Dear Mr. Grinch,
I get it after all.
Why you, why some people simply hate Christmas. It all makes sense now.
I’ve never been one of you. I may have been an elf in a former life, or a Who at least. I love the lights, ornaments, carefully picking out presents, writing Christmas cards, hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows. If it was up to me, I’d be celebrating Christmas all year.
Not just because of these little things I just listed of course, also because – most importantly – Christmas is about spending time with people you love. And I suppose that’s where it gets complicated, unbearable even, for some of us.
This had never occurred to me until one particular conversation with a colleague some time ago.
Me: Aren’t you looking forward to Christmas, too? It’s my favorite time of the year!
Me: … oh … how come?
Her: My father passed away on Christmas.
Me: Oh, I’m sorry … then that’s understandable of course …
The thing is, though, I didn’t really get it. I just thought I did. Besides, it was the only reply I could think of that made a little sense when someone tells you something awful like this.
Two days ago I got a phone call. It was my dad. I’d just sent him a picture of the heap of Christmas cookies I’d been making with my roommates. There’s no way on earth I could have seen it coming.
His voice gave him away immediately, though: shaky and sort of muffled. I felt my heart sink, right past my stomach, down to the very tip of my toes. Your dad isn’t supposed to call you in a shaky and muffled voice. If anyone, it should be your mom. My dad doesn’t give hugs unless he’s forced to. He’s a practical man down to his very core. When my sister told him she was pregnant (sort of a little too young, sort of not at the right time), he just shrugged and said: Things happen. He doesn’t f***ing talk like this unless something’s really wrong. And it was.
A death in the family or within your closest group of friends always feels like a smack in the face. This one felt like being punched with a crowbar. I sat down and mumbled something along the lines of I can’t believe it, this is terrible, I don’t know what to say. Then my mom took over the phone because, clearly, my dad was in no shape to continue this conversation; especially with me being the eloquent dialog partner that I was at this very moment.
I spent the rest of the night sorting through all sorts of emotions, fairly unsuccessful. I was trying to come up with a brilliant message to send to my sister, because this terrible piece of news hit much closer to her home. I didn’t want to call her because if I could’t come up with a couple of words in writing, how was I supposed to say something remotely resembling a sentence. It took me hours and the words still felt inadequate and silly and unhelpful. I sent the message anyways because I wanted her to know that I was thinking about her. Because I was, all night.
I still am. I’m thinking about her and her husband who’ve been through so much already. I’m thinking about my two wonderful nephews, in particular the older one of the two, who’s already had so many losses to claim in his short life that it’s breaking my heart whenever I think about it. I’m thinking about my dad’s voice. I’m thinking and thinking and it all seems so horrifying that at times I catch myself wondering whether none of this has actually happened and it’s all just a terrible nightmare.
I’m thinking and thinking –
and I get it.
At the same time, I don’t feel like it. I still love Christmas. I’m dreading this year’s holidays but I’m hoping they’re going to be like a little break from the days filled with grief, confusion and anger that are lying ahead.
This is not an anti-Christmas manifesto. If anything, I hope it’s a reminder for all of you to be grateful for your family and friends, a reminder to let them know how much you care (more often, we should tell each other every single day), a reminder to be there for each other, especially during the hard times.
Have a wonderful Christmas filled with laughter and love
(Daily Prompt 7:) When was the last time you felt really, truly lonely?
I put down my collection of Anne Sexton poems, turn down the volume of my favorite The Smith’s album (the world won’t listen) and think: I can’t really remember – I only ever feel really, truly lonely between 5 and 11 pm on weekdays and between 11 am and 12 pm on weekends.
Alright, that was my first reaction to the prompt – a coping mechanism: when it’s too difficult to face reality (I feel really, truly lonely too often; I feel really truly lonely right now), resort to humor/sarcasm and laugh at it instead. I always hope it might get annoyed and just go away. Of course, it never does. It’s a true pain in the a**.
This isn’t a blog post I meant to write. Right now, though, I can’t write anything else. So I’m writing this, sometimes you have to surrender to the words that want out the most to move on.
I’m just not sure whether I’ll publish it.
Some bits and pieces – realities that won’t go away:
If anyone ever cared to look close enough, they would see the scars on my shoulders (not the ones on my hips, the ones in the crook of my arm – and the ones on the soles of my feet, they healed quickly). They’re the remains of other times, times when I felt really, truly lonely, when I looked for someone to blame, someone to take it out on. In the end, I only took it out on myself.
These are old scars. That’s why sometimes I trick myself into thinking: I’m different now. I have learned how to hurt without hurting myself. Yesterday wasn’t a good day, this isn’t a good morning. It’s still early and I’m about to smoke my third cigarette for the day. Yes, I’m different now. But I haven’t yet learned how to hurt without hurting myself.
It’s funny how some things are more socially acceptable than others, even though in the end, they mean the same. It’s funny how no one ever cares to look close enough.
It’s funny how some things never change.
Loss: a lack, an absence somewhere inside – something you can’t quite locate.
Or maybe not.
Loss: a weight, something growing inside. Something spreading out until you don’t know where it ends and you begin, where you end and it begins, until it begins where you begin and it ends where you end, until you feel so heavy you wish you could truly lose: this feeling.
It doesn’t leave room for anything else: no room to think, to feel, to breath.
Loss: it’s hard to let go, even though all you want is to feel light again.
What does it mean to really, truly feel lonely? What does it mean to really, truly struggle? I’m struggling: I’m trying to see things how they are. I’m trying not to look for problems where there aren’t any. No real ones, at least.
A hurricane that sweeps across a city and leaves behind nothing but damage: a real problem. Flooded streets, destroyed homes, no electricity, death even: real problems. Is a hurricane that sweeps across your soul a real problem? Is the metaphor weary? Should I simply pull my sh** together and be thankful for the roof over my head?
Something I’d say to a friend: If you’re hurting – it’s very real. I don’t know if I should believe myself. I don’t know, but: the struggle, at least, seems very real. It always has.
I’m spending so much time cleaning up wreckage. This is not the best way to look for perspective.
How to deal.
I’m not my scars and my history, she sings. For a second I believe her: I can be different. But the feeling quickly fades. I don’t really believe it. I’ve been trying to run away from the scars, all the pieces of my history (maybe I love traveling so much because I’m constantly looking for a place free of all the things that could remind me of them).
Yet, they’ve always come back to haunt me: there may have been different stories along the road, but in the end, hurt always sat in the same places. Like picking at wounds you thought healed long ago to find them bleeding all over again. I have patterns I can’t break: I find myself caught up time after time and all that breaks is something in my chest – a red mass splintering like glass or broken bones.
I’ve been wondering: maybe it’s not really about getting rid of them anyways. Maybe it’s more about accepting them and accepting that, despite of everything, there is still room for more. Room to heal. Second chances. I’ve been wondering.
Do I really believe all this?
Conclusion (sort of).
Do I feel really, truly lonely? Today, I know I do. Tomorrow might be different. There’s room for more.