Merry after Christmas for those who you who celebrate. Happy Winter to those who celebrate one, the other, or both. Mrraaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhaaahhhahhhahhhh to our alien friends watching over us from distant spaceships just outside our atmosphere.I hope you are well, whoever the “you” that is reading this is.
This year was my first Christmas in my new home in Saint Louis, Missouri. Overall, it was lovely. I made a wonderful gluten free dinner, was surrounded by friends and my boyfriend’s family, had a pretty Christmas tree, and despite us having very little money, we still ended up getting more presents than expected from other people. And while, of course, Christmas is not about getting presents, getting presents makes a person normally feel pretty fantastic.
Due to my anxiety disorder, since the day I left my hometown in California, I was certain that everyone I loved there would forget me. And truthfully, a lot of people did. Out of sight, out of mind, I assume. However, a few friends that I hold very dear to my heart mailed me some wonderful presents, and it warmed my heart to its cold little core, because I could not wrap my head around the fact that so many people took the time out of their day to think of me during Christmas despite me being a thousand mile away. It makes me almost giddy that throughout my whole life of being forgotten, I was remembered.
This was not only my first Christmas away from home, but also my first Christmas not filled with emotional abuse and disappointment. When you have a severely dysfunctional family, holidays are often filled with less “peace on Earth” and more “get me the fuck out of here as soon as possible” sort of feelings. While I always tried to salvage the holidays as best I could, I constantly failed. I am thankful that this Christmas was loving, calm, kind, and warm. Those are not words I normally use to describe Christmas. I am elated by that change.
And even still, though this Christmas was about as perfect as one could possibly be in my life, I find my heart aching. And while I feel like being grateful for what one has is extremely important and one should never take for granted what good they have in their lives, I refuse to take part in the idea that gratefulness is synonymous with not admitting problems or expressing negative feelings. You can be extremely grateful while still feeling sadness, or disappointment, or loss, or any other negative feelings. Feeling sadness doesn’t make someone ungrateful. It makes them human.
During the holidays, Facebook is saturated with holiday photos from my friends all over the country. I quite enjoy peeking into the lives of my friends, seeing the different ways they decorate their trees, the kind of food that they eat at Christmas dinner, and who they choose to spend the occasion with. Even so, that aching of my heart that I mentioned before tends to throb with every swipe of my thumb as I scroll through the site. No family is perfect; this is a fact that most of humanity knows. In my own eyes, though, there is an ideal family that I have always longed for, that I will most likely never have. It’s also the kind of family that I hear several of my friends talk about, and see photos of constantly, which makes it even harder to ignore the fact that it is what I’ve always wanted.
Since I was a child, there were two things I wanted the most. My health and my family. And both things throughout my life have fallen apart to a great extent. When my health fell apart, I thought, “well, I still have the chance to have a good family,” and as I strived for that, as I still do, that dream also began to painfully slip away from my fingers.
Note that I do not say a “normal” family, a “perfect” family, or a “flawless” family, because none of those adjectives are realistic. A good family though, meaning a supportive, unconditionally loving, kind family, is very possible, though sadly not something many people have, including myself. When I envision my ultimate family Christmas celebration, I imagine having two parents, (a mom and a dad, or two mothers, or two fathers. I don’t particularly care, I just have always dreamed of having two since I’ve only known one fairly absent one). I imagine having aunts and uncles, cousins, grandparents, nieces and nephews (and as I get older, my own children as well), some family friends, and maybe even a dog, or a ferret. I dream of all these people gathered around a beautifully set table, sharing food, smiling and enjoying each others’ company. As I write this, I realize that this dream really adds up to an idea of being surrounded by kind, loving people that I actually have things in common with and who accept me.
Out of all of those imaginary people I have placed at my imaginary table, the ones I long for the most are two supportive parents. I was raised by my single mother, and my father was generally non-existent. Often times I feel that if my mother was far more of a mother than she actually is, I would not perpetually long for a second parent. Let me make this very clear; I don’t think a supportive family MUST have two parents. Many single parents have created amazing families that are overflowing with love. My family is not broken and dysfunctional because I only ever had one parent; it’s because I only ever had one unfit parent.
There are so many times in my life, especially in my times of illness and pain (which are becoming more and more frequent) that I find myself longing for parents that I could call out for help to, that would come to my aid when I needed them the most. Or even when I needed them a little. I don’t mean that I want parents who would spoil me or baby me as an adult; those types of parents frighten me nearly as much as abusive ones do. I simply wish for parents who are caring, supportive, and understanding. Every day I dream of this type of family, and yet I find that when I hear a friend say, “my mother is my best friend,” I can’t even manage to comprehend what that feeling would be like.
I am truly thankful for the people in my life that are as caring as their lives allow them to be, mainly my friends, my sister, my grandmother, and my boyfriend. And if any of them read this, I hope I’ve made it clear that my dreaming of an ideal family does not negate one bit how spectacular my real life family is. I suppose ultimately, it isn’t what I don’t have that causes me to long for something else that I may never receive, but it is the damage that my life has injected into my soul that causes my internal and eternal struggle. If I am being entirely honest, which I generally do try to be, that is more of a reflection of myself, rather than those around me.
I may never have either one or two parents to support me through my unusual life. I may never have aunts and uncles. Though maybe it is possible that while I’ll never have those, I may one day be the supporting parent, whose son or daughter describes as their “best friend.” Maybe I will one day be the aunt that nieces and nephews run to greet at the door during holiday visits. Maybe I will one day, many years from now, be very old, at a seat at a Christmas table, with my sons and daughters, grandchildren, and maybe even a dog and a ferret surrounding me. Considering I am only 25, there’s a long wait to get to that particular dinner table. In the meantime, the best I can do is enjoy the life I have been given, through all its pain and all its joy. I would hate to wish my entire life away, because if I do that, while it may slightly distract my aching heart, it will never give my heart the chance to be mended by to good that does comes my way.
Merry Christmas, happy holidays, happy New Year, happy Winter. No matter what you do or do not celebrate, with whoever you are or are not surrounded by, above all, I just wish you happiness, regardless of big or small.
Wrap me up like a present and put me away,
and when it gets cold I’ll be yours.
Let the bells ring on a fool’s holiday,
I swear that I’m more than just broken promises,
decorations can change, like tinsel and ribbon so,
Do not open ’til you’ve got forever to spend
with me on a fool’s holiday.