Surviving Christmas

Christmas Day is but a few days away, but unfortunately it’s not something I’m looking forward to at all. To the contrary, actually.

How different that is to years past. Christmas always used to be a special time. In my family it was always, both in scale and importance. Not 10 years ago there might have been 20 odd people celebrating on the day. Even a few years ago, before mum died, there would have been 10-15 in happy attendance. Mum was the key to that. Every family needs someone with the energy and passion and maybe even the sheer sentimentality to draw  everyone into the same fold. Mum was that person for us. I admit to some fashionable cynicism over the years, but from where I stand now I understand how precious it was. It feels like another life.

As it stands right now I don’t even know  where I’ll be  sleeping through Christmas – eve, day, and Boxing Day. It’s a tough time of year to scrounge a  bed, and I’m conscious of other people’s family duties. I don’t want to intrude on that.

That’s a practical consideration, but otherwise there seems a distinct lack of Christmas cheer. I had been invited to share Christmas with some friends. I would have loved to knowing that at least I was with people who care, and in their way, love me. Instead I’ve  agreed to do the ‘right thing’, though this will be the last year I do that.

I’ll be spending Christmas Day at my Aunt (Mum’s sister) and Uncles place. I like them and I’m fond of my cousins, but I’ve not seen any of them since this day last year, and not heard from them until a few weeks ago when they issued the invitation. It’s nice of them to do this, and I’m sure I’ll enjoy many aspects of it, but clearly the invitation is more from obligation than affection.

Joining me there will be my sister and her kids. I love the kids dearly, but there’s no great love otherwise. I was told to not bother buying the kids presents, which I’ve ignored.* It’s been made clear to me from my sister that she doesn’t really want me to be part of their Christmas celebrations. She doesn’t really want me coming by their home at all on Christmas Day, but if I must, not until after 11.

How do I feel about this? To be blunt, I feel surplus to needs. I can deal with that. I’m in an unfortunate family situation – my mother dead, a non-existent relationship with my father, and my sister and I despise each other. I’m close with her kids, but she  rules  the roost. Come the day I’ll bounce around between engagements not really feeling a part of any of them. In part that’s my fault, and otherwise I’ve come to terms with. I’ll go through the motions and make the best of it. I’ll get through Christmas Day, and come Boxing Day my focus will be making it different in 12 months time.

I can’t live like this, without joy. I made the mistake the other night of watching Love Actually. I think I’m probably one of the few men who don’t think it’s a crock of shit. I like the gentle humour of it, and the overarching affection it embodies. This is how life should be, even if it might be a tad idealised. I would argue that for many years that’s what life was like for me. It’s hard thinking that, but also nice, and not a little surreal. Ultimately from where I stand now they seem years of happy complacency.

Given my circumstances I think I do pretty well. In general I’m a positive, optimistic person. I’m thoughtful, articulate, intelligent, compassionate I think. I’m fortunate to have a sanguine temperament. I avoid the extremes of misery, depression and hopelessness, but remain capable of feeling great pleasure. The problem is that merely subsisting is not enough on an emotional level, let alone economically. Those moments of joy and pleasure barely exist in my life.

That has to change for me to survive. Longer term I can look at next year’s Christmas Day and know it must be different. I think central to that is feeling some kind of security, and having some dear to share it with. It’s not much really.

It has to start a long way before Christmas. I won’t survive another year of this. I don’t want to, and there seems no point to it. I’m setting some hard goals. I’ve got to make this finite. Right now I’m looking at April 30 next year. I’ve got to have made some progress towards those goals, otherwise all bets are off.

The goals are simple, and what most people take for granted. I want my own home again. I need a kitchen where I can cook again – how I’ve missed that, and how normal it appears when you cannot do it. Of course this predicates  income, which presumes a job – I don’t care what type. I need space  and freedom to live again as I remember, to meet friends in city bars, go out for dinner, spend an hour or two in a bookshop and actually walk out with some, and browse the delis and indulge every so often with the sensual delight I recall, but haven’t experienced for so long. Above all, I think, I need to open up and share myself.

I’m proud and stubborn and possibly over-principled in some situations. I’ve refused to put myself in a position where I might fall into a relationship. It’s not fair, I’ve thought, not fair to them in my circumstances – impoverished and distracted. True enough, but maybe the bigger part of it has been embarrassment. The mighty have fallen, and here I am H, crippled, like Humpty Dumpty.

I have to trust there is a woman out there who will love me despite all of this. Embarrassment is a conceit I can do without.

I’ve had many interpretations of my travails, and doubtless I’ll indulge myself in a few more before they end. Right now I feel as if I’m meant to survive the myriad and constant challenges being put in my way. There have been times I’ve felt persecuted by that. At this moment I accept them as part of the journey. They are tests for me. If I fail them, I fail. If I can get by them though I will be better for it. I’m not sure how I’m doing, but I’m still on two feet. I suspect I’m becoming a different man.

*As I don’t exchange gifts with friends I don’t expect to receive any Christmas presents this year.

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