“All I ever wanted was to reach out and touch another human being not just with my hands but with my heart.” – Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me
Christmas is a time of reflection for me, where I think about the year which has passed, and think of the one to come. Looking back on this year, it was a year filled with a lot of tension, turmoil, grief, loss, disappointment, anger and uncertainty. Tied with that, it was also a year filled of growth, love, togetherness, discovery and new beginnings. This combination is enough to send anyone to the Looney Bin! And let me tell you, there were many times when I felt like I wanted to admit myself to one!
Christmas this year will be very different, spending some days with my daughter, and for the first time without the presence of my ex, and other days completely alone while she is with him. I will be with extended family periodically throughout, and at work on some days, but the realities of the family I created with my ex no longer exists.
I was dreading this time of year, not knowing what to expect and definitely not wanting it to come, but I have come to accept the change. I’ve surrendered to the discomfort to take place and have allowed myself to feel the different emotions which I will experience. Not nice.
At Christmas, it’s easy get wrapped up in the commercialization of it all – buying presents, going to parties, decorating. I don’t lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas, but I must admit that I buy into the commercialization as I love thinking about what to get people, I love decorating the house, sending cards, listening to Christmas carols, the baking and the intimate get-togethers. This year my list for people to buy for is much smaller, I didn’t put up as many decorations (mainly because I hate taking them down, and that was something my ex always did), didn’t send any cards (only received 3!), I didn’t bake, haven’t really listened to carols until today and most get-togethers I attended on my own, without my daughter and ex.
I can finally appreciate how some people find Christmas the most depressing time of year. I was getting sucked into that void and tried desperately to not get lost. I’ve felt lonely many times since my separation, and for that matter, even prior. I have spent many days in the presence of others and have felt so very much alone. I guess Christmas just heightens this emotion for a lot of people, me included, because we’re expected to be happy, cheerful and enjoy the presence of others. That just makes us feel even more alone. At times I’ve felt as if a neon sign was placed over my head, blinking “LONER!” But how much is this happiness that people feel at Christmas fake, or really true? No one can really feel that happy all the time. I’m sure that all of us have experienced this loneliness at some point.
So, I’ve sat in the big, fat, uncomfortable lonely pile. What allowed me to give myself permission to feel this emotion was my recollection of what Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in Eat, Pray, Love: “When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”
I had a conversation with my therapist about loneliness, it was quite profound. One thing she said which stuck with me was that loneliness leads to nothing good, only detachment – especially when not faced head on. Through loneliness, when we don’t skirt around it, try to avoid the pain in our chest and heart which it brings, and we really feel it, we start to open up, flower. We become spiritual, the world becomes brighter, and we are then able to fully accept intimate relationships with others.
We aren’t alone with our loneliness. Loneliness is a human condition. We need to cultivate it. It tunnels into us making room for our spirit to grow. We’ll never NOT feel lonely, even when we find someone who we think completely understands us, loves us, and is our soul mate. No one can fill that void. The only way around it is to be yourself, accept yourself, love yourself, be comfortable with yourself. This is where the spirituality comes into play. Another verse from Eat, Pray, Love talks to this, when Liz was lying on the bathroom floor crying: “I’m here. I love you. I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you. There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me.”
I am currently in a transition period in my life. I have found that I’m closing the chapter to an old part of my life and opening a new one. Both are happening at the same time. It’s a scary yet exciting time. With the closing of the old chapter, it means endings to a lot of things such as traditions and relationships, and with it comes a lot of anxiety. I am happy to let go of the ones that have been life depleting, but there have also been many wonderful traditions, and friendships that I’m extremely saddened to see go. But I guess this is a price which needs to be paid to grow into who I am meant to be, to materialize my dreams.
When I think back to the past Christmases I shared with my ex and my daughter I get sad and lonely because I don’t want to let go of those times as many were very happy. And I shouldn’t have to let them go. As Lois Lowry said in The Giver “The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.” I know that I’m not the only one to think of those times as I’m sure that my ex and my daughter do as well. We can’t share them together physically, but perhaps we can share them with each other from within ourselves, from within our heart. Why dwell on the fact that we can’t be together, when we should celebrate that we have the memories that we have, that we were able to experience those times together, and build new ones from them. We need to sit within ourselves and find out how we can make new ones.
While doing this I have found that inside myself there is something special. There is a place where I live all alone, and no one can go to. It is where I can renew my love and life from the springs that never dry up. You have one too, and this lonely place, your loneliness isn’t a bad thing. When you feel lonely, it’s a sign to look within yourself and find something to live for, so great, that you may just want to die for because sometimes feeling lonely, that’s exactly what you feel like doing.
My Christmas gift to you is yourself.