Every year since 2006 I have posted this. HOLD ON. No matter what. HOLD ON.
“I cannot believe I’m alone on Christmas Eve.” – me (December 1987)
We had separated in February. February 10th. I was anxious and depressed and upset through most of February and March. He was being open about his relationship with a woman he worked with. In fact, he introduced our poor, confused children to her and her children less than six weeks after we’d parted.
I was furious that he would introduce my kids to her. I could not believe that he had so little regard for them as to do that. It was a portent of things to come for the next 10 years when he put our children and their feelings last, after her, her kids, her family and just about anything else. But right after we separated, I still thought of him as someone who cared about his children. The things he did immediately after we separated gave me a clue that he would put her and her children before his children for all of the years to come but I tried very hard not to believe it.
Still, I was upset and feeling crazy for them and for me through most of March and April.
It was a time of great emotional upheaval. I was anxious, depressed, lonely, scared and broke. I paced the floors and wrung my hands. What would become of me? Could I REALLY take care of these kids? Would anyone ever love me? Why was I the one who hurt when he was the one so badly behaved? How did he get to be ensconced in puppy love and happiness when I was aching and alone? He was the bad guy, not me. How did this work??
It was so unfair.
I had looked for work in February, March and April but was such a mess I am sure that the interviewers saw right through me. I was a complete and utter mess. I never felt so awful and alone.
At the beginning of May the weather got warmer and after 12 weeks of intense therapy and reading and support groups, I was starting to feel much better. I was exercising, I lost weight, I got my hair cut. I bought new clothes. And at the end of May I finally got a job, a good job, and started to feel better and things were looking up.
In July he wanted to come back home. We did an emotional crazy dance for about six weeks because I could not believe that I really didn’t want this.
For most of March and April I had walked the floors at night and cried and carried on. I had wanted him back and I had wanted our life and our family back. I had been threatened by the idea of someone else taking that.
But now in the summer I could see, after less than six months of intense therapy and support groups, that he was a controlling SOB and I wasn’t really open to a reconcilliation. I was enjoying my new life after a few months of feeling on the emotional skids.
He hung around a long time and he wasn’t crazy about my new changes…the changes that I was crazy about. He questioned where I was going and who I was seeing and for the first time in my life, I didn’t feel the need to answer him. He hung around and kept trying to trip me up with questions. I didn’t like being questioned. I had spent so many years with him explaining myself, defending myself against things I wasn’t thinking or hadn’t done, intentions I didn’t have. He constantly berated me when we were married and accused me of doing things I wasn’t doing. I spent 10 years explaining, apologizing and defending myself. Now, I wasn’t in the mood for it. I had changed the dance steps and he didn’t know how to respond. He would alternate between angry and upset when I wouldn’t answer his questions. For the first time in our relationship I cared more about my reaction to what he was doing than his reaction to what I was doing.
Instead of feeling bad that I made him angry or upset, I was miffed about being questioned. I was taking a step back and was able to see how controlling and ridiculous he was. The “reconcilliation” was a good thing in that I could see the dance steps we did and I no longer wanted to dance.
My therapist had told me that the only way to win was not to play the game and here I was, not even WANTING to play the game.
I decided I liked my new life more than I liked him and he did not take it well. We had an argument because I was just not willing to go back to being told what to do. I knew it would be over if I didn’t make this reconcilliation work but the truth was, I didn’t want it to work.
He disappeared in August, back with the other woman and so be it. I didn’t really care. I could not believe that my thoughts were “He’s her problem now. Let her have him. If she’s sick enough to want him and to wait for him after he attempts to come back to me, she can have him.”
I was feeling so good about things and no longer cared about her having him. I still didn’t like the fact that he put her and her kids before mine, but I wasn’t willing to fight for him any longer. I didn’t even want him, let alone want to fight for him.
I don’t think he liked my new attitude because one day in September he came over and assaulted me. I filed for divorce and a restraining order and felt like jumping for joy through most of October and November. I was FREEEEEEEEEEEE. Things were coming together. I knew I had a lot of work to do but I was doing it, and the results were fabulous.
For the first time I had stuck up for myself and said “You can’t hit me.” and I was clear that no one would ever hit me again. I was done with that.
Then it snuck up on me…the holidays…I didn’t have a boyfriend…he had a girlfriend…Thanksgiving was rough, very rough…rougher than I thought it would be… then it was Christmas and we were making plans…I didn’t have a lot to give my kids in the way of a “family” Christmas so I let him take them…my only Christmas without them…and it hurt like hell…he was bringing the kids to her house and they were going to have a Norman Rockwell Christmas.
Even if they were all screwed up, they could still bedazzle the children with the trappings and wrappings of Christmas…despite the fact that I had been feeling strong and healthy for most of the fall, I began to unravel in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
By Christmas Eve I was an utter and complete mess. I went to a couple of get-togethers that people in my support groups were holding. I had a very negative view of this…LOSERS…losers whose lives revolved around therapy and support groups and had no significant others and no lives. LOSERS.
