Friday, December 25, 2009

Arrive at this post a little lost? Or tired? Fatigued and isolated?

‘Alone and ‘Xmas’ or ‘Winter Holiday’ are the same words words for me. That is true for a lot of people. We had just moved to the UK and knew no one, and bought a pot and made mexican chili as we watched the streets empty, as people moved indoors, drove and saw others, and did whatever people do on Xmas. Day after day of silent streets. Each year we thought it would get better, until I gave up and drove around picking up hitchhikers in the snow on the day the taxi’s wouldn’t run.

We thought when we moved back to Canada, things would be different. Being in the same city with dozens of family who don’t invite you, or a spousal work event you are invited to reminds you only that this isn’t your holiday.

I think I am not the only one who feels this way. Yes, it is the time of Japanese oranges. It is the time of snow and winter, and night and solitude and isolation. It is a time when I get dressed up as a form of social resistance. But it is still cold.

So here it is for an eve and a night and a day and an eve and the computer and everyone seems away. They have gone to friends, gone to relatives, gone to vacations. Gone.

That just is what is.

People get depressed when they sit, or lie, during those hours and days leading up to this day knowing there are gatherings they don’t attend, parties uninvited to, family uncaring, or family dreaded. There are people for whom these dark days of the year are a battle when depression and apathy,when sometimes I lean my head against a window and feel the cold, wondering if the window were to shatter and your jugular was severed, would that be good or bad?

Xmas is the time people come back to college and find bodies who no one missed for ten days. It happened just down the road from me.

That just is what it is.

I fight my demons, looking at my future, wanting to write about my future, about ‘a future’ which I can try to have with Cheryl and Linda but that is for tomorrow. For those who come today, it is too much time, too much time alone. Too much computer time to stop those thoughts. Too much. See, if joy is center stage, then the broken, the lonely, the left aside should be up there too, even if in the corners.

Sometimes meeting relatives is worse than being excluded. Inane smiles the same for everyone, statements without meaning, eyes without caring: a mask. And everywhere people mouthed empty words, until I was empty. Xmas asks for self reflection, honesty, openness, so often the strongest mask of all goes up, a mask slightly more complex than the everyday mask. So that in the end, how could love, or any emotion but isolation occur?So yes, totally shut anyone from seeing or reaching you, is that success? 'One more round of drinks please.'

Email me, ask for a virtual postcard, talk about tea and what kind you like, talk about what manga you read, what you don’t, take a chance. Fighting is about taking risks, and I fight, this year like every other, the social and almost physical force that brands me: “See Elizabeth, this is a holiday for humans, not for you.” And “That is why you are alone, because no one cares.” I know people care, I hope those who read here know that I care. But damn, it sure is a hard force to fight against, isn’t it, the holiday blues.

So I’ve come for you, you were lost, and now we are found. You and I are found. Maybe still feeling alone, but two together feeling alone. Not as bad.

I want to be with friends, even if it is silently, even if it is in a world which does not value us so much. It is okay to be silent, it is okay to be a bit down. Tomorrow, body willing, I will write about that, once this day has passed. Once we have sailed away together through it, we can plan together how to meet, face to face (figure out the name of the boat). But no, this does not mean I am signing your marriage application to get into the country (I get some odd spam).

I hope for those who have family and joy and all the rest that you get the joy many do get from this time. I hope that for those like me, who after years of trying, know it is a day to be endured, or one in which your siblings try to make you 14 again, and it all seems like a film on repeat, then come away with us for a while.


kathz said...

I hope that you have some happy Christmas moments this year. It's Christmas Day here in chilly England and I want you to know that I'm thinking of you and sending love and best wishes, even if just in the ggap between Christmas lunch and Doctor Who.

I'm having a very quiet Christmas and find I'm enjoying the chance for some rest and reading.

Lene Andersen said...

I'm here.

Working, of all things (I need therapy), but it has to get done, so what better day than the guaranteed quiet of Christmas Day?

Family is many things and one of them's the chosen kind. You are part of my family, Beth and therefore part of my celebration, even if we have to do it virtually and online. And aren't we all family in a way here in your comment box, you and us who read your blog? We're here, we support each other, we laugh together, we show up. That's family, extended, online, chosen. Not traditional, but that means we don't get in the traditional family fights.

