I LIKE MONDAYS

When you layer the holidays over grieving and healing from trauma, life can seem pretty absurd……

It was a Sunday. January 3rd, 2016, to be precise. Sarah Chamberin, 43, sat in her Long Island living room, gratefully absorbing the post – holiday shift. “Ahh, there, THAT’S better,” Chamberlin, an infertility survivor who had just gotten through her second holiday season without her children, said as she inhaled the open space now free from the holiday bombardment of forced splendor. With all Christmas paraphernalia removed, Chamberlin looks ahead. “You know what I like? Mondays. That’s what.”

Sarah was a mere cog in a collective sigh of relief heaved by planet earth’s bereft population. With the past month spent making comments such as

“Not this shit again….”

“If I decorate, I feel like crap. If I don’t decorate, I feel like crap”

And, “What does all this really have to do with my new life anyway?”

AND not to mention eating up hours of the day trying to compose tall tales to get out of Aunt Mable’s Christmas Eve dinner, because truthful communication such as “I’m still grieving, what I really need right now is….” gets one accused of being “negative” on a good day and ostracized from the human race on a bad one, it’s no wonder all those grieving on the planet actually feel a detectable level of contentment come early January.

“Grief is not something that can be put on pause, and the holiday season’s not exactly built for the grieving. Plus, the world’s got the skill set of a two year old when it comes to accepting life and human emotions actually don’t cease this time of year. So yeah, it can be rough.” one griever commented.

Mall exit polling indicated that approximately 1.37% of the population understands that Christmas does not trump things oh such as death, violent crime, chronic life threatening illness and life altering losses.

Back in her living room, Chamberlin was being met with the usual blank stares and silence to which she has become accustomed from her fellow humans, which are far better than platitudes anyway, as she offers her now routine explanation of her reality to those who don’t get it which is most people.

“You see, unlike the holidays, no one is going to ask me about my Mondays as though they are more important than the loss of my children or my grieving process. I’m not going to be plastered with “Merry Monday” everywhere I go or expected to answer a constant barrage of questions on what I’m doing on Monday, like as if it matters. Because it’s just Monday. My husband for whom I’m so grateful is off on Mondays. Plus, I drink on Mondays so really what’s not to love? Yes, my dear friends, the holidays are over. And tomorrow, I’d like to point out, is Monday.”

Chamberlin’s holidayitis all started on the runway to Thanksgiving when……No, wait. No. Not really. This tepid charade of festivity and Chamberlin’s avoidance of it actually began on the fateful day of October 31. Not yet ready to view the parade up and down her street of children with their parents in the cauldron of breeders in which she lives, Chamberlin carefully planned to get the heck out of Dodge, even pushing her chef/restaurant owner husband to take a Saturday off, of all things.

“Now don’t get me wrong,” Sarah shakes her finger defiantly as she clarifies. “Let’s not go correlating childlessness with an inability to relate to children. I love kids and they happen to love me. Did I go through one surgery and ten failed fertility treatments for the mere fuck of it? No. No I did not. It’s the plethora of children with their parents’ adoring faces shining down upon them in the neighborhood where the house in which I bought to raise my children resides that can really gut a person. It’s hardly rocket science. If I’m able to stomach it one day then I will. But until then I won’t.”

And so, Sarah, her defensiveness and her husband found their way into Manhattan on October 31 where they enjoyed a fine concert, and even finer dinner, found themselves stuck in The Village Halloween parade because Manhattanites are more obsessed with Halloween than LI suburbanites (my miscalculation) and then onto eating wings and drinking Manhattans in a bar (what she lacks in patience Chamberlin makes up for with efficient digestion) while waiting for their train in Penn Station.

All in all a great day, one to be quite happy about. However, the Herculean task of living her life as it is amid the families with children implications of the holidays was well underway.

Chamberlin was only one of a multitude of bereft individuals attempting to funnel her life around the holidays because the two currently have nothing in common. Statistics indicate that rates of assuming false identities, trips to Vegas and digging underground bunkers all skyrocket come November.

007452_860d3534

Determined to spend Thanksgiving being in the “what now is” in their lives, Sarah and Julio spent it together, knowing full well one must acknowledge their voids before learning how to and how not to fill them.

“Basically, we strung outside lights we didn’t really care about, felt weird and lost without our children, ran in and made eggs and Manhattans in response to the prospect of our hood being invaded by minivans and even more of other people’s children, finished stringing our lights before being totally flanked by families with children, closed our blinds early, continued missing our children and then messed around with cooking something new which this time was sushi. Just another typical day, kind of like a Monday….except considerably more painful. And this time I’ll have to answer a million fucking pointless questions about it.”

