Unsurprisingly, I’ve been thinking a lot about December and January. About why they often feel like a dark night to me. And not like real, non-metaphorical dark nights that I actually love.
It’s not just the holidays, though I have a complicated enough relationship with the holiday season that I could (I won’t) write a post just on that. In short, I wrestle with unfulfilled expectations (not always the ones you’d think; mostly others’ expectations, but a few of my own) and the aching awareness that I can’t recall the last time I felt like the holidays were actually magical (I used to, and I miss it).
But, on top of that…
There are the sort of extra expectations that come when you grew up poor and the only time you might get non-essential things is Christmas and your birthday…and then you have the bad luck (though one sibling has it worse with a Christmas Eve birthday) of having the two events occur within a couple weeks of each other. It’s hard to explain how, but the ghost of that swims up every year.
The ghost is less angry, but also less cute…
There’s the cold…I don’t mind the sun hiding away, but temperature is one of my particular sensory sensitivities. The extra cold of winter, much like the increased heat of summer, is an enemy. And where summer’s assault is reinforced by the sun (hello, light sensitivity), winter’s is reinforced by having Reynaud’s and some other circulation issues.
There’s the inclination, both at the start of a new calendar year and at the start of a new year of my own life, to assess what I’ve achieved in the previous year of my life. The longer my wild daydreams about particular successes remain just daydreams, the harder it is for me to let go of the disappointment. I’m not wallowing in it non-stop, mind you. It’s more a prick of disappointment that randomly sticks me throughout the year, but that really likes to do some deep stabbing and twisting around this time.
There are the anniversaries…And this is increasingly the thing that most blots out my metaphorical sun in December and January. (Obviously, if it were just hiding the real sun, I’d be feeling much happier about it all.) Which anniversaries? Births and deaths. With the sad additional hurt that there are three particular deaths that gnaw at my heart in the December/January time frame, and those three people also have their birthdays in there. Which means that, for three of the deaths that have hit me hardest, I’m doing double memorialising and hurting in these two months.
And, like a cherry on top, my birthday (9 January) is sandwiched in-between the birthday (8 January) and the anniversary of death (10 January) of one of those three people. (Note that, here, I’m sparing you my essay about what a massive part of my life David Bowie was for as long as I can remember and how his death impacted me. How his life and loss continue to impact me.) And, factoring in that I grew up with my birthday as a rare and special sort of thing…Well.
But I also promised you there were stars.
Like how blessed I feel to have had people in my life, or as part of my life in the way a celebrity can be, who were worth this level of missing.
Like how good it is that this takes place when there’s less sun, because sun always makes my hurts feel bigger.
Like how amazing my family and friends are as they try to give me room to do the holidays the way that feels least-rough for me.
Like how glad I am that, in spite of struggling with depression (which can steal away all one’s ambitions), I usually manage to feel deeply the passions and desires that drive me to do creative things. I wouldn’t be disappointed at wild daydreams unfulfilled if I didn’t also somehow still feel the desires.
And, really, even setting the stars aside…
There are the constant candles of friends and family who try to balance letting me know how wanted I am with not making me feel pressured or guilty.
There are the things others have created that are always there for me to listen to or read or watch. And I suspect you’ve read, more than once, how important I think those are for our sanity and happiness.
There’s a big cat who’s radiator-like heat is even lovelier when he’s sleeping on me in the winter.
There are those little white lights that go up on the normal trees around this city through December and into January.
And so on and so on.
(How glad am I that, at some point, I learnt that one can be in the dark, can acknowledge and honour and work through the hard things, whilst still noticing the stars and other lights? That, at some point, I realised the people who thought that me seeing the stars invalidated the needs that came with my darkness were wrong and probably not worth my time? Very. That’s how glad.)
So, if you’re in the dark too, I want you to know you aren’t alone. Even if the darkness makes you feel otherwise.
But I also want you to know, as gently as I can, that the stars are there when you feel ready to lift your head even a little. Or even, if you’re lying on the ground in your dark, because standing is more than you can manage, if you can open your eyes and peer through the mists.
And even if you just can’t see them yet, they’re out there. And I’m right here. And I hope you can hold on until you get a sunrise.