I'm here.

Aviatrix said...

I remember the teenage year that I tearfully rebelled against Christmas, declaring it to be NOT joyful to spend days of preparation for a house full of people and everyone pretending to get along. My mother confided that everyone felt like that, and I thought it was a revelation, until nothing changed. Christmas and other togetherness holidays are cruel. The people who have people can arrange to be together any time and the people who have no one cannot create togetherness out of nothing. The holiday just mocks them.

I prefer to be scheduled work on Christmas, because then I am doing something useful, something I know how to do, and also I am freeing up co-workers who want the day off.

And now I'm three minutes late starting the great turkey cooking escapade, step one in the great pretending to enjoy Christmas.

wendryn said...

Still here. I'm sending an email. You aren't alone.


Anonymous said...

Hello Elizabeth,

I read your post and saw there were no comments and I wanted to let you know that someone out there had read it. I have a form of autonomic dysfunction, but not the degenerative type. I can't drink tea, except for herbal because I am not supposed to have caffeine, doctors orders. I don't read manga but I love the last picture you posted of the girls on the boat. It reminds me of my own trip to Hawaii. I went there to SCUBA dive with a group of girls. It was so beautiful. We hiked the the volcano on the big island. It was the last time I was healthy. It is a beautiful scene. I don't know why these things happen to good people. You seem like a good person and I am sorry for your suffering. I hope you will be able to find something small to enjoy today. -- A Christmas Elf

reddog said...

I know we've not been formally introduced, but I've been reading your blog for a while. Care to share a pot of tea with me? I've got Kenyan tea in my tetsubin, and plenty of lemon, cream and sugar. Or I've other teas if you like.

I am *definitely* a tea snob, and will happily discuss tea for a while.

Kate J said...

I know what you mean about being excluded from Christmas, all that family stuff etc... my own family had a very ambivalent attitude to Xmas, and now my parents have both died, and neither of my brothers is anywhere near (and don't particularly want to know me, either...)

so it's just me, my partner and son. We're not religious, we don't eat meat, we don't go for all that TV packaged nonsense, so what's left? It always seems a bit flat, so now, after our meal, my son has gone off to his computer, my partner is dozing off... and here I am, just me and my laptop, touching base with my friend Beth, all that way over there in Canada.

So, on this day of days, I hope you and Linda are just spending some time together, the two of you, and sharing your love. I hope for a brighter future for you, for Linda, and for everyone in your online family, which seems to be more "there" for you than your "real" family.
Love, peace and more...

Defying gravity said...

Dear Elizabeth

I just wanted to say hello on this day.


cheryl g said...

Christmas has been a lonely time of year for me for a while. Since I moved to the west coast t seems like I am often an after thought when it comes to contact from my family. So I have spent Christmas alone for many years.

This time of year is a struggle with depression for me. There are too many dark cold days, too many reminders that I live a life apart from most people. As holidays go I much prefer Halloween.

I am fortunate because I now have family close by that do truly care about me. That family is you and Linda. With you in my life I feel less alone and I know I will get through this depressing season. As you say, two together feeling alone isn’t as bad.

Devi said...

I, sadly, know what you mean in several ways. I'm glad you're there; and I hope you're at least the tiniest little bit glad that I'm there. It means the world to me, that someone understands.

I hope it won't ring hollow when I send you my best Christmas wishes.

Tea? I like all kinds, such as green tea, and the one with cinnamon and orange flavour. Wish I could share a cup or two with you.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Devi: I'm glad your here, that I have a good friend to spend Xmas with. Turns out there are many kinds of green tea, and that orange one with cinnamin, is that Orange Pico (sic) picco? Oh well, not so good on the spelling.

Cheryl: yeah, people talk about 'family tradition' and I think of 'so your family leaves you behind at a rest stop too?', lets just say that I can't relate to those films or books with multigenerational families talking to each other - it isn't that I don't have a multi-generational family in this city, it is just, I dunno, maybe they all use Xmas to polish guns and crossbows or something. Many of my aunts and uncles are couples which take seperate vacations, so I don't know if even their family gets together. I am glad you are here so though being alone sucks, it doesn't suck as much and soon we will go into Jan (when everyone is depressed!).

