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It was the week for Christmas, my husband was deployed, and I lost it

It was the week for Christmas, my husband was deployed, and I lost my sh*t.

It was the Friday before Christmas. My husband was deployed to Afghanistan, and my only focus was to ensure our children had a wonderful Christmas. Well, as wonderful as it could be when your dad is deployed.

It was the second time he had been away for Christmas. During this deployment, I had taken up swimming three to four nights a week. It was a great stress release and kept me somewhat fit.

While I enjoyed swimming and looked forward to it, somedays it was a hit or miss as to whether the pool would be open in the evening as it would close unexpectedly. 

That year was the first time Canada had had causalities in December leading up to Christmas. It seemed every Friday, which was Saturday in Afghanistan, our troops were targeted.

That Friday began with not hearing from my husband via email. That was strange and might have meant he wasn’t at his camp.

The next blow was when I went to the post office, with my notice to pick up the camera I had bought for our oldest daughter for Christmas. After standing in line, I made my way to the counter only to be informed that there was no package for me. They didn’t have it. I was livid.

The final blow came when I called the pool to confirm it was opened. However, I was told it was closed. I lost my sh*t.

I called my fireteam partner, raging, not at her, but the circumstances. I could only share with her the camera was missing, and the pool wasn’t opened. I didn’t want to upset her by letting her know our husband’s maybe on patrol.

She shared with me a few of her observations about myself. I slammed the phone receiver down and vowed to not talk to her again.

On Saturday afternoon, I received a call from her Pampered Chef consultant informing me she was dropping my friend’s order off and shared with me my friend had told her that I would drop it off at her house.

I was in disbelief. Leave it to my friend to have me drop off her order when I wasn’t speaking to her. Well, at least in my mind, I wasn’t. Now I was committed to dropping off her Pampered Chef order on Sunday.

Well, I did the only reasonable option available to me that night. I watched Love Actually and drank a bottle of Baileys. I can assure you it was not premeditated. The Baileys was supposed to be for a cheesecake I was going to make. However, I did learn Baileys goes very well with Love Actually.

Slightly hungover, definitely cooled off, the next day, I bundled up and headed to my friend’s house. When I entered her home, her loyal lab greeted me as he always did. Her girls were watching television, and she shared with me how her plans with her family had fallen through, and she didn’t spend Saturday with them. She looked how I had felt on Friday, defeated. Tours do that.

We chatted, and I was on my way to Walmart to pick up last-minute items for myself and for my friend. Things were back to normal. We spoke a few more times during that week. She called on Christmas Day, elated that her family was being posted back to her hometown that summer. I was sad for me. But happy for her.

The next day everything changed. I could barely make out what she was saying when she called. The next thing I heard a man’s voice, he gently told me her husband had died. All I remember is driving to her house. The stillness of everything. The shock. The grief. I don’t know when it occurred to me, but I remember being grateful her Pampered Chef order had been dropped off at my house, forcing me to talk to her.

What I learned that year is, while all the trappings of Christmas surround me, making sure I give the right gifts, my family has the perfect holiday, and my home is immaculate and tastefully decorated, when I strive for that Hallmark moment, it is easy for me to get caught up in the expectations of what I want when what I really need at this time of year and the greatest gift I can give myself is acceptance because that leads to peace.

As it is four days before Christmas, and I have a task list the size of Santa’s nice list. Along with Christmas, our family is blessed with a wedding four days after Christmas. I have been caught again with expectations, not acceptance.

I need to remember what I learned that year. To take each moment at a time, and when the opportunity arises, make sure I accept life on life’s terms. Grab it. Take it. And accept it. Because when I try to live my life meeting my expectations, I am usually sorely disappointed. Plus, I never know what the future will bring.

If you are flying solo this year for the holidays, the only advice I offer you is simply this, be gentle with yourself.

Wishing you and your family a very Merry Christmas and all the best in 2020.

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Cyndi Mills

Over the last 24 years Cyndi Mills has had the opportunity to move around the country with her husband, Scott and their four children. Having lived in Chilliwack, Edmonton, London and Petawawa. She stumbled into the world of journalism by accident – looking for a career that could give her the flexibility to work from home to be with her children and support her husband's military career. Cyndi is also a military parent as her two oldest children are in the military.

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