Thursday, 27 December 2012

Joy Can Fill an Empty Christmas Stocking

Day 140
225 Days Remaining

I had a similar feeling about Christmas this year as I did about my birthday: I had no expectations (well, aside of course from the video montage fiasco), and so I had no disappointment.  I still have the potential to be disappointed, as HB is in town and says he wants to see me today, and as much as I am trying not to want it or expect it, there is some part of me that will feel slightly let down if he doesn't follow through.  I do feel it would be better for me if I don't see him at all, but I'm not fooling myself into thinking that I really could care less.

I have to give myself some credit, however; when he first said he was coming to town for Christmas and hoped he could see me, I didn't jump at the chance and I didn't automatically assume it was going to happen.  I said that it would be nice and that I would enjoy it, but I know that putting it on my schedule and waiting with bated breath to see him would be just setting myself up for disappointment.  I told him I would leave it up to him to contact me when he got into town, and then I went ahead and made my Christmas plans without scheduling in any "just in case" time for HB to slot into.  If he happens to contact me today and wants to get together (he said he'd like to take me for sushi - it was always kind of our thing), I'll see what's happening with my day and what could work, but I'm not going to avoid doing things all day long on the off chance that he'll call.  I'm a little bit proud of that.

And what a Christmas I had!  I knew I was going to be spending Christmas Day without the kids, as they were with their dad and then at their grandma`s house for dinner and presents, and I was determined that I was not going to find myself alone, sad and bitter on Christmas Day.  This time last year, I was most decidedly not happy; the kids were with their dad, but I had both Stu and HB in my life at that time (although  not romantically) and had thought that having no children for Christmas Day would mean that I would have more time to spend with them - at different times, of course.  But HB was with his mother and sister, and Stu has the biggest family I`ve ever seen, so they were both busy.  I found myself feeling incredibly alone - I attended the church service and did feel uplifted by my lovely church family, but the feeling of emptiness on waking on Christmas morning to absolutely no one, knowing that everyone I cared about was off doing something with other people that were important to them, and seeing empty stockings hanging dejectedly, was more hard-hitting and debilitating than I had realized it would be.  I cried in church as I thanked the small congregation for being there for me.  Without them I didn't know what I would have done.

That evening, I went to work, and although visiting people in the community who didn't have much family, and giving them a reason to smile, was rewarding, by the end of the evening I went straight to the liquor store and bought myself some rum.  Rum & Coke and ripple chips 'n dip are my "go-to" comfort snack...when I have an evening to myself and want to celebrate alone time, I fire up a movie and settle in with my junk.  I was looking forward to doing that this particular Christmas Day evening and wasn't feeling too sorry for myself, until the moment I walked into the store.  At once, I was overwhelmed with grumpiness that alcohol was my date for the evening.  As I walked out and they wished me a good night, I turned, held up the bottle of rum in one hand and the bottle of Coke in the other, and said bitterly, "This is my Christmas.  Lucky me."  And I turned and walked back to my car.

The instant I slid behind the wheel I felt bad.  Not only had I played up my misery for no reason, I had shown the staff of the store - who were, after all, working on Christmas Day - a very negative attitude, and maybe made them feel either a little sad themselves, or disgust with the disgruntled lady who had just walked out of the store.  I almost went back in to tell them that I really didn't mind an evening with rum & Coke and chips 'n dip - that I was looking forward to it, in fact! - but I figured that would just make it worse.  So I went home and salvaged the rest of my Christmas.

So this year, in the days leading up to Christmas, I knew I didn't want to be miserable like I was last year; missing my kids; missing HB; missing Stu and just wishing someone would be there with me.  I put a plan into action.

I opened a Word Document, called it "Surviving Christmas Alone", and began to make plans on how I was going to spend my time alone.  Here it is: 


Christmas Day, Dec. 25th: 
8am: Wake up.  It’s a beautiful day!
o   Full makeup – you want to feel great today! 
o   Do your hair! 
o   homemade peppermint mocha (with whipped cream!) 
o   smoked salmon Eggs Benedict 
9am:  Eat breakfast while reading the Bible and having some prayer time. Readings:  Luke 2:1-20 
11am:  Meet Blazer, Stoney & Mey for lunch & Les Miserables 
2pm:  Bake something to bring to work with me! Mom’s cinnamon cookies
 4pm: Work - and enjoy your time with the residents there.  Be a light.
You will not believe how seriously I took this program.  Christmas Eve I went to the 11pm candlelight service with Stoney, which meant that after getting Stoney home, getting myself home, and then getting something to eat and getting ready for bed, it was past 1am.  Nevertheless, I ensured that I was out of bed early (okay, it was 9 instead of 8), and followed the rest of the list to the letter.  My smoked salmon Benedict was wonderful - although the peppermint mocha could have been better - and I loved going to the movie with the girls on Christmas Day.  Some baking and fudge making in the afternoon, a slow and eventless evening at work, and I had survived - and enjoyed - Christmas Day.  I had danced and sung all day and hoped that my enthusiasm would rub off on the lonely people I was around.  Driving home, I felt the need for R&C&C&D (get that one yet?) and I knew I had half of the makings of it at home, so I stopped at the gas station for some ripple chips and Coke.

While I was there looked across to the liquor store, and that is when I had the memory of walking in there last Christmas with misery written across my face.  I thought of how hard Christmas had been for me last year, and how I wished that all the innocent people who were excitedly spending Christmas with their families would tone down their cheer a little bit and realize that there are still people hurting at this time of year.  There are still people who are alone, and lonely, and confused.  Being absorbed in our own happiness doesn't lift people up out of their slump unless you involve them in it, too.

So I tried to be more sensitive to other people, rather than just hoping that my big smile and my whistling and singing under my breath would bring a smile to their faces as well.  I asked questions - after all, the woman behind the counter wasn't with her family on Christmas Day either.  It turns out that she accepted the shift so that the other worker - who has children - could be with her kids that day.  She was hoping for a family Christmas on Boxing Day, if her wife - and you learn something new about even people you see often, when you show interest in them - didn't end up stuck up-Island due to weather.  I wished her luck for a successful Boxing Day Christmas (something she and I shared) and tried to be a little more mellow on the way out.  For although my joy this year could conceivably be described as last year's misery turned inside out, I wanted to share it without rubbing it in people's faces.

It's amazing what a year can do.  It's amazing what God can change in your heart when you allow Him and when you are willing to do the work to be changed. 

After yesterday's fulfilling and fun Boxing Day Christmas with my family (and with Stringer's parents, who invited me to join them for Yule Log and coffee in the evening) I can truly say I am ten - twelve - heck, twenty times happier than I was this time last year.  So who knows where I'll be this time next year?  How exciting to find out.


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