And I was one of them. A big LOSER.
I felt anxious and depressed and thoughts of suicide did cross my mind. I felt myself slipping into a deep dark hole.
On Christmas Eve I went to a gathering where people were “sharing” (I thought that if I heard one more person SHARE I was going to hurl). I didn’t want someone to SHARE their feelings with me, I wanted someone to share their life with me, with presents and a tree and the glowing faces of my three little kids…instead my kids were at HIS house with HER wrapping presents, drinking eggnog, caroling for all I knew (my imagination had it pegged as THE perfect Christmas anyone had ever had EVER)
and I was alone on Christmas Eve.
I left the gathering and called a friend of mine and said I was sick of hearing people SHARE, sick of “support groups”, sick of all of it…I didn’t want it to be this way, I didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t want my children with the ex and his girlfriend and her kids….I didn’t want the holidays…I didn’t want any of this. I wanted this all to go away and I wanted to do something else.
He said, “Okay so what else are you going to do?”
There was NOTHING else to do but trudge back to the gathering.
I plopped down next to a guy I had never seen before…he was wearing a motorcycle jacket and had tattoos everywhere. Oh good, a dangerous guy…just my speed. Another friend of mine, David, sat on the other side of me and the three of us started talking.
The guy, Billy, was in town for his friend’s funeral. Another motorcycle guy who killed himself because he was depressed at Christmas. Billy was angry and thought that was the coward’s way out. He could not get right with it. He loved his friend and missed him but he was so ANGRY at him.
I wondered if my family would be angry if I killed myself? I hadn’t even thought of that.
Billy hadn’t touched drugs or alcohol for 3 years and was sticking close to people, even people he didn’t know, to avoid it while he was in town for the funeral and the holidays.
The three of us went out to breakfast and then met again on Christmas night for dinner.
The three of us were hurting units but we kept talking (yes, SHARING) and I felt like we had known each other all of our lives. There was a synergy and a camraderie that just worked and worked well.
Hanging out with Billy and David was nice in a very depressing kind of way…we were like the toys of misfit island–Billy was small with flaming red hair and looked like he could kill someone as soon as look at them…David was big and brawny, but gentle as a lamb and looked like a big bear…someone you could hug…and then there was me in the middle…dressed to the nines with no where to go…we were a motley crew…but that was what it was and there wasn’t much I could do about it. As my other friend had asked, “What else was I going to do?”
Here I was on the island of misfit toys with David and Billy.
We saw each other every night that week between Christmas and New Years Eve. On New Year’s Eve one of my support groups asked me to be the New Year’s speaker at a big gathering they were having. Billy and David went with me. We had a great time then we went out for breakfast at 2 am. We drove out to a mountain, to a place that Billy knew, and we parked and talked and watched the sunrise. It was beautiful. I felt a peace I had never known before.
The next day Billy left a note and one rose on my car. The note said, “It’s January 2nd. The holidays are over. There will always be a January 2nd. Take care of yourself and think of me often, Love Billy”
And I never saw him again but I do think of him every holiday season. David and I remained close for a couple of years but we drifted apart and a few years later he died a very premature death due to an undiagnosed heart condition. I think of him every holiday season as well.
I’ve had a few rough holidays since but I managed to build traditions with my kids and even when it was the four of us, we had a holiday and I made it the best I could, even when I had no money and no other people to share it with.
There were definitely years when I just wanted to get THROUGH it and not deal with it and years it did feel lonely and not so great. But, I always told myself, there is a January 2nd. Just wait for it.
As for me, this year–19 years after that year with David and Billy, my life is plentiful. I will spend the holidays with my husband and my kids and grandkids. The ex married the woman that I considered a nutjob. His kids don’t speak to him. I think that all the Norman Rockwell dreams were fantasies to hide the fact that his life didn’t work the rest of the year.
My kids and I have wonderful relationships and I now enjoy the grandkids and the daughters-in-law.
I don’t think I will ever love the holidays but it through great pain that wisdom is born and I am so grateful for the wisdom I received during that first year. There is always a January 2nd.
If you are broken up and broken-hearted during the holidays, and taunted by everyone’s “Norman Rockwell” holidays, know that they are probably not having a good a time as they seem and that there is always a January 2nd.
KEEP YOUR FOCUS ON YOU….plan your life, build your life. DO NOT let the holidays take you down. DO NOT compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides. Know that you are okay NO MATTER WHAT.
Hold on, hang tight, and keep building your life and your support networks. Go to meetups, go to hobby groups, support groups, 12 step meetings, sign up for classes…keep your focus on you and your vision for the future. Do your reading, do your writing. Keep the focus on you and your health and well being and healing and find friends who will share their joy and their pain with you. You can’t ask for more. Here’s to wishing you all a joyful January 2nd.