The Longest Night (This post is all over the place)

Last night I went to my church's "Longest Night" service. Yesterday was the shortest day of the year, so last night was the longest night. I wasn't really sure what it was about, except that it was going to be dark, and something about being for people who are sad, during a time where everything is screaming "Joy!"

You guys... I hate Christmas.  And I try not to talk about hating Christmas too much, because it's clearly a time of year that makes a lot of people really happy, and I don't want to stomp all over everyone's happy.  But I can't stand it, for about a million and one reasons. Some have to do with consumerism, most have to do with really bad memories, some have to do with the agony of yet another year of trying to fake smile my way through (what is for me) an awful, awful holiday.

Before I met my husband, I would rent a hotel room in Chicago for Christmas. I would spend the time by myself, writing, walking, being lazy. I didn't even acknowledge Christmas, I was at peace and I really loved it.

My husband comes from a big Greek family, and Christmas is a big thing. So for the last 10+ years, I've gone through the motions of celebrating Christmas. Because it's what people do, right?  And every year I would hate Christmas and my husband would make fun of me for being a grinch, and I would just. get. through. it.

This year, I asked James to please respect that as much as I absolutely LOVE spending time with his family, I just don't want to do Christmas. Not this year. This year has been so hard, and I can't fake my way through this. He understood (because he's amazing) and I was all, "Holy Shit!! I don't have to do Christmas!!"

I was so happy. It's the happiest I've been about Christmas in years.

And then I heard about this "Longest Night" service at church, and ...well, now this holiday season has become a bit of a gift. I don't have to celebrate Christmas, and I have a space to just grieve for a bit and be sad, with other people who are sad. We don't have to wear Christmas sweaters and wrap things in bows and make sure our hair looks great for pictures...we can just cry for a while.

In the saddest way possible, it was really nice.  Even with the weight of everyone else's grief, it felt really good to just sit there in the dark and have permission to just be sad.

It was also a  moment of stillness, and in those quiet moments, I learned what I am grieving.  What I am afraid of.

The thing is...I'm holding on to hope with everything I've got, but sometimes hope feels like razor blades and I just want to let go.

I lost myself this year, and my brain has been re-wired, and every day I'm scared I'm going crazy, and that I will lose this battle with myself.

I'm so tired.

And as people spoke of their loss and others gathered round to offer comfort, I bowed my head and prayed that no one would come near me. I didn't expect that to be my prayer, and I was surprised by it, but I prayed really hard just to keep everyone away from me.

And it came to me what's really hurting me the most right now.

I'm trying really hard to love people again...but I don't believe that anyone loves me.

I hear people say they love me ...but I don't really believe it. I didn't want anyone to come near me, because I knew I wouldn't believe in any comfort that they were offering.

When I was younger, I learned that my father didn't love me. My mother didn't love me. My grandparents didn't love me. My church didn't love me. Kids in school didn't love me.

No one loved me.

I learned that no matter how much I loved, that I wasn't loved in return, and I built up some armor.

And through the years, the armor has weakened a little bit. These past few years, I loved fully, and I believed that I was loved.

And then I learned that I was foolish. And unloved. And hated.

I believe my husband loves me. But not really anyone else. That was my thought in church tonight. Like a giant punch in the chest.

You are unloved. Any comfort offered here tonight will be false, it will not last, your hope is razor blades...
...let go.

And then my friend Chris was beside me and asked if I wanted him to walk with me to light a candle. He held my hand, and as we walked towards the front of the church, his wife Trudy walked on my other side, held my other hand. And even bearing their own grief, they walked with me in mine.

I feel so selfish these days. My problems seem so small in the face of others, and all I do these days is try to figure my own shit out, when everyone around me suffers just as much, if not more...

...but I can't really be any good to anyone else if I don't have my own shit worked out, so I keep untangling and stitching the unraveled bits back where they're supposed to be and just trying to be ok. Some days it works. Other days, not so much.  (I try to write about all of the days, because I'm not hiding anything anymore.)

Anyway, the point is...I that right when I was feeling selfish and was so sure that I was unloved and could not authentically and honestly receive love, Chris and Trudy walked beside me and showed me that I was wrong. I mean...they didn't just walk beside me...they came and got me...

My brain is a tricky thing. It lies to me quite a bit these days. But it also reveals some truths that I need to work on.

I have been faking receiving affection. I feel that people do not love me. I believe their friendship is false, their words of comfort are not true, that they will disappear as quickly as they have shown up. They will disappoint me, they will hurt me, they will leave me on the ground, gasping for breath, with no idea what just happened...

But I know that that isn't true. The actions of a few don't define everyone. The world is gigantic. There are billions of people out there. In the grand scheme of things, it's just a handful who've hurt me. There are also a handful who have shown me great love. I have a choice what I can believe. I just have to recognize these feelings and talk myself through them. I have to remember that my brain got re-wired this year, and I'm going to have to keep messing with it to get it back in order.

I think I have another point...

I write pretty honestly here, and in return, people have shared some pretty personal things with me. So this is for you guys...

(I volunteer for an animal shelter, so stay with me ...)

...some people are scared chihuahuas. They are in the shelter, confused and scared and shaking and some of us just want to get in there and love them and show them that it's going to be ok. And in return, the chihuahuas are almost always going to snarl and try to bite you. Because they're freaked out. And they don't know you, and they don't believe that you just want to love them, and they're just trying to protect themselves. So you give the chihuahuas some space, and you go hang out with the other dogs for a while and you love them and they love you back, no questions asked.

So....First - just because a chihuahua bites you, doesn't mean the other dogs will. Go love the other dogs for a while and see what happens.

Second - Scared chihuahuas aren't bad dogs.  They don't mean to hurt you. They're just scared. Forgive them. Be patient with them. Maybe stay away from them for a little while, so that everyone can have some space to be ok.

Third - Don't let life turn you into a mean chihuahua. If you stay in that cage, backed into the corner, snarling at everyone who comes near, you're never going to get the opportunity for a new life. But if you just trust a little bit, there's probably going to be bacon and tennis balls in your future, along with a shit load of cuddles, kisses and love.

This is the only dog in the shelter who ever drew blood from me (he was holding on very tightly to his tennis ball). He's lived with us for 4 years now, and we love the crap out of each other.

Do you know what I mean? People are super fucked up, and they do mean and terrible things and we do mean and terrible things but most of us are just hurting and scared and sometimes....we just have to love and we have to believe that people love us. It comes with some risk, but don't all great things come with risk?

We deserve to be loved. We deserve to believe we are loved, and we deserve to allow ourselves to be loved. That's it. That's the point. We take the risk and just love and just receive love.

And in a few days, if I'm mired in feeling unloved, remind me that I wrote this. And if you're having a bad day, let me know, and I'll remind you that you can love, and that you are loved.

Happy Holidays and a whole lot of love,


1 comment:

Rebecca Grace said...

I am so glad you have that dog. Happy Holidays, Jessica.