Loneliness & Sadness: A Reflection on Christmas & Big Events, on Valentines Day.

By Sharon Doyle
11 February 2019

So why would I write a blog on something we all know happens and is spoken about widely? Also its about Christmas, after Christmas isn’t it? Erm… so let’s just move on now!

I chose to wait until now to write about it because I wanted to reflect on my sadness, that I get each and every Christmas since I was a child. I’m not wanting to go too deep into my past but I also felt ready to really talk about it, for the first time in 45 years (yep I’m that old).

A Blast from the Past:

From memory, Christmas has been a let-down…long before Christmas films, large TV’s and dedicated Christmas channels playing films 24/7 for around 3 months of the year.

The first time I felt it, or from what I can remember now (told you I was old) was this:

My mother had remarried, we had moved in to live with her new partner (whether we wanted to or not, a blog for another day) and myself and my younger brother, I had to share a room with a new, elder step-sister. The other step elder sister had gone to live with her grandparents (no love lost there).

I must have been 7 years old and Christmas eve felt like it lasted all day. I remember the buzz around the house getting the turkey and getting the veg (back then you didn’t get the veg from the supermarket it was from the local grocery) and the peeling began. Oh my days there seemed to be so much peeling happening. There wasn’t interaction with the children; no fun, no build up of excitement, just peeling of bloody veg.

Oh and a memory of foil Christmas decorations put up on the ceiling with drawing pins. Any slight change in heat and them decorations fell down landing on your head whilst watching Bullseye or Hi de Hi!!

The youngest sibling in every family either spent the festive season stood on a chair pinning them back up or as the “TV channel changer” - as we didn’t have a remote control back then. Well… we did, in the same in the shape of a 4-year-old boy with missing teeth.

Photo: an example of the creative, innovative foil decorations.

I don’t remember what my brother did (other than stand on a chair or change the TV channel) or what I did or my step sister that day, but I can imagine we was left to our own devices and as none of us was encouraged to interact with each other, we most probably did this on our own.

I was quite a social outcast growing up, didn’t quite fit in and was in no way popular so I can guarantee I wasn’t playing out in the street, like they did back then.

I do remember though, my Aunty Majorie always had a Christmas Eve party at her house in the evening (she had a husband - Uncle Duncan, and children, Tracey and David - both older than me and quite bossy). Everyone always won a prize, didn’t matter what it was but it was a prize. We would all play games and eat from a buffet.

Aunty Majorie and Uncle Duncan was considered posh, even though they lived in a terraced ‘straight on the street’ house (its very important to understand that anyone who lives in a terrace and describes it as a terraced ‘with garden’ is showing their status, especially in the 80’s. However not many people would say terraced ‘straight on the street’, especially not Aunty Majorie). She spoke with grace, the house smelt nice (not of John Players Special or Consulate cigarettes) and it was warm, as they had central heating (we didn’t - we had the one gas fire)… thinking about it I bet they didn’t have foil decorations with that heat 😊

My favourite game was Play your cards right, I loved it because we all pretended at least for a couple of hours we got on and everyone joined in, adults and children. Obviously, someone cheated which resulted in play arguing, laughing and teasing which ended up in a strop, tears and the cards thrown everywhere. I didn’t strop off, because I always enjoyed the entertainment and watched it all happen.

Then we would go home, next day wake up and get given our presents. There wasn’t a lot of money, so maybe that year I got a doll and I do remember each year till I was about 15 I got a nylon polar neck (now known as turtle neck)

The above picture isn’t me, but you get the ‘look’ of the day. I have always had a larger than average neck and hated anything grabbing my neck. Polar necks are only good for one thing and that is covering love bites (that’s another blog!).

So that’s presents over, wrapping in the bin, step sisters got money (always got money) and then comes my younger brother - “Golden balls” I would call him as he would get something far better than me and wouldn’t he know it and gloat about it.

I think I am starting to paint the picture of sadness at Christmas but let’s not stop here, let’s carry on and tell you the rest of it.

Oh, and I have just remembered the pressure of Christmas morning everyone watching you open your presents and me having to sit there and pretend it’s the best thing since sliced bread but actually thinking, another polar neck is social suicide and life is hard enough!

Grandma Dot would come for her Christmas dinner. She thought I was disabled because I was left handed. She said once - no man would want me because I was deformed (this is a fact) and she took me under her wing to knit, sow and embroider. As you will get to know it has left me in good stead, I never make clothes and have been single for 10 years.

Anyway, back to Christmas dinner. The Turkey has been cooking for what seems like days and the veg has been on since we woke up and it must be 1pm now. Anyone for dry turkey and mashed veg? Yep that’s right, however there may be a bit of fag ash in there also as carving and smoking was on trend late 70’s early 80’s.

"I have expectations of Christmas being fun and exciting, doesn’t everyone? But, I truly have never felt those fuzzy feelings of excitement at Christmas, except, well… maybe just once, for about an hour!"
Sharon

The mix match of the chairs came out and Grandma Dot who always seemed ancient sat down and we sat around her. Obviously not being her biological grandchild and being “deformed” I was getting further and further away from her 😊.  Then, we were served our food and we ate it the best we could. I recommend you eat the turkey whilst drinking cheap cola it goes down easier and as for the mash veg, more vitamins would have been on the kitchen tiles. We then pulled crackers and were made to wear the hats (I hate the hates more than I hate opening presents in front of people)

That’s it now! Christmas over. Done, dusted. Grandma Dot would be taken home and then both Susan and Trev (mother and step dad) went to bed for a few hours for a nap. We were then left downstairs to amuse ourselves.

That was Christmas in my day and I wonder why I get sad!

