Thoughts by Richard Bleil
A couple of days ago, I wrote a piece about my friend’s daughter and recent events that reminded me that things change in different times of our lives. I often write about people I know, avoiding names (or using only very common names) so as to protect their anonymity (should it be so desired) as my friends are my greatest inspiration. What I didn’t tell you about my friend is that she actually has several children, a rather large family by the standards of mine, but still small compared to some families I have known, and I have had the honor of meeting at least most of them (maybe all?). They, as a family (now grown up and many with children of their own) are truly remarkable.
One of them I’ve spent little time with (I believe I met her and her children in person at a Renaissance fair once) has been relatively active on social media, and I’ve been interacting with her through that means. Today her kind heart has shown through as she tagged me in a post asking for addresses for Christmas cards. It’s such a sweet gesture to include me even in this relatively small way. As I write this, I’m thinking about how I will respond as, honestly, I don’t participate in Christmas activities.
Okay, I’ll make some Buckeyes, a peanut butter and chocolate confectionery that my family made every year for Christmas as part of the barrage of Christmas cookies. It’s a favorite recipe from Ohio where the state symbol is the Buckeye, and if you are from Ohio, you know that a toxic nut is the perfect symbol. But I’ll make these candies because, frankly, they freeze so very well. I’ll pack maybe a half-dozen in individual bags which will both make great gift grab bags throughout the year and be a sweet treat for myself that will last, if I forget that they’re in there, until next year. But other than that, I won’t go out and disturb this family event with my friends, and I don’t participate in gift exchanges, and don’t even send out cards. I have one hold-out friend who still stubbornly sends me cards, and while I love him and his family dearly, I’ve even lost touch with him lately. The truth is that I’m just really not a very good friend.
As difficult as the holidays are for me, always triggering a deep and dark sullen depression, I do love to see all of the happiness and joy it brings to my friends and their families. I play the Grinch on social media, but it’s not really who I am. As much as I absolutely hate all of the Christmas music and flat-out commercialism, the joy of family togetherness and seeing them participate in so many great activities warms the cockles of my cold dead Frankenheart.
Growing up, my family did participate in holiday activities, but to be honest, I never really felt like a part of it, even then. I can’t say why, and I realize that it has more to do with me than with them, but it just wasn’t there. Seeing my friends with their families enjoying togetherness and warmth is what I wish I had had growing up. Today I’m very much alone. I’ll do something for my cats, but frankly, they will never understand and as many treats as they get every day, they won’t feel like it’s anything so special.
This is my Christmas, and no, I don’t want anybody to feel sorry for me. I’ve brought this on myself, and although I’m never happy, it’s pretty much the happiest I can be. I’ll watch sacrilegious movies like “Life of Brian” and “Dogma”, play violent video games, and isolate myself from my friends so as not to inflict my darkness on their bright holiday. I’ll come out of it on the other side and move on.
You might have friends or even family members who are similar. We’re alone and lonely, and just trying to get along as best we can without making everybody around us miserable. As my usual reminder, invite us, but don’t try to force us. It’s really important to know that people have not forgotten about us, but it is also up to us as to how we will handle this most dark and difficult time of year. My Christmas habits are a defense mechanism, plain and simple, and I realize that. Maybe this year something will change, and it is important to feel like if I do show up, that I will be welcomed, with love and free of judgment. And if I do show up, please remember to avoid criticism in all forms. “I’m glad you showed up this year” is the same as saying “you didn’t show up in the past so why today?” Remember that the past is the past, and reality is what it is, and if we feel loved and welcome this year, then maybe, just maybe, it’ll become a habit.