Alone at Christmas

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It’s Christmas Eve day and, for me, it’s a time to put my thoughts in order. So I’m afraid this post won’t be very Christmassy. Instead I’m going to talk about something that’s a reality for a lot of abuse survivors; being alone.

Christmas is that time of year when you’re with friends and family in a house with a fireplace and a tree and lots of presents and food. Christmas for me involves a pizza and Freddy Krueger. I chose this and, while I don’t regret it, it’s hard.

See, everything on the internet, television, media, songs, every damn place you go screams family and tradition. I would love to be with a family someplace with all those things just not with my family.

Anyone who’s read this blog knows that I survived a lifetime of abuse at the hands of my sister and I managed to get free of that. Many people cheer me on when they find out, like I’m some Wonder Woman who managed the impossible. For me it was simple; get out or die.

There is an aftermath, though, of abuse. Getting free isn’t always enough. Everyone knows that post-abuse involves therapy and rebuilding your life but what people don’t know is what life is like in the free zone.

Christmas is especially hard for those who have survived the narcissist. There is a sense of freedom that is especially intoxicating that you simply don’t want to share with anyone. It’s healing and invigorating. You get to eat pizza on Christmas Day while watching Freddy.

However, as hard as you might try, you can’t ignore those homily messages that talk about family and hearth and home. If you’ve left  your narcissist, you’ve probably left those things as well. This is where the clash happens.

On one hand you’re standing on the rocks of your freedom, shouting defiance to the universe. On the other is the voice of your narcissist alive and well in your head whispering what a loser you are for being alone on the one day when no one is alone.

It’s okay, though. That voice has no real power and you get better at ignoring it. I doubt that Christmas will ever be easy but it will get kinder. For survivors the Christmas miracle is simply being free. Maybe that’s enough. I don’t know. What I do know is pizza and Freddy await.

Black Poinsettia

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Now that Halloween is done, I’d like to talk about Christmas.

Okay, please turn off the screams and stop throwing stuff. This is not what you think it is.

Every year from about November to the end of January, I get inundated with Christmas. Before Christmas it’s “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays” or an inquiry as to my moral status to see if I’m getting goods from a mystery man known as Santa. After Christmas, everyone and their pet iguana wants to know what I got or if I stuffed myself at Christmas. Or, conversely, I get a rundown of their new shiny bling and a menu review.

Please, take this next statement to heart.

Stuff it all up your ass.

There are those of us who don’t celebrate Christmas. I’m not talking about celebrating alternatives which, as a Wiccan, I celebrate Yule (December 21st). I’m talking about those of us who don’t really care about the day at all. I’m talking about those people who don’t have a special feast or Christmas trees or turkey and stuffing. Yes, I make Christmas presents for my friends but that is not because of Christmas. It’s because I recognize that they celebrate the day and it’s special to them. Me? I would love to hide from November 1st to January 31st. Never to endure a Christmas carol or smarmy holiday greeting.

Why?

Once upon a time I would wake up early on Christmas morning and tear into my loot. I used to dream of Santa and try to be real good. I even ate my peas. I would eat turkey and stuffing and looked forward to the pies my mother made every year. Then something would happen every Christmas. Something would happen to make my sister upset and she’d start yelling. Then my brother (the one with schizophrenia) would start bullying my other brother and an argument or sometimes a fist fight would break out. The turkey would start to taste like ash in my mouth as the screaming and violence escalated. To this day I’m not a fan pumpkin pie. I cry every time I eat it.

By the time I was 6 I was informed, about a week before Christmas, there was no Santa and that I wouldn’t be getting Santa gifts anymore. My sister was tired of my parents showering the extra money and attention on me (she was 12 years older than me) and insisted it had to stop. I was confused. Had I been so bad that Santa didn’t love me anymore? Was Santa dead? I cry even now at the memory of it.

