Christmas is a conundrum to me. The ride up begins weeks, sometimes months, before and gradually starts to look a little like insanity. There’s the coming up with unique gift ideas even after all these years of buying for the same people. Then you shop and wrap and mail till your feet ache and your fingers are bleeding. You bake pies you know you won’t eat. Decorations come down from the attic and clutter the living room so you no longer recognize it. And you need to just accept that you will spend every dollar that comes in and your credit cards will simply be on fire.
And yet, it is my favorite time of year. I love Christmas. The family comes home and we nestle in and finally, after all the hoopla, we just sit around the tree and in front of the fire in our pajamas for hours. We talk and laugh and share things. We cook and eat and just be present together. It is a time of family and friendship. It is so totally worth all the hassle.
This year we had company. On Christmas day, seven of us sat at the table. A week later, the kids were gone, my sister went home, guests returned to their own lives and Cecil flew to Texas to be with his dad. I woke up the first morning of being alone and fought off feelings of loneliness. The house was too quiet. It seemed empty. There was now this void that wanted to be filled up. What was I going to do with it?
It made me appreciate what a few people I know are going through as relationships in their lives have broken. What used to enrich them is not there anymore. I’ve watched them be sad as they grapple with the newness of their circumstances. The void has come to them and it doesn’t feel good. It feels like less than what was.
And it is less. But a void is space. Space can be left empty and it will seem lonely and incomplete. Or it can be an opportunity to bring new energy into your life, a chance to grow and discover wonders that might have passed you by when you had no space to fill.
When the feds targeted Cecil and pretty much stole life as we knew it, we stood with much less at hand than before they came at us. It was tempting to let that hole suck me in to where I would just disappear. Instead I looked around for ways to fill it. I started practicing law again. And I started writing. For me, the writing saved the day. It helped to put thoughts and feelings into words. The therapeutic exercise grew into an interest and then a passion. Writing is now what fills me up. It beckons to me in the middle of the night. I have met new people and made new friends.
I could never say the witch hunt was a good thing. It was an affront so all-consuming that it has defied my many attempts to understand what happened and why. What they took from us created a void. It was a space in my life that I could have left alone to eat me up. Instead, I turned to the emptiness and filled it with other things.
Sometimes voids in our life are large. Sometimes they are small. And sometimes they converge to inspire new things.
My father has been missing in action my entire life. He went off to war and just disappeared. No one has been able to tell us what happened to him. Huge void.
I finished my manuscript about Cecil’s prosecution and found myself lost because writing the book had become a way of life for me. Small void.
These two spaces in my life have now come together to create something different. I have conceived my next book. It will be a novel based on my father’s disappearance. I am energized about my new writing project and I am enriched by the prospect of spending the next couple of years with my father as he lives within me so I can tell his story.
It’s hard to deal with loss. But life is about many things. Some of them are sad and make no sense. These challenges add layers and dimension that come together to create windows of opportunity that will lead to the intriguing experience each of us will have.
I look at it as the full measure of life.