How is it Christmas again?! Another year come and nearly gone already?! I’ve been told the older you get the faster time seems to speed by but I’m not that old am I? Thirty-nine and three quarters is still considered young and hip, right? This past year was a whirlwind of a lot of things. Perhaps it feels like it has gone so quickly is because most of this past year I spent working so much that it felt like I barely had time to breath, let alone experience any kind of life or human connection. But with my schedule winding down the last little bit, it has given me time to think, pause and reflect on this past year. As you do during the holiday season.
While for many, this time of year is nothing but decking the halls (every. square. inch.), baking up a storm with the kids, and maxing out their credit cards to show their “love” for family and friends (because nothing says “holiday spirit” or “I love you” like a mountain full of debt, amiright?).
For others it won’t be such a joyous occasion. There will be family separated for many different reasons. There will be take out dinners eaten all alone in front of the tv. There will even be ones that will be surrounded by large families and friends, invited to fabulous parties and dinners that will still feel all alone and wishing they could be anywhere else but where they are. The holidays can be the most lonely time of the year, regardless of the circumstances. For some, the holidays are a trigger for painful past memories. Wishing someone was there, whether that is because of a passing or an estrangement. And others won’t even want to celebrate because this past year was so tough that they feel like they just scrapped by and are having to start all over again. Loneliness can feel the loudest around this time of year.
The holidays for me personally have been very lonely times the last few years. This year for some reason, I feel it even more. Perhaps it’s because there are a number of factors to consider that seem to have piled up that it feels the heaviest this time around.
For starters, I’ll feel the loneliness of a mother missing her kids. I won’t be celebrating with my boys. Again. This will be a few years in a row. They are 17 and 18 years old now. The last time I can remember having a Christmas with them was a month after they left. They were 13 and 14 years old. And even then, all of my emotions were still so raw at that point that as much as I loved having them around, I was still dealing with the hurt, sadness and depression surrounding the situation that I don’t know if I felt real joy or if I was just really good at faking it to save face, for their sake.
Over the last few years we’ve had our ups and downs. Our relationship is very fragile, even now. We’ve had some progress and also lots of set backs. There are times I think we could finally be seeing a breakthrough in our relationship, and then out of nowhere it feels like we’ve gone backwards again. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions to say the least. It’s usually months of no communication, unless I attempt to say hello first. Never any phone calls. Just texting when I eventually get a response. Over the past couple of years I have seen them just a handful of times.
The last couple of Christmas’s they didn’t accept the gifts I had bought for them so this was the very first year that I didn’t buy them any Christmas gifts at all. Not because I didn’t want to. They’re my boys. Of course I want to. But I didn’t want to go through the process of buying them a gift, wrapping them, getting my hopes up and then not having anyone to give it to all over again.
Hope for me is a very fragile thing. I’ve had to fight for the little that I have left in this world so I am very protective of it. The little of it that I do have came at a very expensive cost and I don’t just give it away to just anyone or anything, anymore. It has to be earned. The same goes for trust and my peace as well, for the same reasons. These things don’t come easy for me these days but they are important to me none the less. Slowly learning to build them back up again after being ripped to shreds. I feel the weight of that especially around the holidays.
I know I’ll sit around the tree on Christmas Eve, watching my nieces and nephews opening their gifts, wishing my boys were among them as well. The loneliness I feel as a mother missing her children is a reality again this year and it still hurts. One that I’ve come to expect so I’m able to prepare for it but it’s still something I never ever thought I would have to deal with. I still can’t believe it’s part of my story now. But I also know that my boys are two things I will never give up on.
