I was moved by Rick's post on the JJL blog the other day about his unconventional holiday plans. I wrote a comment after the post that I want to expand here.
It's about what we call "the season".
We never have conventional Christmases. For the last ten, my husband has been mourning the loss of his children via estrangement after a difficult divorce. Each Christmas is a painful reminder of what he has lost. He makes calls and waits for them to be returned, which they rarely are. He knows they will never visit nor will they welcome his visits any more than his calls. He is accepting that he will probably never know his grandchildren. Since LoveHubbie's father died a few years ago, his extended family has also drawn apart. His stepmother is still grieving, mourning her husband, forgotten by the rest of his family. We call her and cry and miss Dad. His brothers may or may not talk but they are no longer close. For LoveHubbie, Christmas is all about family and about how he doesn't have it anymore.
I have not always enjoyed the holiday myself as my mother attempted suicide on Christmas Eve and then died ten days later; this was a capstone to many dreaded Christmases before that. As an adult, I’ve never been successful working myself up to be consistently enthusiastic about all of the festivity although I do make efforts occasionally.
For example. When LoveHubbie lived with his children, no one ever gave him presents, as his wife encouraged gift giving solely between herself and the children. LoveHubbie too would give to them, but no one would give dad gifts. This was their tradition. So for one of our first Christmases together, I gave LoveHubbie 100 gifts. Most were very small, and collected for several months beforehand and each wrapped individually. It took the whole day just to open them. I wanted him to know that he was loved and to make up for all of those years that everyone decided not to bother. My efforts grew less enthusiastic and eventually have extinguished over the past several years, deflated by LoveHubbie's despair and inability to enjoy good things at this time of year as well as the loss of my Dad (my father-in-law).
I have found a peace about the season, though, because I have been given a precious gift. I know how weird this is may sound, but the one thing that gives me warm feelings is that I am estranged by choice from my own biological family of origin. I was the "black sheep" of the family for years, and each and every year I celebrate inside that there are no more arguments, no more recovering from cruel remarks, no more dreading hearing the phone ring. I am safe from what they offer me. I wish my family love, blessing, and the togetherness that they share. I harbor no ill will for any of them; I wish myself only continued absence from their group. I do love them, very much, but from a distance, the only way I can survive. Every year at this time I marvel that another year has gone by and I haven't heard from them. Marvel in a good way, that after years of not respecting me in any shape, manner, or form, they have indeed respected this fervent and expressed wish of mine and left me out. Holiday gifts come in unusual packages sometimes.
This year LoveHubbie and I are having our first hopefully-romantic getaway in our married life at Christmas in Leavenworth, WA, a town that has recreated itself to be reminiscent of Germany. My husband and I fell in love years ago at Christmas time on our way to Germany, back when we’d first met each other so we both have high hopes for this. However, I’m moderating my expectations by hoping that it is at least easier than Christmases past with my husband. I will be satisfied with whatever this quiet adventure holds, open for magic, but glad to be alive and to have each other whatever happens.
For some people, Christmas is a time that highlights the absence of family, the losses of the years (because most of us started out with family of some sort), and the general sense of not fitting in with the pacing of the culture, especially if we don’t share religious beliefs either. If we don’t bake, or shop, or decorate, or rush—and don’t want to—it can be a time of alienation and of feeling alone. I wish for everyone--especially those of us who are different--especially us--an astonishing holiday season filled with joy and peace in finding a way to celebrate being alive, to celebrate being loved by God/Universe, and to celebrate being cherished by so many others, even if it's not by those who are blood-related to us. As my friend Chani says, to create new rituals. Rituals that connect us to Spirit and to each other.
As for me, I am grateful for all of you, my extended blog family whom I cherish, and who make happyluau a lovely warm blog home for me. This season, I celebrate each and every one of you. Know that you have made a huge difference in my life. You cannot know how blessed I have been to have you as my cyber family.
To some of you who have close families, a virtual family may seem pitiful or a false family or a poor substitute for the real thing. As LoveHubbie sometimes says, "For God's sake, Olivia, you've never even met them, they aren't even REAL!"
Let me tell you---as I tell him---it is life---you are life---life---for many of us, for me. It allows us to have a taste of what it feels like to be loved, to be known, to be listened to. It allows us to experience a corner of life's experiences we'd never otherwise get. I would be out in the cold, this I know. I would not be happy. I would not believe in myself. I would not be writing a book. I might not even be alive, for all I know.
So thank you, those of you I know who come and comment repeatedly and encourage me. Thank you to those of you who stop by now and again. Those of you who never comment. Those who found me in a search for something and came back. Those of you who became offline friends. You are all a part of my world, of my journey, a part of what enables me to live the best life possible, even to believe that I am loved by a benevolent Universe. There is nothing more real than that.