Recollections by Richard Bleil
Once again, it’s Christmas Eve. The Christmas season is supposed to be a season of family, of miracles, of happiness, but for me it’s a somber time to reflect.
The truth is that I don’t like being around people for the holidays. I’m always lonely, and being around loving families when I have no one makes the holiday seem even lonelier than than when I truly am alone. My fear is that being around people will do nothing but bring them down as well, and I certainly don’t want to do that. Because I’m in a reflective mood, chances are that this will be a rather depressive post, so if you’re hoping for something fun and holiday like, well, that was yesterday’s blog, the holiday story that I am trying to make a regular tradition (it is the second year in a row for such a fable, in fact). Today, I’m guessing that if this post has any popularity at all it will be with those who are alone, and, frankly, there are more of us than we might like to admit.
Christmas eve is probably more difficult for me that Christmas formal. I’ve written on this before, but for my family, Christmas Eve represented the truest ideal of Christmas as I was growing up. See, on Christmas Eve, most people didn’t have much to do, and my mother started this tradition that, on Christmas Eve, she would put out meat and cheese trays, and all of the Christmas cookies she had been working on. Neighbors would “pop by” to share in the camaraderie. There were no gift exchanges, just camaraderie. This is what I think Christmas should be; just good friends, sharing each other’s company, and the warmth of each other’s love.
Unfortunately, even then, I felt alone. They would be gathered in the family room, having fun, talking and laughing, while I was alone in with the Christmas tree in the living room as I cried. This was likely the earliest lesson for me on being alone with people around. This is probably why Christmas Eve is so difficult for me.
More than once, I’ve tried to recreate the mystical magical Christmas eve family tradition, but never with success. I don’t know what was different, but it seems that people are busier on Christmas Eve than they used to be, or, maybe I’ve never been in one place long enough to let the tradition actually grow. As I sit here writing this, formally on Christmas Eve but only formally since it’s about quarter to one in the morning, I’m sitting in yet another new place. This time is a little bit different, since it’s a house that is, frankly, far too large for me. If I spend time here, maybe I’ll make friends to build the tradition, but I don’t hold out much hope for this particular Christmas miracle. No, once again, I’ll be sitting along in a dark house, and happily so I don’t ruin the magic for others.
While I’m alone, sadly, there are others who are equally alone. Each of us has different needs; some need to have somebody reach out to us to bring us out of our shell, and others of us need to spend time with our thoughts and feelings. It’s very sweet to invite the introverts in your life to join you for the holidays, but don’t be a nuisance about it, either. Let them bow out gracefully if that’s their decision, or reassure them that they’re welcome.
A couple of years ago, when I had a girlfriend (that I should not have), her cousin was getting married and, of course, she wanted me to go with her. I was really not looking forward to it, but she assured me that I wouldn’t be alone. She and I sat with her family at a large table at the reception. Eventually, she excused herself and left me at the table with her family. Then her family, one by one, all left. In the end, I was sitting at the table alone, even without the woman who called herself my girlfriend, for quite some time. I watched her cousin and her new husband making the rounds, speaking with each guest, and thought about what I would say when they came to greet me, although it was a waste of time since she never did.
There is nothing lonelier than being lonely when you’re not alone. This wedding reception opened a lot of old wounds, and reminded me of why I really don’t trust being around people. When I’m in a party, I tend to have my defenses up, just waiting for everybody to find somebody else to spend time with, which is also why I insist on driving myself.
So, if you’re still reading this, I wish you the very best Christmas Eve and Christmas, and ask that you be understanding of people, like me, who struggle.