The alone and the in-between

I just got done spending my tenth Christmas alone in Canada. Well, that's not exactly true. Some years there have been visitors and others friends or groups of friends. But mostly it's been a solitary Christmas Day book-ended with some small gatherings and quiet gift exchanges.

It kinda sucks. I mean, I find ways of coping, even of enjoying myself, I've developed traditions that smooth the day along, favourite meals and movies, a walk around the neighbourhood. On Christmas Day, I went to Starbucks and there were many people there, with books and laptops. Perhaps they don't celebrate Christmas. Or perhaps they do and were, like me, alone. It's not a rare thing, though you could easily feel that way.

Most years, there's an element of choice in all of this. I turn down invitations on Christmas Day. I always feel like it's better to feel that pang of loneliness alone than the even-worse state of feeling alone in company. So, it's not like I'm completely depressed and a victim in all of this. I let myself feel a little sad, but I also embrace being alone, low-key and pandering to whatever I want for the day.

The part that's hard is the perception. The holiday is a complete encapsulation of those situations all singletons dread; the pitying eyes, the feeling that you're defending your life, explaining - no really!! - that I wouldn't have it another way. And that defense feels a little dishonest, because the truth is there are moments during the holidays when I bottom out. But, don't we all? Bottom out, I mean?

Yesterday, I took down my tree. Once Christmas Day is over, the lights and glitter have lost their magic for me. I wonder sometimes how much I've been role-playing all of it to make it less lonely. I think we do what we need to do. But on Boxing Day, I always feel relief and want to shed the skin of it. I clear out my fridge and clean my apartment. I feel lighter when a clean and open space re-emerges from all that cozy clutter. I open windows, letting December's frigid air raze my apartment.

It's this week between Christmas and New Year's that I really love about the holidays; the beautiful, low-key no-man's-land of it. Is there a time of year when we're more on the threshold of a door that's swinging open and close? I love this nothingness. The calm and the clean slate of it. All those feelings that I was so susceptible to only a week ago have evaporated. Instead, I withdraw, glazed over by the optimism of this in-between...
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