“They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” Isaiah 35:10 (NIV)
In December of 2012 as I prepared to address my Christmas cards, I gathered up my list of names and addresses used to perform this annual ritual. Along with that list was a file containing copies of Christmas letters that I had so carefully composed and then sent to friends and family from 1987 until 2004.
I never wrote those letters, as many do, to gloat over all the wonderful things we’d gained or grand accomplishments, etc. In fact, when I sent my first Christmas letter out it was never my intention to make it an annual happening. In years past I’d carefully taken the time to write short, personal notes in nearly every card I sent. But, in 1987 as our lives became busier and more complicated, the time constraints prohibited that previous luxury. When 1988 rolled around and I quickly realized this concept had worked well for me the prior year, I determined to continue with my new tradition.
So as I began reading through all those letters I’d carefully crafted each year, they quickly stirred up a lot of emotions – very mixed emotions. They contained a lot of memories – some good, some bad, and some long forgotten.
I read about our move from Texas to Oklahoma in 1987 and then back to Texas four years later. I read about our daughter being an 18 year old recent high school graduate and being left behind on that move to live on her own. Then later about her plans to be married and years later about her going through a divorce. I read about our son being an innocent 11 year old child when we made the move to Oklahoma, then a high school graduate, his move from Texas to California on his own, then a becoming a college graduate. I read the details that I was compelled to share about my own divorce in 1998 after over 31 years of marriage. There were also the usual tidbits of news about my Mom and brothers along with the “I’m still with the same company and things there are going great” theme.
Then suddenly it struck me – not as a new revelation mind you – but one of those “Why? Why did you keep doing that?” moments.
You see, my husband was a very handsome man. Extremely personable, generally liked by any and all that met him – no matter their social or economic background. He was well educated; but, the man changed jobs like some people change their clothes – very regularly. Something like 25 or 26 jobs in the 31 years we were married. He rarely stayed anywhere longer than three years. Adding to that constant instability in our lives he was also unfaithful – repeatedly.
However, while reading my letters, you don’t see any hint of the pain that was inflicted as a result of him being unfaithful. You don’t sense the stress caused by the frequent bouts of unemployment. I was not unlike the wife of an alcoholic in denial about lives out of control. Act as though everything is wonderful; don’t dare tell anyone the truth, just live your life and everything will be okay. But everything wasn’t okay.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not trying to portray myself as a saint or a pitiful, weak woman. I certainly wasn’t perfect, but I did my best to be a good wife and mother; and, never broke my marriage vows. I am and always have been a strong woman with a mind of my own. But I was wounded – emotionally crippled enough that it took far too long for me to understand that I did not have to live that kind of life. That I did not have to put on a happy face and pretend that all was right with the world – and my life – when indeed it was not.
I just know that starting in 1999, the next year after my divorce, the tone of my letters changed. There was an underlying, noticeable positive tone and a newfound joy. I had rediscovered the real me that had been hidden for so very many years. The me that knew how to have fun. The me that didn’t have to explain away and defend the actions of another, when I didn’t understand those actions myself.
Sure, there have been some down times and some hard time these past years. But when reflecting on those Christmas letters written over an 18 year period of time, I had a new appreciation for my current life and my future. Sometimes revisiting the past can be a good thing.
Written by Karran Martin