There is no silver lining. Big grey clouds just shimmer in the rain.
I was originally going to write about Christmas. It wasn’t going to be a jolly, festive post – I was ill on Christmas Day with some vague, unspecified aching tiredness and I slept through most of it and I’ve been sleeping quite a lot since, hence why I never got round to finishing it up.
I don’t know what’s been wrong with me this year. Although I don’t particularly celebrate Christmas, I’m normally feeling assaulted by festive spirit as the day itself gets closer. This year I barely even noticed. I put a tree up, I bought presents – you can’t get away with doing nothing at all when you have a four-year-old daughter with a wishlist as long as her arm – but something felt missing. There was no enjoyment, no excitement… no annoyance, no looking forward to it all being over. Nothing. I went through the motions. I didn’t care at all.
This is kind of what my original post was about, although I was reflecting more upon the past to try to work out exactly when I became so Scrooge-y about the whole thing. I can’t even remember enjoying it as a kid; there was always something to disappoint me. Maybe I stopped enjoying it as soon as I stopped believing in Santa.
…I don’t even remember believing in Santa, actually. My mum never tried to pretend it wasn’t her putting the presents under the tree and she had the kind of boyfriends who took delight in ruining shit like that for me.
Anyway. Once I moved away from her and back in with my grandparents, we just kinda stopped bothering with the whole thing. No tree, no decorations, nothing. There’d be a roast dinner on the day itself, but no extras. It would just be treated like a Sunday.
Some years I would go to my dad’s instead, and the contrast between the two places was absolutely ridiculous. There were cheap garlands EVERYWHERE – from corner to corner along the walls, diagonally across the ceiling, along the windowsill, around the mirror and the picture frames. The tree had more tinsel and lights and decorations than was probably safe. There were random wreaths and ornaments filling the rest of the space. It was fucking hideous. No wonder I get migraines these days.
And the presents! So many presents, so many of them dreadful. I would generally get the ‘big’ present I asked for and some clothes, but then my dad and stepmum felt the need to wrap novelty items and random fruit and crappy ornaments and ugh. This was mostly for the benefit of my sister, who was somewhat spoiled (and who has sadly continued this tradition with her children). She got quite a few good presents but seemed to enjoy quantity over quality, whereas I would have preferred not having to take home loads of stuff I didn’t want.
(One of the things I absolutely dread about Christmas is people watching me open presents. I never quite got the hang of looking grateful for things I didn’t want and when I was very little my stepmum would make very bitter remarks about how I was turning my nose up at stuff she’d picked for me – and when I was very little I didn’t understand the “politics” of that particular situation. I now act overly grateful for everything, which confuses people who buy me joke gifts.)
It was much easier at home. Usually I’d need a new coat or new pair of shoes in September or so, and I’d ask my grandad for my Christmas present early so that I could buy what I wanted. I never really felt like I was missing out, because my birthday is a month after Christmas so I’d get something else then anyway.
This is probably pretty cynical for a child though, right? I just didn’t really hold out much hope at Christmas. I had stopped believing in the whole idea of ‘Christmas miracles’ or whatever when I was very, very young and tried to use my Christmas wish to get me removed from whichever horrible situation I was in. Upon finding out that children don’t magically get removed from unhappy home lives just because they wished super hard at Christmas, the whole season – or at least the way people celebrate it – just left a bad taste in my mouth. Christians celebrating the birth of their saviour I can totally understand, but what the fuck is everyone else doing?
But don’t mind me. This is just what happens when you lose hope.
I was going to end my original post by saying that I was actually starting to feel weirdly hopeful in a way I’ve never felt before, but then I had one of those phone calls. Well, I had three of them actually – I was asleep and my phone was on silent, so someone had to shake me until I woke up enough to call my best friend back. While the phone was ringing, I wondered which one of them had died. I have no idea how [un]healthy either of my parents are (or any of my other estranged relatives, for that matter). Then I suddenly got worried in case it was someone on her side – I’d rather her be annoyed at having to pass a message on to me than have to feel that kind of loss again.
But it was neither. Or, I should say, both. A mutual friend. Someone far too young. Someone I was extremely close to not that long ago, but whom I had neglected recently because I have the kind of mental problem that makes me incredibly (albeit not deliberately) self-absorbed and reclusive.
It hasn’t sunk in. I keep finding myself crying without realising I’m doing it, as though my physical body is going into mourning without waiting to see whether my mind can actually process what is happening and act appropriately.
He was wonderful. I’ll tell you about him one day.