I always went there in my mind. The big Victorian house as the end of the dirt road. The rooms were endless. My favorite was the library, whose walls were covered in books from floor to ceiling, a single stuffed chair and lamp in the middle of it.
This was my retreat, the place I’d go especially at Christmas.
For years, before Jon and I got together and began figuring out our own kind of Christmas, this was my fantasy, to be alone in that room, reading. There I was secure from the traditions of the holiday, and the loneliness that I felt around my family.
Maybe if I had my own children I would have felt different. I would have wanted to give them the wonder and excitement of Christmas morning. But as I grew up, I found the excess of Christmas a source of anxiety and the traditions meaningless.
Over the years, I’ve written on my blog about breaking away from my family’s traditions and expectations. I’ve gotten help from therapists, shamans, healers, Jon and my friends. Jon and I have worked to find a way to spend Christmas that isn’t fraught with anxiety and guilt for me and that has meaning for both of us.
And I feel like, after spending ten Christmas’ together, this year was a breakthrough for both of us. Jon wrote about Christmas on his blog yesterday. How he found meaning in giving and on our trip to an Inn in Vermont.
Although I’m still struggling with the meaning of Christmas, I have found meaning in the Solstice, which I now see as my winter holiday. And even though I was more edgy and raw on the days leading up to our overnight trip on Christmas eve and day, I was able to relax and enjoy our time away without the usual feelings of guilt and anxiety that have gradually been dissipating through the years.
For the past couple of years, I wished I could ignore Christmas, treat it as any other day. I just wanted it to go away. But this year it was like my fantasy had finally come true. Not in a literal way, but in the feeling of it.
Because the feeling of love, understanding, and safety that I found by myself, in that Library room in my fantasy, was what I experienced this Christmas with Jon.
In a way, the Inn we stayed at, was a manifestation of that Victorian House at the end of the dirt road. It was quiet with few other guests and is familiar. It’s the place Jon and I went to when we first got together and needed to get away, it’s where we spent our honeymoon. And although in some ways it has changed over the years, it still felt like coming home.
As in my fantasy, I spent a good part of this Christmas reading. Even yesterday after we got home, I resisted the urge to work and instead, sat in the wicker chair by the window and finished reading, “Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernardine Evaristo (which I loved) that I started a few days ago.
So I would say that this Christmas was even better than I could have imagined. Not so much because of what Jon and I did, but because of the feeling it evoked. It was the love and gentleness that Jon and I shared, the caring for each other, the conversation, and being together.
And as I write this, it feels almost selfish to me.
For so many, including Jon, Christmas is a time of giving. And maybe that will come for me. I can begin to imagine it now that I feel safer and more comfortable with my own idea of Christmas. It’s as if I have to purge my old idea of the holiday before I can embrace a new one.
Yesterday afternoon Jon and I went to The Mansion.
We sat around with some of the people who live there, read some poetry and talked about what Christmas meant to each of them. For some, it was about getting gifts, for others about giving. A couple of people mentioned Jesus and one woman said she appreciated being able to sit next to the Christmas tree and just look at it.
I went along with Jon, knowing the people at the Mansion would enjoy our company and that it was a good thing to do. But it’s not something I would have done on my own. Like an angry teenager, a part of me balked at the idea of participating in Christmas in that way.
And yet, once there, I enjoyed it. It was not a selfless act, I like reading poetry out loud, I like listening to and having conversations with the women (they were all women) who were there. I find them interesting.
I think being able to let go of my old ideas about Christmas will open me up to perceiving and experiencing the holiday in a different way. And I feel like I’m ready for that now. So instead of dreading Christmas as I have in the past, now I’m wondering what it will be like for me next year.