Well, it’s only mid-January, so although Easter Eggs are in the shops already we’re still a lot closer to the Christmas gone than the Easter to come, so Christmas is what I’ll write about. This post is mostly about my Christmas, or certain lack of it, but the primary purpose is not to invoke any feelings or replies of pity, it is more about ways of surviving it, and awareness of loneliness generally in those around you.
The ‘again’ in the title is a statement of this being the 9th Christmas Day in ten years that I have been on my own, although for many of those Christmases I eventually did pick up my daughter from some place or other, sometimes as late as early-evening 27th December but we did unite at some point and then spend our own version of Christmas together. However, as it is almost two years since I have seen my daughter (which, when I think or write about that fact, gives me a sense of loneliness, so I should in fact probably do neither) then this was the second Christmas in a row when I knew that I would not see her… and indeed not see any family because my parents made no noises again about there being any possibility of me coming over during the Christmas/New Year period… and although I perhaps shouldn’t wait for such noises to be made, I alas have the unfortunate situation that my brother, who cannot come to terms with having a happy sister, lives with them which just makes things awkward. “(Naturally)” I suppose I have added for two reasons, firstly as I am (medically speaking, because I don’t really like disclosing it for any other reason, even on this blog now) a transsexual rather than cis woman then it is alas a natural consequence following transition to full-time true-self-gender when those close to one cannot accept one’s true self and thus do not wish to spend a special time of the year with one… but I also wrote it for those musical viewers, who may recall Gilbert O’Sullivan’s hit years ago “Alone Again (Naturally)” about different situations when he became alone, and thought about suicide in at least one of them… another element also in common with transsexual people who are statistically ten times more likely to commit suicide than cis people. Don’t ask me to start quoting lyrics or anything, I’m not one for musical fact/lyric/anything regurgitation, but I did like Gilbert’s approach to music and songs, writing about true-life stuff in a down-to-earth, unwishy-washy like way.
Anyway, I did not have high hopes for the Christmas just gone. By the time it got to mid-December I was fed up with the thought of Christmas, if only because of the incessant seasonal adverts. I spoke and emailed my parents before Christmas, and told them that I would not be ringing them on Christmas Day (and did not want to be called) because the thought of being typically wished a “Happy Christmas” by them when I was all on my own, or having to wish someone the same, I just could not bear, and for the same reason I asked them not to send me a card saying as such; it was hard enough just getting through the last few days of work before Christmas trying to dodge such cheery wishes.
As last year, my best friend Kirsty stayed over the weekend just before Christmas to help put my tree up because I would not have bothered otherwise – my emotions were very up and down by that time and I was very glad of her spending so much time with me over that weekend, I had lots of fun, we had a nice meal, shared more wine than I usually drink (although at least this stay-over I didn’t end up cleaning my teeth with facewash), and the day afterwards we had a lovely afternoon tea followed by a cinema visit… but then it came time for us to say goodbye and as we hugged in the car park I just burst into floods of tears, unable to be strong enough to consider being alone again. Kirsty came to my car and hugged me for a while until I calmed down, and then I headed home, occasionally teary-eyed thinking of my daughter.
Compared to the previous Christmas, when on one afternoon I did meet Kirsty during the Christmas period for a shopping trip, this year I spent the entire time on my own… but after last year I was determined to survive it in better shape, and as I got through it without a tear then I guess I did. I knew I had to keep busy, and that’s what I did… with the help of some online chat from a few friends, mostly just online buddies. On Christmas Eve after a bit of shopping I treated myself to a lovely Christmas lunch at a gastropub called The Parson’s Nose, with a lovely table by a roaring fire, and delicious food… apart from the proverbial, token sprouts. Christmas Day I did a typically seasonal activity (not)… home-DIY! Some months earlier I had had a leak in my bathroom, with the existing lino flooring ending up rather slimy beneath in part… so as I hated the lino which had been there since I moved in I ripped the whole lot up with the intention of laying a much nicer floor… which is the DIY project I started on Christmas Day, so I had the door off, planing it to fit over the new flooring, had started laying some underlay, and cutting a piece or two of the laminate to fit around radiator pipes, the doorway, and the sink pedestal. Boxing Day I was up and ready fairly early and went for a lovely scenic walk in the Mourne Mountains about 45 minutes from my home – I did a fantastic route up to the largest natural lake in the Mournes (Lough Shannagh) and up one of the smaller peaks beyond, and was so lucky with the weather, lots of sun at the time although an icy blustery wind which my numerous layers of clothing kept at bay; see photo. After my walk I did some shopping, a bit of sales and boots shopping, also some DIY materials. The Tuesday and the Wednesday I was also off work, and kept busy with DIY and quite a lot of gardening in the dry weather (mostly tidying up). I made sure I had some nice food during the period too, though didn’t stuff myself, as well as some good wine.
Anyway, that was how I got through Christmas, largely keeping myself occupied in one way or another. This Christmas though made me think not just about my loneliness but that of others too – I was able to survive it through my own determination, and with a bit of online support, but there are other people who are not able to do that. This is particularly true of elderly people who have a reduced social network either due to no longer being at work, reduced mobility, or a reduced friendship circle for one reason or another, including a spouse who may have died, and such people are also less likely to be able to keep themselves so busy or have an online network – apparently there are 3.9 million older people who say the television is their main combat against loneliness. Anyway, thinking about all of this at the time, I made a donation to the Help The Aged charity. I also gave my neighbour a bottle of wine to let him know I was thinking of him, last year his mother passed away and this was his first Christmas in nearly 60 years without her.
The last thing I’d say about the subject of Christmas and loneliness is to something to others – if you know of someone, either a friend or maybe an elderly neighbour, spare them a thought, and make a bit of an effort to both make a little contact and also strike a note of sensitivity too. You may be able to have a really happy Christmas, and that is wonderful, but for others it is just a very difficult time and it can take quite an effort to keep one’s spirits up – I used to not realise this enough myself, but due particularly to my transition and not just my divorce I more than ever know exactly what it is like to be lonely at Christmas… and it is not great
Best wishes for 2017