Opinion by Richard Bleil
The fact is that I really don’t like the holiday season. I look at the happy couples and families, the joy, the closeness, the love and all it does is serve to remind me just how isolated and lonely I really am. I walk past jewelry stores and am reminded that I have no special someone for whom to splurge, and hobby stores and am reminded that I have no children. It’s a miserable, cold existence, and I prefer to keep to myself in isolation than to risk infecting anybody else with my dark moods. In a way, I’m trying to protect my loved ones by distancing myself from them.
I’ve noticed, however, that when I have special people in my life it’s different. In those rare years that I actually had a special woman in my life, and the even more rare years when she had children, I did enjoy the holidays. I enjoyed finding surprises, and spending more on gifts than I should have. I loved spending time with them, playing games, helping with meals, and being part of something larger than myself.
I’m so tired of my world stopping at my own skin.
Until recently, I never really stopped to think about why, exactly, the holiday season is so difficult for me. She is a grandmother of a moderately large and close-knit family. She was telling me about their traditions. She told me about the special Christmas tree ornaments. They still hang the ornaments that have special meaning for each child, and that child would retell the story of the ornament when it was hung. As a family, they buy a new special ornament every year, an ornament that symbolizes something important and significant that happened to the family as a whole that year. She told me about the feasts of the season, and the extended family members that would stop by to visit.
As for my holiday past, I remember sitting alone in a dark living room, staring at the tree and crying while the family was downstairs in the family room, celebrating with neighbors, but seemingly never concerned about where I might be. I could never bring myself to socialize among the couples and warmth feeling always left out, different, and somehow not truly accepted. My dad would talk about sports with the men, in conversations I could never join in, and my mom would visit with the women where I certainly never belonged. My sister would be with her click of friends, or boyfriend as the case may be, and me? Well, like I said, in the living room.
I can’t cast blame. It was me. It’s always been me. I have terrible socialization skills (obviously), suffer from depression, and, well, let’s just say I’m odd. I’m certainly not concerned about my social status, and realize I’m rather on the geeky side, long before being geeky was fashionable. So, yes, it was all my own fault. I get this.
So, what do I do about it? Who says there is anything to be done?
For me, it’s too late. I have no idea how to fix my situation, and I certainly have no idea how to learn to do it even if I wanted to. But, at the same time, I think about all of those families out there, and all of the people, and children, who just don’t feel like they fit in.
This holiday season, please keep an eye out for those who are feeling isolated and lonely. Check in with your friends, and invite them to events, but please never try to force them. Talking with them and inviting them will mean more to them than you might know, and knowing that they are even welcome, well, who knows? Maybe they’ll surprise you. On top of that, if you have children or grandchildren, in the midst of the celebrations, take a moment to look around and do a quick headcount every once in a while. If you have a child that is not joining in, make sure that you check on them. Maybe they just snuck off to take a nap, which is fine, but if they are isolating themselves and feeling lonely, be sure to take a little time away from the party to sit and talk with them as well. Validate their feelings so they know that anything they are feeling is fair and legitimate, but also let them know that you love them and invite them to talk about what they are feeling. Maybe you’ll understand, or maybe you won’t, but listening, just listening, is a great way to reassure them that they are loved and important, and be sure that they know that if and when they are ready to rejoin the party, they have nothing to be ashamed of, and are welcome. It’ll mean the world to them, and maybe they’ll have wonderful memories of traditions rather than the dark loneliness of being separated just a room away.