Wendryn: Well, not anymore, but in a way, yeah, I have to live at a time speed and with a different focus than everyone else and no one really want to change to come down to that speed. I really, really like the picture of the mask, that is often how I see people, so protecting, so self protected that nothing gets in, nothing gets out.

Defying Gravity: Hey, I want to say hey back and hope good things happen.

Aviatrix: I like particularly that you noticed that nothing changes. I fail to understand that people can have collective misery in being together and not at least TRY to change things for the better over the course of 30 years?

I liked to work on Xmas too, because a) people were really grateful for me working, b) People were very sympathetic for me working and c) I got 3 times the pay. - good all around. Sadly, the money for being really ill isn't what it used to be. Oh darn, forgot my tin cup outside of the church!

Lene: True, I am just glad you get home care, we cancelled because we have had holidays booked before only to have the agency cancel on me an hour from the day.

I agree, I hope that people can come to here and the comment box and see that they are not alone and that I do care.

Yes, not traditional, and this means you can be a nudist and comment naked if you want and no one will be upset (well, except some cop's wife in Virgina).

Kathz: I had a bunch of seizures, a clonic-tonic and others which made me sleep 12.5 hours, so um, I was planning on watching The Bishop's Wife but that got eaten up. How did the queen's speech go, did she get drunk for once, wear wild clothes and start ranting about the 'bloody young people today'? I think that is why everyone tunes in, for the year she really loses it.

Have a nice Xmas.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Reddog: yes, your calling card has never been given to my lady in waiting, and we haven't had a social connection introduce us - but I think we can talk anyone, we will just hide behind the ferns in the conservatory (sorry, I have an odd sense of humor post seizure, I think it is random sections of my brain firing).

Okay, well, I like Sri Lankian black, with the high grade full leaf tea but I don't know where to get it, do you? I once went to Portugal's great import/export houses on the lane where the Eiffel elevator takes you (he made it the same time as the tower), and bought some tea there. I like La Fanu's writing about the addiction of Green tea and how you start seeing supernatural monkey's who drive you insane (it must have been some pretty strong green tea they were importing in 1850 - odd that Dublin has tea Houses in 1740 but Green Tea doesn't arrive to the UK until early 1800's?). Have tried but no supernatural monkeys from tea, not yet, how about you?

Anon: Don't worry, there is no shame in not reading manga.....yet. I can recommend some - like Lovely sick for romance amoung those who are ill, or Translucent for chronic diseases, Into the Light for Austism Spectrum Disorder, or Flock of Angels for genic disorders. That is just the start for illness' - the thing of manga is that no matter who you are, you exist in manga-world.

Hawaii is taxing for someone with autonomic failure, particularly if you have lack of, limited sweating - but it IS worth it, and with rental vans and air conditioning, great. Wow, rated in scuba? I don't think my lungs could handle that but they did okay with putting my face in water. I wish I could back to Hawaii too, it was a different kind of trip than Hawaii but unique too. I have to look forward and find something like that in the future.

Kate J: Thanks for your email, I hope too for a brighter future for all, and for taking advantage of a Xmas fair if it near you for port and glow wine and cheese - port salut went on sale so we got that.

Kathz said...

I didn't watch the Queen's speech but I expect if she'd done anything really interesting it would have made the news. I thought of watching the Midnight Mass from St Peter's on-line but didn't so missed the excitement there. However my son and I tuned into the end of Christmas Top of the Pops to see what they'd do about the unexpected Christmas number one - Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the name". After the awful cover versions from the last few years, it was good to see something with real anger behind it. The Radio Times said there would be an opportunity to sing along but the programme ended the transmission before the last lines of the song so that the nation couldn't join in by screaming, "F*** you, I won't do what you tell me" which would have been a great accompaniment to all the holly and Christmas hats. (I don't know if you read about the campaign for Christmas number one here but it tapped into a lot of anger and people's sense of being manipulated and I was greatly cheered by the success of Rage, for all the arguments about it.)

Margaret Patton said...

Another beautiful post, Beth. Your writing gets more eloquent and insightful every time.

yanub said...

Beth, I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to get online yesterday. I saw my daughter and son-in-law, and then pretty much slept the rest of the day. Sooooooo cold. Not Canada cold, but these old Texas bones weren't happy. I had even turned on my laptop and fired up the browser, and fell asleep with it all in the middle of opening up my RSS feeder to get to you. So, very sorry!

