I chose to brave New Year’s alone this year. The timing of my sedatives worked out where the option of taking one was available, but I eventually decided against it. Isolation was something I needed to face head-on, when everyone else was celebrating with friends and loved ones. If I could make it through (relatively) sober, I could survive the greatest fear I’ve had since I was a child: abandonment.
It didn’t end up being anything spectacular. Just a night with a generous three hour window to catch up on Nolan’s latest work1 and some extra time to finish a campaign in Halo’s Master Chief Collection2.
Normalcy ended up being a gift I didn’t realize I needed. The approach of each holiday season has been a looming spectre ever since I cut the power cord off a standing Ikea lamp and made a noose to hang myself from the banister 10-ish years ago3, and the anniversary effect still hits me hard.
Being alone was a way to prove to myself that I’m not so helpless now, that I don’t have to be trapped in a past that still haunts me. I’ve come a long way since that fateful morning, when I was interrupted by two cops who wouldn’t leave unless I agreed to let them drive me to the hospital. Developing a wider emotional vocabulary, nurturing healthy relationships instead of toxic ones, working with a therapist every month, and consistently stepping out of my comfort zone so I can learn and grow are all things that have given me better tools and resources to survive.
Spending Christmas with Aaron and his family this year certainly stayed any feelings of loneliness.
When I told him how scared I was of being isolated over the holidays, he insisted I stay with them or risk disappointing the kids. It was a touching threat, as well as a sign of how protective Aaron is of the people he cares about (and something I wouldn’t have noticed until Heather pointed out).
A few years ago, I might have believed it was a gesture out of charity or pity. Now I’m confident enough in my self-worth to know the invitation was extended because he genuinely enjoys my company and believes I’m a positive influence on his children (who have referred to me as “Uncle Jeff” ever since they could talk).
Being around four kids and five adults left me so wired that I had to leave a night earlier than planned so as to avoid burning myself out, even if years of unbearable loneliness meant I desperately wanted to stay. It was comforting enough to see me through one of the most difficult nights I’ve annually come to dread.
When I thanked him afterwards, he told me it would mean a great deal to everyone if I joined them each year, but no pressure. Having a place to go, but more importantly, knowing it’s because my presence would be valued instead of an obligation due to relation, has given me a feeling of acceptance and belonging I thought would be forever beyond my reach, and a sense of hope I believed was eternally lost.
- Oppenheimer was the first of his films that wasn’t my thing, but as with Scorsese, Malick, Anderson, Tarantino, and Villeneuve’s oeuvres, I’ll always be paying attention. [↩]
- I’ve never owned a Microsoft console, so while some mechanics and level designs are extremely dated, I’m still enjoying my delve into the history of such a huge cultural phenomenon as the Halo series. [↩]
- Dates and memories tend to be very hazy around that time, especially when I try not to think about it too much. [↩]