Our Presents? Our Presence.

Friday night after Thanksgiving, we were upstairs in the living room half watching TV. I was in my chair on my tablet and Melissa was on her phone. Both of us were still worn out from Thanksgiving. Everything about it was stressful and we came home completely spent. All of us were. Suddenly, Melissa looks up and says “what if we just go away for Christmas?” What she had no way of knowing was that I was on VRBO looking at rental cabins when she asked the question.

So we found a cabin and made the decision that our family was going to enjoy a nice, quiet Christmas, with just us and it has been exactly what we all needed. It has been such a wonderful, quiet, peaceful time for all of us. I came up last Thursday, just me and Chief, for a couple of days of solitude. Until Saturday, it was just the 2 of us. We sat on the porch and watched it rain, and listened to the creek. We walked and explored and were in no hurry to go anywhere.

Melissa, Brett and Colby followed me up on Saturday and we have been having a blast since they walked in the door. We have laughed and talked and sat in the quiet. We went Sunday, Monday and Tuesday without ever turning the TV on in the cabin we have rented just outside of Blue Ridge. We have napped, eaten, sat, read, listened to music on nobody’s schedule but our own, and it has been wonderful.

What I have done more than anything since I got here on Thursday is sit in quiet solitude. At night, while everyone else has gone off to bed, I have laid in the complete darkness of this house our in the woods. While that may not be a big deal to you, sitting still in the quiet was not possible for me. The one thing that doesn’t stop when it is time to is my brain.

Starting in the spring, nights became something to dread. Sleep likely wasn’t coming and I knew it. The minute I would turn the lights out and try and settle into bed, my brain would explode with activity. As we went from summer into fall, nights became terrifying. It became the time when I couldn’t hide with the distractions. Late in the fall, it was the nights where my most negative thoughts came.

This last week, I have been able to just sit. Sometimes I think, sometimes I just listen and look, but what I could do that is entirely new for me is to control the pace of the thoughts. It isn’t easy and sometimes I do feel the thoughts starting to get away from me I am able to return my focus and to quiet those thoughts. My mind is clear. I have been able to concentrate enough to not only read, but able to lose myself in what I was reading. (While I typically read 80-100 books a year, this year I have read 3.)

But we couldn’t do a big Christmas this year. It is still very overwhelming for me to be in large groups in small areas. It is so much better than it was, but I am just not quite there yet. There is just too much going on at one time. People who are suddenly uncomfortable around me now, make me uncomfortable. So we decided to save our family of 5 the stress of it all and we took off to the mountains.

Melissa and I both saw this as an opportunity to do something we haven’t done in a number of years. When we first married and moved to Camp Lejeune, it was “just us” for Christmas. We were in NC and all of our family was in Georgia. The closeness of just your family of 3, then 4 with nobody else around was what we knew. We haven’t done that since 1996.

Now, it hasn’t been the most popular decision with our families, it is what we needed. We did what was best for our family and that’s it. We weren’t looking for anyone to understand or agree, just to support us knowing what we needed to do.

We didn’t even do presents this year. The boys got their Christmas money from us, but we didn’t do anything outside of that.

Our presence, our true presence with one another in these moments were way more than any presents could have been. After the last 14 months and what this family has been through, I think we are all most thankful that we are all still here.

I am in the best place I have been in a very long time.


Remember to love yourself first, always.



3 thoughts on “Our Presents? Our Presence.

  1. Like I said today, this Christmas could have been so different. I am so thankful that you are still here and that you are taking such good care of you. To have you, Brett and Brenden all still here and healthy after the roads each of you have traveled to mental health is the best Christmas gift ever for me. I love that we listened to our hearts together and took this Christmas Vacation in the mountains! I love you for always and forever.


  2. Sounds like ya’ll had a wonderful time in the mountains. I love Blue Ridge, it is so beautiful and peaceful up there!
    Love all of You!


  3. Beautifully said and well done on having the courage it takes to do what you know is best for you and your family, no matter how unpopular your decisions may be to others. I know from experience how difficult it is to try to fit in, especially in gatherings when the cacophony becomes overwhelming to all of the senses. It has taken me a long time to fully grasp that loving myself first, by stepping out of situations that feel detrimental to my mental health, doesn’t mean that I don’t care for family or friends. Some understand, some don’t. Still taking baby steps by reminding myself, though, that it’s none of my business what others think of me. We are all unique, like puzzle pieces, all of which are needed to complete the entire puzzle, but which can’t be forced into spots where they don’t fit—if, that is, they want the true picture. (Okay, I’ve taken the liberty of sharing some of my own feelings here, and I hope that’s okay with you.)

    The experiences you have described during your time in the mountains sounds idyllic and very healing, a wonderful time, precious memories for your family which you can carry in your hearts every day of the year. Thank you for writing this blog. I support you in your journey and admire the example you and Melissa are setting for your boys.

    Much Love, and may you all enjoy the presents of your presence every day of your lives!


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