Happy Holidays, Especially to Those Who Aren't Happy (Like Me)


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The holidays are a dangerous and lonely time for a lot of us. Especially those of us with an Internet connection and a Facebook feed filled with happy holiday events and loving snaps of family members. You know, acting kind toward each other instead of getting drunk and screaming about the past. I see these pictures and status updates, happy grandparents taking the kids to see Santa, adult moms and daughters attending school concerts together, preparing holiday meals as a family and serving as a seasonal reminder that not all of us have any sort of Norman Rockwell reality when it comes to Christmas.

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Not even damn close.

For a lot of us, Christmas isn't what we wanted, what we dreamed about when we were growing up, what we thought of when we thought One day, I'm going to have kids of my own and Christmas Eve won't involve someone getting stabbed and going to the emergency room.

The Christmas I wanted as a grown-up wasn't screaming matches, and slammed doors, and broken bottles, and trying to scrape up enough money to buy the kids a single present to be placed under a yellowed artificial tree from Goodwill. 

Christmas wasn't cancer. 

When we grew up a lot of us vowed to make our holidays better, to give our kids stability and warmth and popcorn in front of The Grinch and little bodies snuggled in pajamas with everyone piling into the car to see the Christmas lights. And we succeed at this, until it's late at night and we are alone in our dark houses, thinking about those we have lost to death or abandonment, those who are absent from our lives either because it's more mentally healthy for us, or because they just don't have any interest in knowing who we are anymore. 

I have never felt more like a child than I do at Christmas. And not a child with a sense of wonder and joy at the season, but a child scared of abandonment, of failure, of all the stories from my friends with normal families, of all my own ghosts of Christmas past. 

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I keep it together for my kids. I try to count my blessings and enjoy what I do have, my electric bill paid, presents under the tree, cookies baking in the oven, and everyone happy and healthy and, so far, sane. I light candles for those who are dead, for those who are dead to me for whatever reasons. I hope next year that some of these people are with me again. I move on and hug my kids a little tighter and read 'Twas the Night again and deck my damn halls. 

But I'd be lying if I said it doesn't get to me. That I don't ache for what I see on my Facebook feed, that I don't long to have family beyond those that live within my walls, a dad in a cozy sweater to hug me and wish me a Merry Christmas, a mom to be a grandma to my kids, with a lap for snuggling in and a voice to sing a bedtime carol with. I want a cup of cocoa with someone who knew me when I was my own child's age. I want a loving extended family around my table, waiting for someone to carve the turkey. 

I know I am so lucky for what I do have. I know there are people who have less than me, who have nowhere to sleep, who have nothing to eat, who spend Christmas Eve at the bedside of someone dying, like I did myself so many Christmases ago. I think of those people too, of you, of you who find yourself running to the bathroom at the mall and gasping back tears as the loudspeakers play "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." I see you as you sit in the dark, illuminated by the lights of your tree, your heart sort of sad as you remember every reason Christmas can be so hard on some of us. 

We'll muddle through some how. We have to. 

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