Quiet in my house this Christmas Eve. In the oven baking is a frozen beef and stout pie, in the fridge a six-pack of Stella Artois – an appropriately light drink with such heavy food. It smells wonderful, and suits my resistance to anything resembling actual cooking. This year, especially. Yes, okay, every year.
Whatever. Shut up.
My kids are scattered to the winds. My daughter is celebrating her first Christmas with her girlfriend in their tiny, animal-filled apartment (two cats and a dog…), my sons with their father’s family. My boys will come tomorrow, bringing tidings of great cheer and eating the massive amounts of food I bought. As for my daughter, she’s splitting holidays with her virtual in-laws. Plans are to get all of us together next weekend for presents and even more food.
I’d imagined a very different Christmas for myself this year. For a fleeting few months, there was the very real possibility I’d be settled permanently in the UK, strolling through an Edinburgh wearing its magical holiday lights and decorations. I’d have missed my kids like crazy, but Scotland’s in my marrow still.
What’s ironic is it’s nearly impossible getting them all together now. They’re growing up and out, in separate directions. They’re not gone yet, but I can see the reality they soon will be. When they are, I’ll need the practice so I can stand alone.
I’ve chosen this single life for myself – for now. I left The Impossible Scot, came home from the UK. I can handle difficult people. I like snarky curmudgeons, find them endearing. What I cannot bear is constant confrontation, harping and bickering. I am a gentle person. It takes a lot to rile me to anger.
But once you do, I have teeth. Especially if my children are there.
I found out the Scot has obsessive issues, wounds from the past now barely concealing fury, outbursts of extraordinary intensity. He mistook my amiable personality for weakness. That’s a huge mistake. It takes far more strength to hold back from anger, to accept another person’s bad or merely irritating behavior and just let it go. You can anger or hurt me: I digest it in a moment, turn back around with a smile, and it’s gone.
Holding onto grievances is pointless.
Angry outbursts are not strength. They’re the exact opposite. Anger rots from the inside; lashing out at others is a misguided attempt to make them pay for hurts others have given.
I wish I could have been the healer, wish I’d have been able to step out far enough to see and understand in the moment. It’s become a great anchor, this regret. Until I stop grieving, let go of the niggling feeling the story’s not over, until I heal, I’m best on my own.
Man. Christmas sure brings out sentiment, doesn’t it.
Part of healing is finding a new sense of direction. This is why I need 2018 to be a huge year, to eclipse 2017. I’m keeping Christmas small partly because I’m putting lots of time and energy into kicking 2018’s ass in advance.
I’m plotting and planning.
Hoping and dreaming.
Once that’s in place, I’ll be taking action.
I like this quiet Christmas Eve. Being alone doesn’t equate to loneliness. I have lots of people in my life, when I choose to socialize. I have my kids, great people I work with, I’ve joined and re-joined groups devoted to interests I share with others.
Loving alone time does not mean you hate people. Writing and reading are largely solitary pursuits. People like me require periods of solitude. It has nothing whatsoever to do with feelings about other people.
Well, most people.
I’m planning a trip to New Orleans next month, to help calm the wanderlust and get out of Chicago for a while. Unrelated to my big life plans – as far as I know, because life has had a remarkable ability to shock me – NOLA is a place of sultry, edgy beauty with strong ties to a specific part of American culture. It’s also home to strong echoes of the American literary past.
I hope I can make this trip happen. I’m already itching to get somewhere else.
It was nice taking this time to write a post on a major holiday. It feels luxurious I had the time to spare. I’m already at work composing my 2018 reading plan post. That’ll take a few days, but that’s okay. There’s another week left of 2017.
Merry Christmas to you all.