I do remember one thing which made me giggle…….one year I was much older, maybe 15 years old and my oldest step sister was 22. She had changed her religion from Catholic to born again Christian and that Christmas she bought us all tapes of hymns from her church. She was proud as punch playing it during our ‘famous’ Christmas dinner and sang very high pitched throughout. She nudged me to join in, I got my fork and pointed it towards her and told her to back away…hahahaha she never did it again! She is still a born again Christian though 😊

I cannot remember New Years Eve as a child, so I am presuming it was less eventful than Christmas day, maybe we were all in bed at 7pm.

So that ends the festivities at 3 Mosely Street and it followed the same pattern year in and year out.

I am not sure if I felt sad or lonely or both growing up, but I know I felt something, and it wasn’t overjoyed, happy or welcome (that’s for another blog!).

Life as an Adult:

Over time, we age life evolves and before we know it, Christmas films are plentiful, and we are introduced to the American way of doing things. I always find that America does it bigger and better than us Brits!I am now an adult and at 28 gave birth to my first child.  After this, Christmas’s became mine, at my home - I was the host (oh joy!!!). Life in the Doyle family was a Jamie Oliver affair, I had the DVD and the portable player and made the Christmas dinner from there.  It was amazing (mum crush on Jamie), nothing like it was when I was younger (I also did peel as much!).

There were other changes I made. Christmas eve wabeame a day I did something with my children; either Gulliver’s World, Cinema, Lazer Quest… whatever it was, we was never just sat there.

But, I discovered that I found this time overwhelming and I would cry at the drop of a hat. I even had to have therapy because of the school plays and how I couldn’t listen to “Little Donkey “without crying (another blog! I’m going to be busy). But, I always made sure that my children knew is was a special time of year.

However that came with its down side. My eldest Jake was always sick with nerves Christmas eve, not knowing if Father Christmas was arriving or not (it’s important we keep the English tradition of Father Christmas and not Santa).

"I have expectations of Christmas being fun and exciting, doesn’t everyone? But, I truly have never felt those fuzzy feelings of excitement at Christmas, except, well… maybe just once, for about an hour!"
Sharon

I fell into the trap of watching Home Alone and wanting to live in the big house (but then realising I would never afford the mortgage) and have the fake real snow that is on there. I would bake biscuits with boiled sweets and hang them on the tree (if you haven’t done this you should - the lights of the tree shine behind the sweets) I would invite the boys into the kitchen for 5 mins, until they would make a mess and guess what? It was looking a bit like Christmas. It was also important to me that my boys knew the religious side of Christmas, we are not of a religion but it’s important for context to understand.

I learnt to create Christmas. I have had 11 people around my table on Christmas day and maybe only knew 7 of them (others elderly neighbours or from another country and would have been on their own) and I have had just the 3 of us when their dad left. I can say I feel the happiest with just the 3 of us because we don’t have to make small talk.

I have also learnt that I am an empath, which means situations can overwhelm me. I think this is what happens at Christmas, too much stimulation and my brain cannot take it, I want to run off and lie down.

I have expectations of Christmas being fun and exciting, doesn’t everyone? But, I truly have never felt those fuzzy feelings of excitement at Christmas, except, well… maybe just once, for about an hour!

Christmas Now:

So, last year, I was dreading Christmas coming. I was dreading the feeling in the pit of my stomach, I can’t explain what exactly makes me feel this way but if I had to name it, it’s sadness and disappointment and I suppose a drop of jealousy looking at everyone’s fantastic Christmas on Social Media.

These feelings come on Christmas eve, intense on Christmas day and linger and intensify New Year’s Eve…

So, I expected them last year, a kind of recurring present to me each year.

But, Christmas eve came nothing - no feelings, neither happy, sad or lonely… the day just came and went.

On Christmas day we got up, opened our presents and the 3 of us sat for dinner and again, nothing. No feelings - neither happy, sad or lonely…but I did do something I had never done before. I just relaxed during the day in my PJ’s. There was no impressing, no FORCED FUN, no expectations other than the turkey being cooked and the potatoes roasted…. I, for the first time felt calm.

No overwhelming feelings over the Christmas period actually, until the day before New Years Eve and then it kicked in. However in hindsight I had watched back to back Real Housewives of New Jersey, something had to give. 😊

My boys had asked if they could see friends New Year’s Eve and I have always wanted them to surround themselves with happiness, so I took them. On New Year’s Eve, I invited an elderly neighbour to my house to share it with me. That night I felt no sadness or loneliness like I had before… no burning in the back of my throat. I think it was because I had no expectations.

Closing Words:

In conclusion, I have had time to reflect and even whilst typing this blog, I have realised that I have accepted Christmas for what it is. I no longer feel the pressure of Christmas being about performing, or dressing up for dinner in a fancy outfit, or creating fake fun. I’ve chosen to lower my expectations as an adult - it’s a day of spending time together and that’s it. I don’t want to compare it to what others do in order to have fun, I own how I feel about it just being one day. I also own my sadness and loneliness, I accept them feelings as being part of me.

I am very lucky that my loneliness and sadness are only temporary, I have friends and 2 children and a job that makes sure I am not stuck in a cycle.

I have asked for this blog to be published on Valentines day because some of the people reading this will be going through the motions…. you may be feeling lonely/sadness or a range of feelings that you don’t want to feel anymore and that’s ok, my advice is….

Don’t do it because you think this is what you should be doing. Don’t fall into the FORCED FUN trap. Realise these feelings are only temporary, and you can actively change how you feel once you talk to someone.

Sometimes you cannot talk to friends, family or your partner - then talk to a counsellor. Own your worth. My worth is lowering my expectations of me! I am allowed not to feel fuzzy, I am allowed not to want to be around people, I can feel whatever I am feeling at the time.

Thank you for reading and if you enjoyed it, please let me know and I will do another one.

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