I don't think I've ever spent a disappointed Christmas. Not that I don't have those feelings, but I seem to save that unwanted box to open on my birthday instead. But I know of people who were going to be alone with just their computer, so I am very glad you made this post for them, and for everyone who feels lonely in their circumstances.

Baba Yaga said...

As usual, you express something fundamental in very lucid terms. "Alone" - internally, if not visibly - is synonymous with christmas, and with winter, for an awful lot of people. It's not my holiday, either, (So far as I can see, it's very few actually sentient people's holiday. Not even those from entirely other traditions ever seem really to be happy about christmas.)

After all, it's bloody dark and bloody cold, and the worst is for many of us still to come; and at exactly the point where that truth becomes least escapable, all normal structure is removed, positively up-ended, and Sociable Fun is practically mandatory. Insanity.

Worse, the apparently universal belief is that it is better to be scratchily out of sorts, or actually engaged in bitter hostilities, in some physical company at christmas, *irrespective of whether one has positively chosen or been chosen by that company* than either alone, or in chosen virtual company.

So, the best most of us manage is to accommodate - working being, as you note, an exemplary way to do it. For many years, work never having been in my repertory (humph), I accommodated by rebellion: got rid of any packages at the first inconspicuous moment - mentally, and into a cardboard box for the charity shop, at least -, borrowed the maximum allowed number of books from the library, locked the door and took the 'phone off the hook, ate what I wanted to eat, not at all what the season dictated, & switched the radio firmly off. Such relief!

These days, I accommodate by going along with it for a friend's sake: festivity matters to him, for reasons rather mysterious to me. If anything, it's often mildly pleasant, in that way duties discharged relatively painlessly are. So I'm a day late joining with you, but in spirit, was with you and the rest of the aliens all along.

(Next stop, Hogmanay. Early night time, thank you very much!)

annette2 said...

Could you be tempted with a cafe mocha - It's a specialty of the house? Thank you for the beautiful postcards this year. You have made a postcard into an art form.

And you know if it weren't for you I doubt that I would have made it to Australia this year. Thanks so much Elizabeth.

You know at first when I started to read your blog I thought you wre drawing all the poictures yourself, the art form was so unfamiliar to me.

You chose the pictures so well.


Diane J Standiford said...


I am so over holidays, for all the reasons you mention. Screw my relatives. I am a loner. My partner and I are loners together. She is all the joy I ever need.

Raccoon said...

my Christmas was spent alone, too. My usual staff, doing their usual things, in the other room. Myself, stuck in bed for a week and a half now, with a sore that doesn't want to heal.

Three real cards, and two virtual. Of course, I didn't send any out...

I've been thinking about you often, and I'm sending you hopes of health.

e said...

Dear Beth, Cheryl and Linda,

I understand what Beth means when she speaks of the loneliness of the season. It just never stacks up to all the hype and glitter, and families, trying to get along, is tough. Worse, is being ignored.

As a Jew, I prefer the relative quiet of Chanukah, and freedom from christmas madness.

I spent the day alone, then attended Shabbat services. I actually enjoy the peace and quiet. There was a group from our temple who went to feed the homeless at a soup kitchen, something I did not find out about in time to attend. Perhaps I will attempt that next year...

I love tea, but always do the non-caf or de-caf varieties, and I'm always open to suggestions.

Thank you for the lovely postcard. I hope you'll benefit from the new mixer once it arrives, and you are always welcome to more stamps.

You have been a wonderful new friend, Beth. I hope the new year brings you all peace. You have your friends here in addition to Cheryl and Linda, and as Cheryl pointed out, sometimes the best family is the chosen kind.

Your post reminded me of something that happened in my adolescense, and I'll say more in a letter.

I hope you can enjoy the rest of this weekend and the week ahead.

rachelcreative said...

Sending you lots of love. Because showing you care doesn't have to be limited to one day of the year. Wishing you more spoons than you know what to do with.

FridaWrites said...

I was here on Christmas afternoon, reading silently. Your post made me feel a lot less alone--thank you. I couldn't deal with the false cheer knowing how my husband's family feels about me. Too many harsh words said to me and I'd rather be alone than face more of that.