Footage obtained from hidden cameras indicates Julio and Sarah use food and drink to cope with just about everything.

Sarah and Julio do not recommend combining light stringing and drinking alcohol in general as it is inefficient.

When neighbors passed by and asked what they were doing for the day, Chamberlin experienced a rare moment of successful reign pulling.
“I was actually able to hold back the real answer which is ‘We’re spending it together, trying to re-envision our future with our broken souls while tripping around in the void WHERE OUR CHILDRN ARE SUPPOSED TO BE.’ Not only that, I somehow easefully swapped it for a committed “We’re hanging out. And we’re going to try to make sushi!”

“I so owned it man,” Sarah continues. “I stood there on my stoop and just owned it. My. Life. Owned it like a champ. You should play We Are the Champions by Queen right now cuz I’ve so got it coming. Seriously. And I even got one ‘That’s so great you guys are doing that’ from a neighbor. Sometimes, I love people. It actually does happen.”

Mostly though, conversations with fellow humans, though already strange, had developed into a whole other level of funk. Little did she know it, but Chamberlin’s commitment to be authentic and speak her truth threw her up against holiday social protocol – one of the most incessant avalanches of verbal protocol known to man.

“But, you see, my children don’t get to be here, so it really isn’t a Merry Christmas or a Happy New Year,” Chamberlin aptly pointed out. “I have to walk in a world that says Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone’s mother’s dog while in a coma, but yet is absent of any protocol to acknowledge the loss of my children. It feels a little….you know……OFF.”

Chamberlin’s fellow grievers could also be heard round the world, releasing multiple cries of “Make it stop….just make it stop.”

Research indicates that ‘Merry Christmases’ and ‘Happy New Years’ outnumber ‘this must be a tough time of year for you, how are you doings?’ at approximately 70 million to 1.

“When asked how my holidays were going, I stayed true but I have to say, my typical response of ‘This is not a very significant time of year for us, but we’re getting through.’ was not exactly a conversation stimulant.” Chamberlin reported. “Jingle bells, my ass. If people don’t want my truth then they shouldn’t ask me dumb shit.”

Research does indeed indicate that, in the infertile and child free not by choice communities, “getting through” is a grand achievement for those still in the thick of their crisis. Turns out Chamberlin’s personal commentary is right on par with reality.

Statistics show reality is a quaint notion for approximately 98% of the population.

Continuing to be stalked by the space where her children were supposed to be, Chamberlin found herself packing up after yoga class one week after Thanksgiving.

“I felt utterly thrown as my classmates, harmlessly and innocently of course, chatted about their Thanksgivings. I was like, why are they talking about that? I had completely forgotten about it. So I had to wonder, when WAS that freakin thing?? And why are they talking about pie?? After some minutes passed I finally figured out that class is on Thursday, and Thanksgiving had been on the Thursday prior, so, I guess it makes sense to the non – bereft and non – traumatized to chat about such things.”

A little self-compassion was in order, as Chamberlin had just spent the week writing about intense prolonged experiences, figuring out what might facilitate her getting through the rest of the holidays, and practicing moving all of her parts around “the void” the holidays are so adept at magnifying.

Brain model research shows that in order to communicate with normal humans, the grief stricken must access the “stuff that in actuality doesn’t matter much” part of their brains, which takes approximately three minutes and piles and piles of energy.

Lastly, a CT scan of Chamberlin’s entire being showed it to be stuffed with newness, grief, rebuilding, recalibrating, discombobulation, trying to re-envision her future while simultaneously grieving the one she lost, re-channeling her deep love for her children that don’t get to exist into what calls her and getting to know her new self. In addition, transformation and sadness were found to be oozing out of 70% of her pores. Test interpreters confirmed there was absolutely no room in Chamberlin’s person for holidays. Or pie.

Sarah and Julio did get to experience a temporary moment of resonance while out grudgingly shopping for their Christmas tree.

“How much room do we need to leave for Santa?” the man cutting the branches off the bottom inquired as Chamberlin stared at him in an utmost “Who in the FUCK is Santa?” like bewilderment.

funny-santa-claus-pictures-6

Chamberlin continues: “’Oh, like practically none, actually’ I said to him in my usual matter of fact tone once I realized what he was saying.

‘Santa doesn’t stop at our house’ my husband offered facetiously.

