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  • Jenny

Missing: Christmas Spirit

As I sit to write this, I’m not even sure where to start. With my lack of enthusiasm for the holidays in general? With my apathy over decorating, shopping, and baking? With my utter disappointment over recent attempts to celebrate the season?

I typically enjoy the onset of the Christmas celebrations. And while I am not one to begin as early as September (I do actually like Halloween and Thanksgiving first, thanks!), usually by the time Santa arrives on his sleigh at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I am set to tear down the turkeys and send up the jingle bells.

But there hasn’t been a single moment of joy in my heart this year. And I don’t even know why.

Or maybe I do, and am just lying to myself because I think my feelings are pathetic. How long can you actually grieve something before you finally get over it? Clearly, what they say about it not having a timeline and past wounds popping up unexpectedly is true. And just when you think you are okay, bam…the old emotions rear their grinchy head.

And it’s not even something understandable, like missing my nanny or dad around this time of year—which of course I do, but grief over passed loved ones is not what plagues me. It’s loneliness. Pure and simple. Probably because last year, for the first time in 14 years, I had someone special in my life, and this year, that’s gone again.

Yes, I have my children, who are the greatest treasures of my life. Yes, I have a wonderfully supportive immediate family, who I will not be able to see this year (but am not yet feeling that distance—maybe closer to the date). Yes, I have some extraordinary extended local family, who I adore and saw for Thanksgiving. Yes, I have astounding friends near and far, some of whom I just spent a heartwarming Friendsgiving with and felt nourished by.

I know I am luckier than most, and am truly grateful to have a life filled with so many people I love and who love me back.

But it does not replace that special spot in my heart reserved for a romantic partner. And I am so sick and tired of people making it seem like it’s not a big deal: I’ll find someone one day, look at all the people around you, you are your own best partner, love yourself, be grateful for all of your blessings—I FUCKING GET IT. I do love myself and enjoy my own company and cherish the good people around me and all of that.

Fact: it doesn’t make my emptiness feel less. When people say this shit, it doesn’t take the pain away of a life lived 75% without a partner to share it all with. These are my elf shoes I walk in, and my pain is real and not dismissible. Too many Christmases a blank stocking hung by my fireplace because my favorite set of four holders have been waiting 15 long years for a final owner. Last year, I thought that by this year that final name would be ready to be added—and it wasn’t to be. And it stung to watch it go up blank again this year.

Just like it stung to put up my special ornaments, one bitterly representing true love, which I’m not sure I believe in anymore after a pretty difficult year. Then, I broke one of other my special ornaments and wanted to cry on the spot—one by one these fragile mementos were going; these treasured items that were given to me by someone dear many years ago on behalf I someone I loved that passed.

The years are slipping by, and with them, and with each broken ornament and broken heart, possibly a little bit of hope.

More than decorations, I can’t even tap into the feeling when I’m with my kids, especially my own personal elf of a daughter who is on Christmas overload 24/7. Not even her spirit is contagious. I don’t want to listen to Christmas music. Movie classics are meh. I did the bare minimum in decorating and don’t even care if my outside lights go up. I blindly ordered Christmas gifts like it was a chore to do instead of my typical excitement in picking out the perfect presents.

We’re staying home and wearing pajamas on Christmas Day, which is what we all agreed to do, but is that what is prompting this inner scrooge? Why build it up for a letdown? Will it just be another routine day like all these last 300-something days of 2022 have been on repeat? Is life really all this bad that I am emotionally boycotting the most wonderful time of the year?

But then I remember: I am trying. I booked a few adventures, from Disneyland at Christmas and the OC Winterfest, to Christmas tree lightings and an immersive Nutcracker experience. I am going through the motions and putting on the fake smile and pushing through in hopes of an attitude change.

I am literally trying to will the spirit into me.

It is not working, though. I wanted to take a break from business stress and give myself a day to enjoy a Disney California Adventure outing without the kids so that I can do my own Christmas adulting. I attempted to coordinate it with a friend, but our schedules just weren’t jiving, and by the time they did, everything was all booked up. It was okay, I thought. I decided I could just play the day away on my own.

Well, that backfired big time. I thought I’d love being able to walk around the park and do whatever I wanted, and for some of the day, I did love that freedom of just doing me and not worrying about who would eat where, who doesn’t like what rides, who’s tired and needs and break, and so on. But that solo feeling just kept creeping up. Seeing those loving couples. Repeating “only 1” to each ride attendant. Literally not talking to anyone that day or sharing this festive spirit. It sucked and left me feeling worse.

Then I was hoping to get into the holidays by going to a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert, something I have wanted to do for over two decades. I was all set, and I had the perfect friend to enjoy it with, but then she had something come up and couldn’t go at the last minute. And I wasn’t upset with her in the least; I understood. But not a single person was available to go at the last minute, and I ended up dragging my daughter, and neither of us enjoyed the show.

Once again, I was triggered by this lack of someone to share life and these moments with.

Still, I carried on, determined to overcome this inner battle against Christmas. Maybe our family-planned adventures will be different—though our first (and second) tree lighting experience was lame and fell quite short of exciting. There’s still our Nutcracker and winter events to be had, and perhaps that dynamic will feel different enough for a shift. Maybe one day I'll feel a little bit of that holiday magic and feel uplifted.

Until then, I find myself mourning a major heart loss intensely this year. And it’s not a pity party—I know when I am feeling sorry for myself and can pick my big girl pants up and find the joy anyway. It’s more than that. It’s bigger than me.

Just because it’s sunny year-round in California doesn’t mean the lack of sunshine hours doesn’t bring on seasonal affective disorder and seasonal depression. And that’s exactly what I am experiencing, with unresolved heartbreak mixed in. Yes, I am aware. Yes, I am trying to do something about it. Yes, I am trying different healing modalities to “snap out of it.”

It’s not always that simple. I’m not choosing to stay stuck on purpose. No one who suffers from this—any time of year—chooses to stay stuck. And I know that even if someone special were in my life, it wouldn’t solve the deeper sadness within me that I have to heal myself. I’m working on it the best that I can.

However, wouldn’t it be fucking nice to experience the full Christmas of my dreams one day, and to have that love felt for more than just a single season; like, for life.

I know I’ll get through this, and that it will pass. So, I have one crappy holiday year. Time keeps moving on, and situations and emotions change. Next year could very well turn out differently. Who knows. This one is certainly different than last.

I guess my purpose in writing this at all is for a few different reasons: to cathartically express my truth in the moment and be my most authentic self; to share my humanness with others feeling the same way so that they don’t feel alone; and to perhaps help my own self move through the grief, loss, and sad emotions plaguing me.

Because I don’t want to forget all the good I have in my life. I want to enjoy the moments with my loved ones. I want to remember gratitude for my home, my safe community, my steady paycheck, the food on my table, and the clothes on my back. I want to feel the power of opportunity and potential that await me when I least expect it.

But until I am ready for the positivity, I need to embrace and accept myself where I am, in this moment, and remind myself it is also okay to acknowledge the imperfections of life and how they make me feel.

The holiday humbugs can hit anyone, anytime, anywhere, for any reason. The best we can do is not to force ourselves into a fake spirit, but to allow ourselves to deeply feel into our grief while holding on to what we are grateful for. But if you or someone you know could use someone who understands to talk to, I’m more than an author; I’m a person who also wants to help others on this shared journey called life. Reach out.

And whatever you are going through this season, be it joy or depression or somewhere in between, I do wish you good health, happiness, and love as we end another year and begin anew. Cheers to a brighter 2023 for all. We’re all gonna be okay. xo

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