I managed to hold it off until the day before Christmas Eve, but the sad sat down hard on my chest this morning. Driving in to the office about 7:45, alone in my car, Paul Anka was on the radio singing “Rudolph,” all the Christmas lights were shining through the gloomy fog in Centennial Park, and the SkyView ferris wheel was lit up and spinning.
And suddenly it felt like everything joyful and festive and hopeful and good in me was sucked out and only an incredible emptiness was left. I was suddenly acutely aware of my aloneness.
What is it about Christmas that does this? I’m no more alone than I am any other time of year. And I’m not “alone.” The office is full of people today. I’ll be with my family tomorrow. (And for me, gratefully, unlike some, I love being with my family.) But when I could’ve left the office this morning after my 9:00 meeting was over, I didn’t want to. The idea seems cold and empty and dark and – alone.
I tried to alleviate the “alone” this year. I invited someone to come to Christmas Eve at my mom’s with me (and to various other Christmas events as well) – but… well… yeah… you know. And maybe that makes me feel more alone too, when you try to not be alone and those attempts are rejected.
I know there’s got to be more to this feeling that descends on me this time every year. And I’m so glad that it’s only happened a few days before Christmas this time. (For the last couple of years, it hit at Thanksgiving and didn’t let up until Christmas was over.) But even a couple of days of feeling like this sucks!
I read a great article yesterday that feels very true to what I’m feeling. (And I can’t remember where it was so I can link to it, dammit!) But basically it said that feeling anxious about being alone is evolutionary. As cavemen (and women), if you were alone, you weren’t safe.
That’s very much what my aloneness feels like; the emotion feels like vulnerability and insecurity and danger.
I always feel guilty when I feel like this around the holidays. I have so much and I am so blessed. I’m not a big evangelist or testifier, but I truly believe if God hadn’t interceded in my life, I could very well be homeless, whoring, or dead right now from my alcoholism. I have found an amazing church that fits my incredibly liberal beliefs socially and theologically – five blocks from my house. More importantly, that church has become a home and a family for me. I have an amazing family of birth and amazing friends. I have stumbled accidentally into a comfortable career that allows me to provide for myself. I could go on and on.
There are people who ARE homeless. Children who are hungry. I have a friend who’s sitting death watch over his mother right now. There are people who’ve been disowned by their families. There are people wrestling mightily with addictions. There are people in prison. There are people in sexual slavery. There are people in abusive relationships. I could go on and on.
I don’t feel like I deserve to feel sad, but still I do.
I guess one of the hardest things is that (at least most years) I don’t want to just wish away the holiday. When I’m sad or upset about some event at other times of the year, I just tell myself that it’ll be over soon. But I really like Christmas, particularly Christmas Eve at my mom’s where my immediate family eats ham sandwiches in front of the TV, then opens stockings, then move to the living room where we listen to Christmas music on the stereo while we exchange gifts one by one. So I guess I feel very conflicted about loving it and wanting it to be over (or maybe just wanting to not feel sad) at the same time.
I think if I could ferret out exactly why I feel like this, I could make it better. Meanwhile, I have a man pinging me on eHarmony. He sounds interesting. We have a lot in common. He has pretty eyes. But when I get ready to respond to his questions, I’m terrified and can’t bring myself to do it. So maybe I DO want to be alone.
Can you simultaneously want to be alone and want to not alone at the same time. I can’t decide which one is scarier.
I’m living in a limbo of fear and anxiety. Ho ho ho.
I’ve always loved the holidays – the lights, the gifts, the music, the television specials, the anticipation! And I still love all those things, but a confluence of several factors including my divorce and the death of my dad have changed things. There is an empty place in my heart.
The holidays are supposed to be a time for joyful gatherings. But I always feel like a giant zit under a magnifying glass when I’m alone there these days. I rarely feel self-conscious, but inevitably I do at holiday parties.
I feel it particularly strongly at family gatherings. Except for my widowed mother and grandmother, I’m the only one not coupled up and the only adult without kids. It makes me feel like Forrest Gump at the Black Panther party, and like I screwed up all the things you’re supposed to be and do as a grown-up. Here I am, 46 years old and alone at the holidays without any “family.” And it’s my fault for quitting and walking away from my marriage because I thought I could find something better.
Disney and Hallmark and all the others have conspired to make me believe in happy endings, in love stories, in holiday magic. I have daydreamed countless scenarios where my magical holiday ending finally happens. My imaginary stories are so romantic, full of kisses and Christmas lights and love!
But a life’s true story isn’t wrapped up tightly in a bow after two hours. There are very few happy endings. And there are many, many sad and lonely people.
Every year at the holidays, I swear this time will be different. I’m going to beat the holiday blues. I’m going to love myself. I will be enough. I’ll have more gratitude. I will find joy.
I will not have a prolonged anxiety attack from Thanksgiving Eve through Christmas Eve.
So far on night one of the countdown, I’m not starting out too well…
The thing that hurts is the loneliness.
Maroon 5 – Maps
Howard Jones – What Is Love?
Alison Krauss – Tonight I’ll Be Lonely Too
This thing is not exactly depression.
It has tinges of anxiety. My heart races and I worry and overthink. The Paxil had that fixed for a while.
I’m not exactly sad.
Just unfocused and raw and blue. If I can just lay on the couch in front of the TV, I can just veg in my foggy stupid-head and never move and feel mostly blearily pacified. But if I have to get up and go to work, I can’t focus. And I can’t sit still.
And my head is full of words. But my mouth doesn’t want to speak any out loud.
I don’t have a diagnosis, only similes.
- It’s like when you’re riding a bike and you hear the click when you shift gears, but you can feel in the pedals that it didn’t quite take.
- It’s like that itch on the back of your calf that you scratch and scratch until it bleeds, but it still itches.
- It’s like trying to exist as the proverbial square peg in a world of round holes.
- It’s like that “Time’s Arrow” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where they discover a race of beings they can’t see because they’re “slightly out of phase with time.”
And I guess sad and depressed AREN’T the right words for what I’m feeling. I think the right word is alone. But it’s a different thing from feeling lonely. When I’m like this I feel alone when I’m here by myself. I feel alone when I’m in a full sanctuary at church. I feel alone at breakfast with Boo. And I’d feel alone if I were in a full baseball stadium.
It feels like I am just out of phase with the world.
What’s Good – Lou Reed
Life’s like a mayonnaise soda
And life’s like space without room
And life’s like bacon and ice cream
That’s what life’s like without you
Life’s like forever becoming
But life’s forever dealing in hurt
Now life’s like death without living
That’s what life’s like without you
Life’s like Sanskrit read to a pony
I see you in my mind’s eye strangling on your tongue
What’s good is knowing such devotion
I’ve been around, I know what makes things run
What good is seeing eye chocolate
What good’s a computerized nose
And what good was cancer in April
Why no good, no good at all
What good’s a war without killing
What good is rain that falls up
What good’s a disease that won’t hurt you
Why no good, I guess, no good at all
What good are these thoughts that I’m thinking
It must be better not to be thinking at all
A Styrofoam lover with emotions of concrete
No not much, not much at all
What good is life without living
What good’s this lion that barks
You loved a life others throw away nightly
It’s not fair, not fair at all
Oh, baby, what’s good?
Not much at all
Hey, baby, what’s good?
Not much at all
But not fair at all