‘So…..now that we’ve got THAT figured out…….,’ I continued. I had a good giggle over the whole thing, and even better, so did the man, and he was for some reason extra friendly to us for the rest of our exchange which let’s be honest, we’re not used to. Either that or all of my infertile holiday stress created a spontaneous lobotomy. Either way it’s laughter, so, I’ll take it.”

Other grievers report that, except for the occasional stroke of good luck, there is very little room for their reality in holiday conversations. “This time of year we’re constantly exposed to triggers, assessing what we can and can’t handle, questioning old rituals, feeling immense emptiness, reminders of what we lost, and how much we’ve changed” one griever shared. “Expressing this reality to my fellow humans who are occupied with god damn cut out cookies and powdered sugar, sparkly bows, nonstop holiday music that has been laced with either manic cheer or crack – you can’t tell which, and reindeer – fucking reindeer – is not exactly an opportunity to feel heard.”

“And don’t forget Christmas stockings in the face of my children that don’t get to exist, MoFo’s!!!” Chamberlin hollered to her fellow grievers.

There was one saving grace that made Chamberlin’s holiday season a bit brighter, although it really had nothing to do with the holidays. And no, it wasn’t Mondays. It was Nerf Wars.

“So here I am in this cesspool of lights, good tidings and stupid tinsel and I was offered the opportunity to essentially run around with ten year old boys and fire toy guns and I’m like shit, yeah! I may not be raising a kid but damn it I can sure play like one. I ended up in four, yes count them, four battles over the course of six weeks because my nephew kept inviting me back. That may very well be a world record in the 43 year old female category. Christmas schmismass. And as usual, the youngster got it right (I quote my nephew who was coming up from Maryland to visit on Dec. 28th) ‘I’m looking forward to Christmas, but I’m waaay more excited about coming to your house after!!!’ Damn straight.”

IMG_0753

Chamberlin didn’t fare so poorly on Christmas, either. “It was 68 degrees and I had a horrible cold. It didn’t feel like Christmas. Score!! And, I was too preoccupied with my horrible cold to be missing my children much. Double score!! I thought it worked out well. I really don’t know why people say I’m not positive.”

Sarah decided that the last hurdle of this marathon, New Year’s Eve, would be spent in a validating place appreciative of her struggles and progress alone.

“I’m still going through a lot, perhaps more than ever,” Chamberlin informs us. “I’m in the process of grieving the loss of my children, recovering from perpetual trauma and re-envisioning my life. Bearing witness to “I’m going to be more disciplined at the gym, organize my sock drawer and be a better person” resolutions is so NOT what the doctor ordered. Screw that shit. I’m so not ready for that drivel. Maybe next year.”

So Chamberlin, for herself and probably for the good of all humans, stayed in and indulged in her own reflection on New Year’s Eve. And in the distance, the far distance, she thought she saw a light. “That can’t be,” Sarah checked herself as her soul squinted to try and make sense of that which she saw on the horizon. What IS that? Can it be, can it possibly be?????

Yes America, for the first time in over five years, Chamberlin was able to not only envision a few goals for the New Year, but felt confident she would be able to complete them.

“It was a beautiful thing. For the first time since probably 2010 my vision for the new year went beyond ‘Oh, shit.’”

Though hopeful for the future, for now the world’s grief stricken are resigned to out of hand, emotionally unrealistic holidays. Chamberlin continues to choose her truth over social protocol while appreciating those rare birds who are willing to roll with it. She plans to build a shrine to Mondays with her husband Julio as one of their new found goals for 2016.

christmas-decorations

26 thoughts on “I LIKE MONDAYS

  1. Sarah, your blog has fast become my favorite childless after infertility blog. I find myself resonating with many of your stories and feelings in this weird transition from infertility treatments to life sans baby. Your comment about using food and drink had me laughing in recognition. We spent New Years sidled up to a swanky bar with martinis and oysters – our first year not toasting to a baby by next New Years. Wishing you and your a wonderful 2016.

    • If I had to say one thing about this transition it’s that it’s an incredibly big deal. Sounds like you feel in a similar way. So strange it’s not illuminated (societaly), given its colossal and riveting nature.

      Thanks for sharing your New Years Eve adventures. Oysters rule. Martinis aren’t so bad either….

  2. Totally agree! If people don’t want the real answer, don’t ask dumb questions! I also found that my give-a-fuck-ness decreased the closer to to Christmas we got (four consecutive weekends of out of state travel may have also contributed to this).

    I had to laugh about the “Santa doesn’t come to our house” thing!