The other side of the equation of loneliness this time of year is dealing with it as a grown woman. A grown woman who has been single, give or take, for the last 13, almost 14 years. I still get questions on this from time to time which I’ve gotten used to. I guess in this day and age a woman who is nearly forty years old, like me, being single for that long might seem odd to a lot of people. Especially when now a days everyone seems to be hooking up with just anybody, just to say they have somebody. It’s all about the perception of being a couple, The convenience of filling the silence rather than accepting and sitting with it. “swipe right for a good time” (The whole online dating scene has never been my thing. )
If I’m really honest, the loneliness on that level has been palpable. It’s been heavy. Which is normal. We were created for human connection and relationship so going that long without anything truly meaningful is going to have an effect on anybody. And honestly I worked so much this past year that I literally didn’t have any time for anything else other than eat, sleep, work, rinse, repeat. I hustled this year. And thank God I had that craziness because it kept me busy and distracted to the point where it was just me and my goals. But it was in those in between moments, that I found myself wishing there was someone there. Someone I could talk about my day with. Someone I could bounce creative ideas off of. Someone I could lean on when the day was just too much. Someone I could laugh with. It’s taken me a really long time to even get to the point of even entertaining the idea of wanting that.
Would I love to have someone by my side to chase goals with? A partner to build with? Of course I would. But finding that balance of a partnership, companionship, friendship and everything else that comes along with it seems to be one of those rare unicorns that you hear about from other people but you’ve never actually experienced one yourself yet. And the struggle of not settling for scraps from the table along the way while you wait for “the main course” is a whole other conversation. Trying not to lose who you really are in the chaos and weak moments. In this day and age where relationships seem to be cheap, easy and disposable, holding out for something with more substance is extremely lonely. And when you’re starting from scratch, learning to trust again is literally the scariest thing ever.
Which brings me to the third kind of loneliness people can experience this time of year (or any time for that matter.) The loneliness of failure. Very few things can make you feel more like a giant loser than the feeling that you failed at something…or literally everything. That would be me. My life over the last few years has been a case study in failure and feeling like the biggest loser on planet Earth. You wanna know who your people are? Lose everything and see who’s still in your corner. Talk about lonely.
I lost my kids, my money, not having the career that I thought I’d have by now. Not to mention dealing with depression and anxiety that only started once the kids left and the whole court situation started. (Which is now over, thank God!)
I’ve been called every name you can think of. I’ve been sworn at, yelled and screamed at. You name it, I’ve most likely heard it all. Hearing that over and over for years will have you second guessing everything about your life and yourself. I don’t think people realize the damage that can come from any type of Emotional abuse and I think it’s important to say it out loud. (It took me a long time to be able to say that and I know I’m not alone in that either.) I know what it feels like to have to pick yourself up and try to put the pieces of yourself and your life back together again. I know what it’s like to feel like you want to cry all the time. I’m almost forty years old and I’m just starting to get back on my feet again. But I’ve already reached a few goals I had set for myself so I am more determined now than I’ve ever been to come back stronger than I was before. I have nothing left to lose, which is usually a great place to start.
All of this is to say that, this holiday season, I know everything there is to know about being lonely. On every level. I know the pain so many of you and others must be feeling. The complicated family dynamics some of you are dealing with. The awkward moments of being in a crowd where everyone is a couple except you. The aching of missing a loved one. Wishing you had someone at home waiting for you; someone to talk to, to celebrate with, to hold. The tears, Feelings of hopelessness. Losing everything and being worried about what’s next. I get it. I’ve been there. But here is a reminder.
Regardless of your circumstances this year, you are not alone. The Creator of the universe is absolutely crazy about you. He is there with you no matter what you are going through. He has seen every tear and every helpless, hopeless, lonely moment. He knows your wants, your dreams, the littlest thing that no body else knows about. He knows how much it hurts. He knows the injustice that was done. You are not the only one going through what you are going through. There is hope, as small as it may seem at this moment. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. I know that sounds cliche but I can say that from experience.
I know what it’s like to feel like nothing. I know what it’s like to feel like an absolute failure, on every level. But, so long as there is still breath in your lungs, there is still reason to hope. It is still possible to find joy in the little and often unexpected things. There are still second chances (and third, fourth, fifth etc etc.)
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, this time of year is all about hope, life, faith, light and love. And it’s all around you, even while your going through a difficult season. As someone who does celebrate Christmas, for me, all of that is found in one person, and that is Jesus.
I hope you know that you are seen, loved and held, this holiday season, no matter what that looks like for you. Don’t give up. You never know what great, unexpected things are around the corner. Let that be your hope. Hang on to it as a reminder whenever you need it, that it will get better.
I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and the Happiest New Year!!