Rush and I designed a family Christmas card this year. We debated whether it was worth spending over $100 to show our faces in other people’s mailboxes but agreed we liked it when they showed up in ours. We agreed to be equally invested in the logistics, although I stayed home from church one night and finished addressing envelopes. We even agreed on a theme, after Rush ex-nayed my recurring fantasy to do a cross-dressing family photo; he thought it too S&M to go as the collared dog.
The card shows us as the picture of joy.
Except that we are not smiling.
We like our Christmas cards cheeky. It feels important not to take ourselves too seriously; sometimes all you need is to comb a good butt part to bring you down to earth. More so though it felt important for us to be honest in a year where from the outside everything looked sparkly. We have good jobs. I have a new book. For heaven’s sake, there’s Anthropologie wallpaper in our home now.
If we had written an update to accompany the card, we might have told you how in January, after finishing the first draft of her manuscript on being a “church-going commitment phobe” Erin switched churches, again. That part didn’t make it in the book.
Or we might have told you how in March, Rush realized that he feels a lot of pressure to make art in his backyard studio. What he really loves are projects: building a corn hole set, wiring an outdoor light fixture, designing a wood-planked Christmas tree. If you know someone who would like to build a tree house in the next year, he would like to help.
We also might have told you that while we really love living in Durham, we don’t, won’t, call it our forever home. We are not forever home kind of people. Some nights, we curl up on the couch and search Realtor.com in places like Seattle, Berkeley, and Milwaukee.
In other news this year, we learned, to our horror, that Amelia is now considered a senior canine; Erin’s sure her eyes are already getting cloudy. Rush wishes she were a better mouse catcher but refuses to get a cat, even though Erin thinks cats, like kids, are looking cuter these days. Did we mention we became godparents this year?
We might mention, too, that in October Erin started seeing a therapist and now likes to begin sentences with “My therapist tells me…” Rush is still figuring out how to love someone well who is “over emotional labor.” Erin is still figuring out how to actually be “over emotional labor,” especially when it comes to family, especially when no one has asked her to do it. The word compassion entered her vocabulary this year.
We wanted to be honest that though this year was full of higher highs and lower lows than we’ve yet known, we are becoming joyful. Erin’s therapist tells her, “Joy is not possible when you are in fight or flight mode.” Now, instead of flopping between anger and fear, anger and fear, anger and a superiority complex, we are taking it all in. When you leave your heart ajar, you can’t help but take it all in. You learn to let it all go too.
In The Measure of My Days, Florida Scott-Maxwell wrote, “When you truly possess all you have been and done, you are fierce with reality.” If I remember only one thing this year, it’d be that to belong – to yourself, to others, to God – is to embrace reality. To belong is to tell the honest story about your year, about who you have been and done, yes, but about who you are becoming too.
To belong is to listen to the story that’s telling you.