    Whenever we eventually meet, if Nerf guns are involved, I would not be opposed to that. Wine, of course, is a given. I also won a “cool as hell aunt” award over the holidays, but it involved a vehicle accident (of the Power Wheels variety), a reckless driver (my 2.5 year old tornado of a niece) and some shoulder pain that just won’t go away (that I’m thinking is probably a rotator cuff).

    • Give-a-fuck-ness – you’re going to publish a guide book with these expressions/Kinseyisms, right? You’ve already sold one:-)

      Glad you’re open to the Nerf gun thing too, I’ve found it to be unexpectedly enjoyable. I bet you are a “cool as hell aunt”. That comes with a risk of injury though I know…..I need to keep reminding myself I’m not 10, physically anyway, when I’m playing with my nephew.

  3. Oh man, thank thank you, for such a hilarious and spot-on post! And yes yes to the food and drink coping skills. (btw, I don’t recommend alcohol and hanging wallpaper either!)

    I’m slowly emerging from a holiday full of grief and needed this laugh badly. TY.

    • Hi Abby – The holidays while grieving can feel like the worst fitting shoe ever. Good luck on your resurfacing, it takes time. Glad I could be of service in the laughter department – as sad and tragic as this all is, it all too often crosses the line into down right absurd.

      PS Wallpaper hanging while intoxicated definitely more dicey than light stringing while intoxicated.

  4. “Santa doesnt come to our house.” Quote of the Year. Julio rules. In my head, I heard a “waaah waaah” fail sound effect in the air after he said that to the guy. Its literally the perfect way to tell someone “We dont have kids, jackass, and NOT because we dont want them!!! ” Im glad he was extra nice to you after that comment 🙂 p.s. I also LOVE Mondays. Must be a griever thing. I wrote a post about my Monday love too, about a year ago, so funny that we would both write about that. I love them for so many reasons which I wont get into here because it will take forever, so Ill tell you in person, but I enjoy mocking all the 9 to 5 ers and the “normal, non grieving” people who complain every single week when its Monday, because their precious weekend is over, and for me, my “weekend loneliness that used to be spent largely with my husband who is now dead” is OVER, so HOORAY MONDAY!!! Plus, I see Caitlin on Mondays, and good things seem to happen to me on Mondays . And, as you said, its just a Monday, which is exactly the reason I love it so much. Lets do lunch soon.

    • I remember you writing something earlier on I think, about people asking you if you had a nice weekend within the first year or two after Don died. I practically needed a diaper it was so funny. I remember thinking “Hey I’m no genius but couldn’t people at least assume that, with a recently dead husband, your weekend fell somewhere in the category of ‘not so fucking great'”????? Is that too much to ask?

  5. Hilarious, witty, on point…I thoroughly enjoyed this read! Thank you for sharing your creativity and wry sense of humor with all of us that understand these scenarios all too well! So funny!!!

    • Thank you, SN!! Last holiday season was much darker for me, this year the thing I struggled with most was the current lack of relevance and that feeling of being roped into the whole holiday thing whether you’re ready or not (and clearly, I was not). Both glad and sorry (this makes sense, I hope??) you could relate.

      • I surely can relate. 🙂 Maybe that shouldn’t be a smiley face…but I am glad to connect with others who understand.

  6. I loved this. I loved that you were kind to yourself, acknowledging that you were going through grief and transition and figuring out the future, and not beating yourself up for how you felt. “If I’m able to stomach it one day then I will. But until then I won’t.”

    The “food and drink” comment also sounded very familiar. Unfortunately, we became dependent on it, and we’re now belatedly trying to shake the habit.

    I loved that you found the humour in what we all know can be a very painful time of year. I loved that you owned your life “like a champ.” You sounded a bit like me – I like owning my life at times, especially when it might shock someone into thinking about everyone else who doesn’t fit the traditional stereotype.

    I loved too that at the end, you saw a light, and felt some hope for the future. This is such an accurate and honest picture of where you are at – a place I have been myself, but a place I am no longer.

    • I was thinking Mali, as I read all of your monumentally validating comments, of how so many of the things we need to do for ourselves to heal are minimized and put down by the outside world. Thank you, thank you!

      I read about your rose and sauvignon blanc ventures – we go down that path in the summer too:-).

      The whole me is sweeter, more nuanced and more self doubting than the one sided character I seem to use in my satirical pieces. There’s something quite thereputic about taking my ornery, blunt, indignant, cut the crap side and writing with just that. Beyonce’s got her Sasha Fierce and so do I!!!

  7. THIS: “Chamberlin continues to choose her truth over social protocol while appreciating those rare birds who are willing to roll with it.”

