Christmas Alone… Again (Naturally)

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.

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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

x

Christmas Highs, Christmas Lows, Christmas Dinner… Christmas Alone

Most years I hear ‘adverts’ on the radio (if advert is the right word), particularly/primarily from charities, reminding viewers/listeners that there are people out there, especially the elderly, who are alone at Christmas, and who can be quite vulnerable, in one way or another. Upon hearing such past reminders, I expect I pondered for a moment, thought that a bit sad, but could not think of anyone that I knew that was in such a situation… except that this year it has been me in this situation, and I now fully appreciate the difficulties that such charities highlight. In the ten previous years I have spent Christmas Day on my own owing to marital separation, but it has always been in the knowledge that within a day or two I would be with someone that was close to me, my daughter and maybe also my parents and brother; however, owing to the circumstances of my transition to simply live as my true feminine self, the reward I have been given for living my life in this honest fashion is that I have spent the whole of the Christmas period without this company… and it has generally been a very lonely time.

Perhaps because of this anticipation, soon after the first Christmas dinner with my two friends Kirsty and Michelle at the end of November I decided Plough xmas 2015-2that it would be nice to have a Christmas dinner close to the 25th December, especially after our first attempt was not a Christmas menu, and so I arranged an outing for us on 23rd December at The Plough, one of our favourite restaurants… and I am so glad that we did this because I left feeling a bit Christmassy – it gave me an opportunity to have a traditional Christmas dinner (as well as a yummy dessert and reasonable starter) with two good friends, I was also able to show Michelle my new hair style… the first style with MY hair. Afterwards we exchanged presents and cards, and left for home.

On Christmas Eve, the first for many years without my daughter who I have traditionally taken to work with me, I went to work alone, and gave out the rest of my Christmas cards. Actually, the first one of the day I gave at Newry station to the guys there who I see every week, and the one on duty said “Och, thanks so much!” and gave me good wishes. The second card was to this elderly guy who works in Dublin Station who I see most days, he is always very friendly and sometimes saves a newspaper for me to read on the train home, anyway I went to give him the card… and he took my hand and then gave me a kiss on the cheek and wished me a Happy Christmas – uhhh, that’s never happened before (for obvious reasons) and I left the station for my office with a humoured smile. At work I gave out my cards, and in a few I gave thanks for all the support that certain people have given me throughout the year since I started living full-time as a woman, that has contributed to 2015 being the best year of my life by miles and miles; one guy in particular was quite touched, and warmly laid his hand on my arm. I then gave a card to a lady called Audrey who I have chatted to a lot during the year, and because she has given me some good advice as well as been a very good listener I gave her a small present too – she said I was very thoughtful… and then proceeded to give me a whole BAG of little presents!! I couldn’t believe her kindness, she said they were only small things, but she knew I would be alone over Christmas and wanted to give me something – as regular readers will know, I display quite an amount of emotion in my life (I’m allowed to, I’m a woman) and I could not help but spill a tear or two down my cheeks. I left the office reasonably early, and went straight home and put all those presents under my tree alongside those from my two friends.

I woke up on Christmas Day… and did not feel very Christmassy or jolly; opening the curtains made me feel even less so, as I was due to go a walk but the skies were very grey and threatened the rain that was forecast. I decided to still get ready though, but as I set off the rain started, and within a few minutes drive the rain although light was steady; I actually stopped, looked at the rain through the car window, and turned back wondering what I was thinking of… but in a minute or two I turned around again, and carried on driving to my walk, as I did not want to spend the whole day on my own… and I am glad I did that. The walk was up to Cave Hill above Belfast Castle where I met about 15 other people in my group, including several friendly faces. We had reasonable chat as we went, and at the top we did have a white Christmas for a few minutes as the light rain at altitude fell in little flakes. Once back at our cars a few people drifted off while the remainder of us went to the house of a group member who lived nearby – she had plates of biscuits and chocolate log ready, as well as tea and coffee, and we stayed around 45 minutes and warmed up nicely… but eventually it was time to depart, and we thanked the lady for her hospitality and had a hug…

…and then, within an hour, I was home, and on my own for several days of20151225_presents unseasonality over the Christmas break. On the journey home I had a call from a girl at work to wish me Happy Christmas, though I could not take it… and once home I was not in a happy mood to speak to her and so texted her back with my own wishes. I warmed up with soup and toast, and then got an email from my daughter thanking me a lot (with many OMGs) for giving her an iPhone for Christmas – I sent her a reply… and as I proof-read it a sense of longing overtook me and at that moment I cried a little as I missed her so much. Within a half hour I was crying again, but a good (if ‘good’ is the word for a sad emotion) long sob this time while opening the presents from the lady at work, as I opened more and more it was even clearer how kind and thoughtful she had been – the presents may have been small, but many quite girlie and useful – and as I carried on I felt so alone. After all that crying I sorted myself out with a  few chocolates, a few messages back and forth with two supportive friends (one local one and one I ‘met’ on Words With Friends a few months ago), and sat in front of a couple of light-hearted movies… although my eyes itched from my earlier tears.

I had a very lazy day on Boxing Day, spending much of it in bed either on my tablet or dozing while the radio was on… but later in the afternoon I fitted a new curtain pole in my bedroom, very pleased with the result, and had a lovely hot bath and styled my hair… and was VERY pleased with that result, and so I was in a very good mood by the evening time.

Sometimes the key to keeping one’s spirits up is to keep busy… and that is what I did on the Sunday, gardening for four hours into the afternoon, achieving a lot, and later stripping wallpaper from the walls of a spare room; well, it worked, I was happy with all that I did.

Monday I met my BFF Kirsty for coffee, some sale-shopping, and a good meal at a new restaurant for us called Home, where I ate a salmon dish with lovely white wine sauce followed by a chocolate fondant which was rather better than the one I attempted the weekend before; we finished the evening with hot drinks at a new-favourite coffee shop called Arizona… but eventually it was time to go, and it wasn’t long before my Christmassy loneliness returned… and so the next day I kept myself busy again.

For many, many years I haven’t worked between Christmas and New Year, but with no loved ones who felt capable of spending time with me at Christmas I went to work for a couple of days at the end of December. On the New Years Eve I got a kiss from the Dublin station guy again, both arriving at Dublin and departing… although the latter he had just had a smoke, and so that wasn’t very pleasant. Once home, all tedious New Years Eve viewing was abandoned to some weepy movies… and I was in bed with the light off well before midnight, with nobody but my teddy bears to bring in the New Year with.

And so that was my Christmas… and perhaps you are wondering what is the point in this post? A number of reasons I suppose, for me and for others – firstly, remember those that you know who are alone at Christmas time as it CAN be a difficult time emotionally to cope with (I KNOW), secondly if you are alone then do whatever you can to be positive even if it means keeping busy to get through difficult days, it’s also a reminder for me that I’ve got through this Christmas largely on my own and without the company of loved ones and with very little support from them. In past years I would have phoned my parents on Christmas Day, but as I knew I would not have a great day then I warned them I would not ring (I hardly wanted them wishing me a “Happy Christmas”, how could I be happy all on my own), and instead the next day I sent them an email with an update on things, and telling them about my Christmas Day; disappointingly I received no reply from them… which I don’t find very supportive… whereas at least my brother was a bit sympathetic via some online-chat… although he fails to get half the point in that it is him that has prevented me from being invited to spend Christmas with my family.

Best wishes for a Happy New Year, thank you for reading during 2015.

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