Now my Christmas day consists of eating homemade pizza (my pizza is the absolute best) and watching horror flicks on Netflix. I text my friends to let them know I love them and then I go off the grid. I crochet and try to get ready for New Year’s (which I’m invariably alone). I try to make my day as relaxing as possible so

So I want you to understand, dear reader, that there are people like myself out there for whom Christmas is a torture and it’s an endurance test to get through it. This year I will make a pin for myself of a black poinsettia. When you see it, please be so kind as to keep your well wishes to yourself. I have no wish to interfere with your celebrations. I recognize that, to you, Christmas is a celebration of life and hope and love. Please understand, though, that my associations with Christmas are very black. Enjoy your holidays and let me quietly spend mine.

I suggest that those who wish to opt out of Christmas wear a black poinsettia as a means of letting others know.

The Christmas Tradition

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A picture talking about ownership of Christmas traditionsYesterday someone posted this on Facebook where I could see it. It made me so unbelievably angry I had to go out for a while before I could sit down and think about it sensibly. Those who celebrate Christmas claim it’s a time for sharing and showing love to one another then this is posted. How hypocritical can you get?

Let’s break this down. First, let’s look at these traditions you claim are yours. Do you have a Christmas tree? Are you getting gifts? Going to have a nice Christmas feast? All these things can be traced to earlier pagan traditions from around Europe. See, back in the day when the Holy Catholic Church (which appropriated the shreds of the Roman empire) was establishing itself, the pesky pagans refused to give up their traditions. Things like Samhain and Yule which later became Halloween and Christmas. Oh and don’t even get me started on Easter traditions.

Yule, or the Winter Solstice, was a time to celebrate the sun’s return to earth. So, boughs of evergreen were brought into the home, feasts were had, gifts exchanged. This made the Church nuts. Darn pagans. Didn’t they know that their traditions were wrong? So, in good Christian logic, they simply moved the day of Christ’s birth to the Winter Solstice and appropriated the pagan traditions as a means to celebrate.

I’m not going to get into whether Christ was a real person or not but if He was, He wasn’t born in the middle of winter. Most likely he was born in spring. WHAT?!?! Yep. As a matter of fact, the whole Nativity story is a crock. It’s stolen, almost wholesale, from the Egyptian story of Isis giving birth to Osiris. Minus the magi, of course. Funny for a person claiming this is their tradition, isn’t it?

So let’s get to the heart of this posting. What it says is that no one better mess with Christmas. After all, this is MINE, god dammit and you have to agree to it. In short, I’ll do what I want and fuck you. I’ve run across this attitude before, ironically it happens most often at Christmas and I’ll give you a brief overview of the person that usually mouths this sentiment. They’re the ones that have the most lights on their house complete with a Nativity scene in the front yard. They send out picture cards every year of their family in matching outfits and even subject the dog to this humiliation. They go to the office Christmas party and smile and show what a good person they are. They donate to at least three of their favorite charities and it’s usually a big donation. At Christmas dinner they have a glass of wine, never beer, and tell everyone what they’re so grateful for this year. On Boxing Day they’re out in the malls and stores, making people work, so they can get the best deals.

This person would never dream of inviting a stranger in need to Christmas dinner, knowing they’ll be alone for Christmas. They donate to charities because they feel guilty for never giving those in need a thought the rest of the year. They put on a great show for this one day out of the year but never show respect for any other traditions happening at this time of year. Well, they might say “Happy Hanukkah” to their Jewish friends. After all, they’re not racist.

However, ask them to change a little so as to include everyone in the celebratory nature of this time of year and they will throw fits. Share the season with another tradition?? BLASPHEMY! Open your celebrations to someone of another culture? NEVER! Christmas is theirs and belongs to them, dammit. How dare they want to share it? They’ll take that “Merry Christmas” and like it.