    Yes, that was my first step and I have been surprised on the upside with how many people are willing to roll with my truth and my unabashed disclosures. Really looking forward to sharing drinks, Amon other things, with you in 2016. Rock on, sister…

    • So good to know. I don’t have to tell you it’s all to easy to feel like the only one. Echoing my comment to Steph’s experiences a few back, there is hope. Gotta go get ready for June…..:-)

  8. THIS…
    “Lastly, a CT scan of Chamberlin’s entire being showed it to be stuffed with newness, grief, rebuilding, recalibrating, discombobulation, trying to re-envision her future while simultaneously grieving the one she lost, re-channeling her deep love for her children that don’t get to exist into what calls her and getting to know her new self. In addition, transformation and sadness were found to be oozing out of 70% of her pores”
    IS BY FAR THE MOST AFFIRMING STATEMENT I HAVE READ IN A LONG TIME! I burst into tears when I read it as it names EXACTLY why life has felt so hard and exhausting!! I found your blog back in October, and your raw, candid honesty has pushed me to own the parts of my story and grief that I tucked away. It has been immensely helpful in my recovery. Thank you so very much, Sarah!

    • That’s awesome. Thanks so much for letting me know, Kristina. I’ve found seeing AND owning myself in a world where the me’s are nowhere out there in the open to be a harsh experience. If my nutty candor can make anyone feel a little less crazy then I’m all for it. Our recoveries are certainly not for the meek!!

  9. What an exquisitely polished piece of writing!
    There’s too many great sentences in this piece to single out for comment.

    The reality of the journey sometimes travels easier with humour. Yours had me laughing so hard.

    Oh lucky you – Nerf wars…
    Last week I had the 4yo great niece ask me to come and colour with her and the 20 something year old nieces/nephews beg me to come play the new fad board game, because I’d be really good at it.
    I’ll have to try and introduce Nerf guns somehow – I’m sure they’d be a roaring success, and that would be with the adults, let alone the kids!

    • Thank you!! Absolutely on the humour – I’m always saying the absurdity of all this strikes me as much as the heartache. Sometimes, I just have to laugh. I recently read that dark humour is a natural part of the grieving process, needless to say I was NOT surprised.

      I’ve found the Nerf guns to be surprisingly enjoyable. They are an expense though so having a kid in the mix who is interested and wants to collect a few is ideal. I’d love to get back into coloring now that you mention it.

      To quote one of my brother’s childhood friends: “You’re only young once but you can be immature forever”. Amen to that.

  10. Another awesome post Sarah! Just reading this today and for me it was this ” “Jingle bells, my ass. If people don’t want my truth then they shouldn’t ask me dumb shit.” So perfect! First time I have laughed today. I have good days and bad days as we all do. Today a PG co worker posts on FB about her self esteem issues and how terrible she feels she looks. Of course the response in my head….so many would give everything to have what you do. I feel I am ever so close to having a conversation. Baby steps for me..in my own time..just like this grieving process. Pamela’s post above reinforces the need. Again..I feel so thankful for this community.

    • Thanks, Steph! I’m glad for the laughter (a necessity in the face of such darkness) and camaraderie in this community too.

      As far as your pregnant co-worker – I hear you on the frustration. I’ve found myself unable to connect with a lot of things the outside world considers “problems” for quite awhile now. It used to enrage me. As time has passed, I’ve been able to take more of a “She feels how she feels, and I’m not going to begrudge her that, however I’m not able to abide or empathize and it’s perfectly ok to let people know that if they push me” approach. But that’s just my process. I don’t think there is any “right” or “ideal” in these situations, they are just so triggering. What makes it all that much harder is that one is perfectly free to lament about such things as feeling less than totally desirable for a few months while our perspective is not yet out in the open.

  11. Thanks so much for the response. I do find myself balancing the thought of what should “normally” be celebrated or complained about in the face of my reality. I have attempted a conversation that started with…”I had endometriosis…her response was…what is that?” This from a woman in her thirties?? Luckily a phone rang and that was my ticket out of that. This person can’t comprehend my story and I’m fine with that. I’m choosing my battles and those that I feel are worthy of my story. I don’t know that is the right or ideal approach but that’s what is getting me through and I’m fine with that.

    • After reading this I started to think about how truly hard this communicating/expressing oneself is. I became overwhelmed! We face the major knowledge and awareness gap you describe along with the typically present towering presumption that anything entailing motherhood is harder/more valid.

      Choosing one’s battles is so wise, and something I tend to remember later rather than sooner so thank you for that. Hopefully we can all give ourselves a lot of credit for merely grappling with speaking/not speaking/how to speak at all.

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