Are you allowed to mourn what never was just because you invested so much in the hope that it could’ve been?
During this time of year I get very nostalgic for the holidays of my past. For the days when my Mom’s religion didn’t prevent her from celebrating her Christmas-day birthday. It’s been quite a few years since the days when it was assumed that we’d all meet at Mom’s on Christmas day. Now, it takes planning, discussion, and more work than it feels like it’s worth. Most years, we give up and all do our own thing.
In recent years, probably the last 4-5, there’s also been an added sadness. Spending the holidays alone magnifies the fact that when it’s all said and done, I am alone. No man and/or kids with default plans to fall back on. Most of the time I try to talk myself into being okay with this, and most of the time I manage to be okay with it, but this year I realized it’s a cover. However much I try to pretend it’s all okay, that sadness remains and I long for the life I never had.
The realization that I’d been faking it was really not a realization. I knew it. I guess I just hoped that the saying, “fake it till you make it” would one day take. After years of faking it, I am accepting it won’t, and because it won’t, I have to figure out another way to deal with my reality that won’t bring me back to a depressed state every November.
After a lot of thinking I figured that maybe it’s okay to cry about it; to be sad, to be angry. Advice I’ve given to others. Maybe, as with any loss in life, a mourning period was not only acceptable, but required. It was like a light turned on in my head with the thought:
You’re allowed to mourn what never was just because you once had the hope that it could’ve been. ~Me
Easier said than done, I know this from experience. I don’t have the answers. I only know what I am doing, the steps that I am taking that are feeling right for me. So I will share my experience with you in the hopes that if you find yourself longing for that life you hoped for and never got, you can also find your happiness. Because it’s not about accepting a second-rate life, just an alternate happy one.
Take a self-guided tour of your life
In the holiday movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, the central character, George Bailey, wishes he’d never been born. He is shown what the lives of his family and friends would be like if he hadn’t existed. While I don’t wish I’d never been born, contemplating the lives of those I love without my existence has been an interesting exercise and has reminded me that though it wasn’t the life I chose, I’ve had an effect on many people whose lives may be different without my influence, however small. I also know that had I been married and a mother when I thought I would be, I wouldn’t have had the experiences I’ve had. Traveled to the places I’ve been, and met many of the wonderful people I know.
As much as taking inventory of your life will help you see its worth, this will not in itself make you not want the life you dreamed of. In fact, you may even think that you’d gladly give up many or all of the things you saw while performing the above exercise just to be married, just to be a mother, or whatever your dream may have been. So it’s time to feel it. To be angry, to be sad, to shed a well of tears if that’s what you need. Basically to grieve as you would if you loved a lost one. It’s really no different. Your dream life was a part of you and to let it go, to accept that it may never be is the equivalent of accepting you may never see a loved one again.
Clue everyone in
Let those close to you know, those that, with the best of intentions inadvertently feed you lines of hope because they don’t want to see you sad. Let them know they need to accept your sadness, your anger, whatever emotion it is, and not try to replace it with hope. This is a difficult one because not buying the lines of hope will make everyone and maybe even you think that you’ve become cynical. But that’s not the case. It’s merely a step towards a more positive reality.
So life isn’t giving you what you imagined. Life is big, life is full of possibility and wonder. What else can you imagine for your life? Happiness can come in many forms, you just have to find the one or ones that will work for you.
There’s nothing to it but to do it. Okay, not really. It’s not quite THAT easy, but it’s close. Take one step, then another, then another. Big, small, it doesn’t matter as long as you’re taking action and moving forward toward a good life.
Again, I make no promises about the ease of my plan. So far, I’ve had to go back and repeat some steps. It’s definitely work and it seems like a never-ending process, but I believe I’ll get there even if one small step at a time.