December 21, 2017
Crumpling newspaper to start tonight’s fire wasn’t intentionally symbolic. The house was quiet, dogs outside, and I had already swept the floor so that I wasn’t sitting in a pile of wood chips and sand and dog hair. But as I separated the glossy ads (they don’t burn, friends) from the newsprint, my eyes scanned the pages as they always do. Some afternoons I spread the paper back out. I read a piece I missed, or re-read one that was especially interesting and it takes a ridiculous amount of time to start the fire. Tonight I scanned, and I thought about this year, and I closed my eyes. I used it all, the last of the assorted New York Times and Bangor Daily News that we had stacked up in preparation for the winter. I crossed my legs and rolled my shoulders and touched the lighter to the paper.
If winter solstice is a time of preparation, change and growth, I am ready. The internet says that today, December 21st, is the worst day of the year. At the risk of tragedy in the next 3.5 hours, I know that there were worse days in 2017. This is bad, but not the worst.
We decided this week that my boy, who looks 32 but whose frontal lobes are woefully undeveloped, will split his time between my house and his father’s. I have an essay from a day in 2012 where I made the call and his father didn’t answer; this year he answered. The calls were similar. “Help,” I would say. “What I am doing isn’t working”. It’s true – nothing is working. My interventions and appointments and lectures have left me feeling like a caricature of the squarest mom in Squaresville. I keep checking myself. “Do I really believe this?” I want to know on a full scale, like when he is actually 32, that this might have helped. That I’m not making a cosmic mistake. I do believe in the expectations for our household, for the way we treat ourselves and others. I think he does, too. Otherwise I would not be fighting.
Wise advisors of mine once told me to work when Colby was small. “Wait until middle and high school,” they told me, “you’ll need the time then”. I find myself passing a different flavor of this advice onto my friends. “Save your energy,” I tell them, “I wasted a decade refusing to let my kid eat sugar cereal on school mornings. You know what doesn’t fucking matter? That. Save your energy”.
So we are here, in different houses but tucking ourselves in for longest night of the year. We need this long night to think and rest and shift.
“I’m all done growing,” I sobbed to my mother earlier this year. I can remember crying in front of her (outside of teenaged rage and no the irony is not lost here but I don’t want to talk about it) exactly zero times before this year. I’ve lost count in 2017. “I don’t want any more lessons,” I told her. “I’m done learning. I’m done”.
I did not get to be done.
On this longest of nights, I have the smallest window of clarity. I am not out of energy because the universe is not out of energy. Without the worst days I would not have been forced to look at all the pieces of my life and adjust accordingly. And there are people all around this kid of mine, holding him up and cheering him on. Different is not wonderful, but maybe it isn’t worst.
A winter solstice has never been more welcome, not for the dark, but for the light that I have to trust is coming.