I live in the house where merry died.

I knew it before, but it hit me hard tonight. I went grocery shopping late—my idea of fun when I have a free hour or two—and it was after dark when I got home. I pulled into my parking spot and killed my lights, and that’s when I saw it: twinkling lights to the left, bright multi-colors to the right. Snowflakes in the windows on the left, a snowman holding a “let it snow” sign to the right.

Then there’s my home: the middle unit of the three, and lightless. Worse still, I’d let the kids decorate. There’s garland on the handrail, but on only one of the two pillars that flank our walkway. Picture it: two pillars, one with garland that’s not even wound about in any way that makes sense. Instead, it winds up and then back down, then up and then to someplace I don’t even know. The other is bare.

Last year we purchased ornaments that we anchored into the garland. This year, a few look like they’re hanging on for dear life, dangling from a bent and scuffed up hooks. A few have fallen into the yard, and there they’ve stayed. Every time I pass them, I think I should pick them up. But I don’t.

And therein lies the problem.

2014 has been a year in which I’ve let things fall. I know those things are there, but I let them sit, and walk right past. I spent the second half of 2014 somewhere in the middle of where I was supposed to be—not in the present but not really in the past and definitely not paying attention to the future. I’ve been going through the motions but not truly interested in anything, and it shows. My credit score tanked (after I worked my ass off to build it back up) and my weight bolted. It’s almost like I’ve been thrashing around underwater, my eyes squeezed shut and holding my breath, but not swimming. Not sinking, either. Just floating to no place in particular.

stockings

And now it’s Christmas. The tree is up, but only because the kids did it. Erin decorated it, and I didn’t even sneak down and rearrange the ornaments so that the larger ones were at the bottom and the smaller ones at top. So it sits in the corner, top heavy and a little off center, looking not quite right but putting on its best game face. Like me.

We’ve talked about how it doesn’t feel like Christmas this year, my sweet kids and I. When we talk, I blame the weather. I say that if it would snow, it would feel more festive. They probably know it’s not the lack of white fluffy stuff, though; they’re smarter than I remember sometimes, and they know me better than anyone else.

Truth is, I’m dreading the actual holiday. We won’t have gifts this year. There’s no money to buy any, and that’s ok because truly, we have all we need. But I still feel guilty. I’ve perfected the art of smiling and saying ‘not quite yet’ when cashiers at Target ask me, as I’m buying spaghetti noodles and bagels and milk, if I’ve finished my holiday shopping, before sitting in my car and letting myself cry.

I’m relieved the kids will be with their dad for the actual holiday. I’m relieved that we’ll go spend time with family the next week, where they’ll open a present and have a fancy dinner. I’m thankful that others step up to keep a little bit of merry in their Christmas when I can’t even muster up the energy to clean up the ornaments in the yard.