This past Christmas, my daughter Lil got a hoverboard.
She immediately cracked it out of the box, and started whipping around on it all over the house, hair fluttering behind her. She looked graceful, like a beautiful robot-ballerina.
Although I’ve never been as graceful as a ballerina or even a robot, I still thought maybe I should give it a shot. Because man! that hoverboard looked like fun.
I climbed onto it and started hoverboarding. I navigated the living room shakily, moving forward at a pace of .0000025 miles per hour. Frankly, I was surprised at how well I was actually doing. After what was probably five entire minutes, I decided that it would be wise not to press my luck.
So I stepped off.
When I did, I forgot to pay attention to keeping my foot level and the hoverboard spun around beneath me. It rolled over Lil’s bare foot, and sent me crashing to the floor in a spectacular fashion. Right on my back. And because Lil was kindly holding my hand as I got my hoverboard bearings, I pulled her down on top of me.
This whole past holiday season has felt like that. It looks like it’s going to be fun, then it lands on its back with a thud.
Here’s a sampling of my inner monologue:
The fun: “My son’s choir sings so beautifully!”
The thud: “This is the last holiday choir concert of his I’ll see!” [he’s a senior]
The fun: “Oh look! The Christmas music box my mother-in-law gave me when I got married 20 years ago.”
The thud: “She’ll never be here to give me another gift.” [she passed away three years ago]
The fun: “Remember that funny story my grandpa used to tell about when my uncle met Santa?”
The thud: “We’ll never hear him tell it again.” [he passed away a year and a half ago]
The thuds are what I used to drink to forget. Not crazily. Not desperately. Definitely as a salve, though.
After a couple beers, I could laugh again without having to intentionally choose happiness.
But I stopped drinking forever, 15 months ago. And unlike last year, when I was a new non-drinker and the holidays felt like one giant conspiracy to get me to drink again, this year was easier. I didn’t find myself resisting the urge to drink to just get through it.
But I still found myself still wishing for an easy out.
This is definitely a time when I would have poured a stiff one, I kept thinking to myself, as I addressed more cards and ordered more presents and hung one more ornament adorned with a tiny handprint on the tree.
Instead of drinking, I tried other things.
I read books and I watched TV and I did my nails and I curled my hair.
I binged on cut-out stars, meringues and chocolates, and a package of chalky, soft peppermint sticks. Santa doesn’t come here anymore, I figured. Someone has to build up flesh that shakes like a bowl full of jelly.
I watched my teens gleefully open their presents on Christmas morning, two fools unaware that the clock is ticking for all of us. We’re all going to get old and die! I wanted to shout. MERRY CHRISTMAS. I hope you like that sweater.
It wasn’t all bad. But nothing ever really drowned out the thud completely.
And now that all the decorations are put away, all the family recipes have been made, and all the old stories told, I’m breathing a sigh of relief. Things feel fresher and not so heavy with memories.
In January, it’s easier to recognize that empty place inside as just a part of me now. It doesn’t need filled with booze or fiction or nail polish or anything else, in the same way that the hole in a bagel doesn’t need filled. The hole is, in fact, what makes it uniquely a bagel in the first place, and not just a weird chewy bun.
So here’s to 2019. The year of keeping that hole delightfully and painfully empty. And perhaps the year of maybe stepping back on that hoverboard.
Laura Rees is a writer, a mother, a meditation teacher, a happiness advocate. She's living her best dry life in Central Ohio. Connect with her at her site, mantrasandmocktails.com, or on instagram, @mantrasandmocktails.
Authors - Various