So the holidays (or holiDAZE, amirite? Hahahahaha, I’m sorry) are rapidly approaching and in the past I’ve been blessed (#blessed) to have this be a happy, cherished time of the year. I’ll admit right out that I’ve never really celebrated the religious aspects. It’s never been the big draw for me. My celebrating usually stemmed from other things; people being a little nicer to each other, decorations and bright lights that made it fun to walk down the street at night. I’d be remiss if I didn’t throw out that old demon, consumerism, but not because of gift getting (although I am a material girl in a material world). I love picking out the perfect gift for someone and watching them light up as they get something completely unexpected but still wanted. I also love hot chocolate with marshmallows, snow (although we don’t see much of it’s kind around these parts), unique holiday sweaters, and parties. Most of all, I love being around my family and friends. Not that I don’t love them year round, of course, but something about this time of year seems to make people hug a little bit longer. People feel more free to be affectionate with each other.
Maybe that’s the biggest reason I love this time of year. It helps me meet my emotional needs without having to feel like a weirdo for asking for a hug or feel needy for asking to spend time with someone. The shorthand of this is that I get what I need without having to be vulnerable. Which is, I grant you, not right. Vulnerability – true, open, warts-and-all honesty – isn’t a weakness. But it is difficult to do if you’ve been closed off for a long time. I’m on being better at that but it takes time (insert one day at a time platitudes here).
This year, Christmas feels a little different to me. Part of it is that, for the 2nd time in my entire life I’ll be waking up alone on Christmas morning. It seems like a shallow thing to whine about when my parents will be down a few days later and I know there are so many people out there who face being alone every Christmas. But it’s such an abrupt departure from what I know and runs counter to me trying NOT to isolate myself. My immediate family, or the family that I interact with on the regular, is tiny but mighty. With them not being near, it amplifies the smallness of us (me, the universe, life, people). Not that I haven’t felt this in some way after my brother died – Christmas never was the same without him. There is a TJ sized hole in my life that will never leave me no matter what I do to fix it (better to acknowledge it than ignore it). But my parents always found a way to still make the time of year, the day, special for us. I know that part of the reason they worked so hard to make it big was me. They’re not half-bad sometimes.
The other part of this is that without the traditions, it just doesn’t feel as magical as it has in the past. It’s just another weird marker showing that I’ve well past childhood. In childhood, there’s this innocence and wonder around the season. It’s why kids can believe a fat, bearded old guy in a red velour suit can globe-trot in a short span of time and doesn’t question the ethics of his elf workforce. When you grow up, you’re expected to grow out of that. Which sucks. I like Santa. Even the kids trying to be invisible can see and be seen by Santa. Plus, he FLIES. IN A SLEIGH GUIDED BY EIGHT GIANT HORNED DOGGO-TYPES. That’s the best.
Let’s get to the real meat of this though – my real fear permeating all of this: what if all this, this affectionate feeling amplified by the time of year but now a little dim, means that I am unloved. That in spite (or because of) everything I have tried to do, I am unloved and unlovable and nothing will change that. I cannot be changed. I am meant to be alone. That’s probably not a feeling unique to me. I know I’m not really alone but I do feel lonely. The positive thing that is different this year is that I know that these feelings aren’t the reality. And because I’ve been working to get better and I take my meds and go to my therapist, I can proudly say to all those thoughts: F&*K that noise.
Here’s where I look at my reality. I have a comfortable home and it keeps me warm and dry (or cool and dry depending on the weather). I have friends who care about me and just need to know when I need help (and they really are the most amazing people). I have two parents who try their best to understand me and want nothing more than to help because they love me. I have two horse-monster puppies that, despite their destructive and chaotic natures, give unconditional love and are really good at snuggles. I can pay my bills and afford medications and doctors appointments and enjoy all the privileges afforded to middle class white folks. And I have a video game that allows me to punch actual Nazis in the face. Who could ask for more than all of that? I mean, I could. I think that would probably be greedy, though.
There’s a Pearl Jam song with a lyric that has stuck with me for years (not Jeremy – although I do know some of it). “Yeah I’m a lucky man/To count on both hands/The ones I love/Some folks just have one/Yeah others they got none.” That lyric used to unnerve me, probably because I saw myself in the latter and not in the former. I don’t see myself that way now if I sit and actually examine everything. I AM lucky. I have several people I love and I can count them on both hands. It isn’t as though I just magically started meeting people though. I made myself open to people (or I tried and am still trying – look at me, ma, no hands).
The thing to do now, and going forward regardless of season, would be to tell those people that. They may know I love them, but knowing something doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to be heard from someone. And my feeling of loneliness, it’s only temporary. I can move past it. If it comes back, I can do it all again.
So, dear reader, I wish you well this holiday and beyond. I hope you have someone to tell you love them. If can’t think of anyone, I want you to know you’re loved. This feeling, this loneliness, it’s just for now – not forever. Christmas may be just a day but people can make everything magical and that can be any day.