Tis the season.
Holiday time tends to inspire strong feelings from people. They either love or hate the indulgent parties, extravagant spending, abundance of rich foods and strong drinks, festive decorations and overall cheer of the last months of the year. I’ve personally always enjoyed more the more intimate and understated aspects of the holidays. As a child, my favorite traditions involved a ratty old stuffed animal named Santa Paws, driving around with my parents to look at Christmas lights, the animated Christmas displays at the now extinct Fountains of Wayne, and tubing down the hill behind the old Grand Union. Of these, only Santa Paws remains, and the Christmas tunes he plays when you squeeze his paw have slowed and saddened. His Santa hat clings on to his weathered head by mere threads, but his floppy ears and light up nose are still charming. Now, sometimes, when I press his paw, I cry.
Christmas has changed. I no longer sneak out of my room at 3am to find presents under the tree, then wake my parents in a flurry of excitement. The days when my father convinced me that Santa was tired of milk and cookies and that we ought to leave him pizza and beer instead are long gone. I’m an adult now, I live in New Hampshire now, and I live alone now.
Old traditions have been replaced with new ones, like a caroling pub crawl with the local rugby team or holiday parties with my eclectic assortment of New Hampshire friends. This is my first Christmas completely solo, and tonight I set up a tree, my very first very own tree. It’s a fake one because I knew I wouldn’t bother with a real one even though that’s all I’ve ever had my whole life. This tree is pre-lit with plain white lights and doesn’t make a mess or require me to water it. It also doesn’t smell like wonderful Christmas, but it’s easy and that’s all I have the time or energy for because I’m on my own. I own exactly two Christmas ornaments here in New Hampshire, so I decorated my tree with those and a set of Black Diamond nuts used for rock climbing.
Christmas alone is an interesting concept. On the one hand, it seems kind of lonely. I didn’t think I’d enjoy decorating alone, because as a kid, my dad and I did the lights together and my mom and I did the ornaments. In other living situations, my housemates and I cut and set up our tree and decorated together. There were presents, ribbons, bows, lights, wreaths, candles, garland, ornaments, music, cookies, and eggnog. Two years ago, there was even this very odd antique wind-up monkey that brought entirely too much pleasure to my housemate and I. We made these really awful videos about it.
Now it’s just me in a sparsely furnished house with mostly bare walls and a plastic tree.
Sometimes being alone feels lonely, but then I realize how freaking awesome, brilliantly beautiful, and rich my life is. I am not alone. My life is full of many amazing people. I have close friends who I see maybe a few times a year if that, but are there for me if ever I need them. I can share my naked soul with them without fear of judgement. At my ugliest, they love me. I have people in my life that are an everyday unwavering beautiful presence. My coworkers and friends here are absolutely incredible. We share stories and laugher, and although they may not know my deepest darkest secrets, they bring light to my life every day, just by being in it. Most of the people I surround myself with on a daily basis ooze goodness out of their bones. Yes, there are grumpy people who come to my work, but they are few and far in between when you look at the big picture. Besides, I think that a little suffering each day is good for you. Adversity builds character. I am strong because I have lived through days and events that have quite frankly sucked, but even when I faced those challenges alone, I was never isolated from the beauty of the people around me, who have loved me and supported me through good times and bad.
I like to think that I am a pretty grateful person. I’m not one who limits showing my appreciation for all of the wonderful people in my life, giving thanks for my many blessings, or expressing gratitude for everyday touches of beauty to just the holiday season. I say I love you, openly, honestly, and often. I smile and say thank you frequently, daily throughout the year. Sharing such sentimental feelings of joy for all I have seems a little cliche this time of year, but today, I just can’t help myself. I am thankful.
My life is beautiful. And so is my Christmas tree.