Welcome 2020. I’d like to say that I started the new year fully and enthusiastically embracing Walt Disney’s notion that “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” After all, a new year heralds the new opportunities and perspectives. However, the new year, for me, also signals the beginning of two difficult months with sad milestone dates. January is the month that my mom died. February marks the birth and death of my dad, Ben’s birthday, the death of my grandma and the first anniversary of the loss of my cat, Disney.
I find myself torn between celebration and grief, and it’s not fun I keep running into situations when I am caught between withdrawing into memories and propelling myself forward. Maybe even more significantly, I tend to beat myself up about how I deal with this and if my choices are “appropriate” and “healthy,” even by my own standards. I suppose it stands to reason that a calendar was the thing that recently triggered my preoccupation with this time period. When Ben was ill, I created photo calendars for him that allowed him to always look at our favorite Walt Disney World memories. I have continued that tradition. Although sometimes I look at the photos and lament the time that was taken from him and from us, most of the time the photos bring back memories that make me smile. A few weeks ago, as I thought to order my 2020 calendar, I began to wonder if I should change the calendar to include some of my new memories. It set off stressful internal frenzy that had me wondering what I “should” do.
I looked through my many new memories from the past year and felt good about them. However, in much the same way that my new ornaments after my solo visit to London did not feel right on my Christmas tree because our tree was covered with our memories (click here to read about that), I felt that the calendar needed to remain dedicated to only my memories with Ben. This unleashed a lot of thinking and worrying about whether I was really dealing well with grief. I worried that by keeping a lot of things as they have been, that I am not completely coping with the acceptance that Ben is gone. There were so many questions. Am I holding myself back? If so, why? Would I be disrespectful to Ben’s memory to change the calendar? Am I afraid that these changes will make the void that much bigger? Am I afraid of visually documenting that there is a shift in my life that includes new memories because a tangible product like a calendar makes that shift a blaring reality? Should I stop the calendar tradition or completely change it? I dwelled on this for a long time, procrastinating ordering the calendar. I was frustrated with myself, comforting myself with reminiscing about the old memories while reluctantly enjoying the newer memories.
Ultimately, I chose to keep the calendar the same. I was not ready to change it. When it arrived, until January 1, I kept it in its envelope without even looking at it. When I did open it on New Year’s Day, it was still a welcome comfort to look at each month’s collage and revisit those wonderful times. “Some people think a great deal too much. Of that I’m certain,” said Mary Poppins to Michael in Mary Poppins Returns, as he is lamenting how he’s dealt with his children and the grief that they are all feeling, as well as how to solve his issue with his house. What I realized in my overthinking and worrying was that there are certain objects, like the calendar, that simply have a special place in my heart. However, I know in my heart that I am now in an emotional place where I can also happily, and even proudly acknowledge that I have indeed created new memories and I have rediscovered my sense of whimsy. I indulge my zest for life and I am grateful for wonderful friends, opportunities and occasions. A calendar does not have to represent these events. Right now, my calendar remains a special tribute to the life I had with Ben that gives me comfort and joy even when there is also sadness. I have not dismissed the idea of doing a different calendar next year, or sometime in the future. I decided that it’s fine if I continue my tradition, or even if I don’t. I have to let go of making constant assessments of what is right or wrong and defending myself to myself.
I know that these two months will be emotional. I also know that I am so fortunate to have been surrounded by much love in my life. It is my hope, wish and goal for myself that despite the sadness, I find new ways to balance past and present as I dare to discover a magical future.
I wish everyone a new year sprinkled with pixie dust.