What truly saddens me with this posting is the idea that someone would think that this is in any way keeping with the true meaning of Christmas, no matter your tradition. All over the world there is a common theme to this time of year; love. Yet, in the desperate need to be right, to be better than others, they would trample over the feelings and traditions of others. So when you stop to say “Merry Christmas” consider why you’re saying it. Are you saying it to show off your Christmas spirit or are you saying it to wish another the love of the season? Christmas isn’t the exclusive right of one group of people. Christmas isn’t yours.

We Can End Poverty

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A tree in Edmonton full of fall foliage

Remember this link. It’ll come in handy at the end of this blog.

As we head into fall, we come into a season where the emphasis is on family. With Thanksgiving (in Canada) about a week away then Christmas, people will start thinking about all the wonderful things they’ll be doing with family. Thoughts of turkey or ham with stuffing and mashed potatoes and gravy and those little tiny cabbages I really hate will be dancing through people’s heads. We’ll think about sharing a glass of wine or six with our siblings, thinking about all those holidays growing up and watching nieces and nephews play with our children. When the weather gets cold outside, we’ll be warm inside surrounded by love.

Then there’s those who have no family or are estranged.

There’ll be no presents or turkey or memories. I don’t mind, personally. I chose this path and believe me when I say I’d rather be at home by myself watching old movies than enduring another abusive night with my sister. I’d come away from those holidays wanting to jump off a bridge. For those who think I’m exaggerating, I spent the week after my last Christmas with my sister crying hysterically and contemplating suicide. Turkey isn’t worth that.

However, this isn’t about me.

Many homeless people are going to be alone during the holidays, struggling to find a place to sleep and enough to eat. They don’t have a family to have turkey with or share memories with and they need your help. There are things you can do that take no time or effort on your part but make a world of difference to someone who has nothing.

For example, I always carry those little dollar store gloves in my purse during the winter. They’re not much but they offer some protection against the cold. A friend of mine knits scarves all year and gives them to shelters. She can’t knit anything else but it helps. There are senior’s facilities that ask for donations of wool. Knitting and crocheting helps keeps elderly hands agile and the products are often donated to shelters or schools.

Do you have an apple tree in your yard that you complain drops apples on your yard and is a pain in the ass to clean up? Maybe you planted too much zucchini in the garden this year and are going to throw out what you can’t use. Take those apples and zucchini and whatever else you have leftover and take them to shelters or the Food Bank. Fresh fruit and vegetables are always needed and welcome.

As you pack up your summer clothes, some are inevitably never going to be worn again. This is a great time to clean your closets and donate your clothes and such to places like the Bissell Centre.

So what happens if you do these things? One more person gets to eat. One less homeless person freezes to death on the streets in Edmonton’s winter. More than that, though, you help yourself. The amount of money that places like the Food Bank and the Bissell Centre require just to make ends meet is huge. If they had fewer people depending on them, they could allocate their resources better.

There’s more than that, though. Instead of having to feed, clothe and house people who are unable to do it for themselves; you create a new workforce. People previously unemployable due to a lack of a fixed address, suddenly become employable. Guess what? Employed people spend money. They boost the local economy by buying things. So instead of being a drain on society, they contribute to society. There’s a lot of hidden talent within Edmonton’s poor that’s going unused.

Do you know there’s more benefits to ending poverty? Children who live in poverty do poorer in school than children who don’t live in poverty. If you don’t eat, you can’t think. That’s just common sense. So you invest in a whole generation of kids who may go on to do great things and give them chances they may not have had before.

Remember that link I posted at the top of the page? Well, click on it now. These are good people trying to do good things. There are those people that will tell you that there will always be poverty and we can’t do anything about it. I’m here to tell you that’s bullshit. Edmonton’s mayor, Don Iveson, has made a commitment to end poverty in Edmonton. Edmonton is the capital city of the wealthiest province in Canada. We have a lot to be proud of and if we end poverty, it will add one more thing to the list of Edmonton’s pride. All it takes is working together and I’ve never seen a problem yet that Edmonton can’t overcome. We’re not afraid of hard work and we can pull together, we’ve done it before. Let’s help our city end this problem.

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