figuratively. My chest aches and I realize I'm not breathing and it hurts. It hurts to breathe, but it hurts not to. So I take a deep breath and pack up my family and we come to the Farm, where my husband and kids feel like they've always belonged but where I still feel slightly conspicuous. I love it there but it's not my home -- it's not where I was raised. It's not mine.

Sometimes it just hits me so hard that I need to be saved from myself. From my expectations of other people, from my expectations of me.

The weight of these expectations is what keeps me from breathing.

But I keep it breezy on Facebook and say things like, "Have a great turkey day! May all your food dreams come true! Happy Holidays! Fa la la la laaaa!!!"

Because it's easier than saying, "Hey, I realize today may be really hard for you because it's not what you thought it was going to be five years ago, or three months ago or two minutes ago. But I hope it's bearable. I hope it's good. I hope you make it through this day with a smile. I hope you are kind to yourself today. I hope you breathe and notice something beautiful. Maybe it's not what you thought it was going to be. But maybe you've been adopted into something that is lovely and beautiful and full of light."

But maybe that's what I should say instead. Because maybe then you'd feel less alone, and so would I.

Because if you've lost someone, if you are struggling with depression, if you feel out of place or out of step or out of sync... I simply hope your holidays are bearable. I hope you breathe through them. I hope you embrace what is beautiful and let go of everything that isn't and I pray for peace for all us in the midst of our own expectations.

This essay originally appeared on Robin's Chicks.