Abandonment is a primal fear in humans. It’s hard-wired into us. The baby is dependent upon someone, anyone, for everything. As we grow and learn to love those caregivers who feed us, change us, hold us and some who even instill bone-grinding fear in us — at least they are there for us.
Until they are gone. Then an odd sense of abandonment — or worse, that somehow you did something to deserve to be lonely — may arise. And it all goes downhill from that false assumption.
Society becomes a blobby kind of caregiver as we grow up, providing for us in so many ways. At the Christmas Season it becomes a larger-than-life monster pushing health, happiness, prosperity, love, joy and togetherness upon each and every one of us.
But many of us won’t have that togetherness this year. Someone will be absent — perhaps forever.
That’s where those ancient fingers of fear begin to grip the heart. Abandoned.
Christmas is ‘just’ another day of the year, after all — except its a day when society itself withdraws to the comfort of family living rooms, with family, with friends. So those who are in some way alone feel completely alone. Not only is the loved one gone or far away — so is everyone else.
The daily norms that otherwise distract you are not there either. Almost no one is at work, public transit is reduced, most amusements are closed and even best friends who might otherwise join you for a movie, a coffee or a brew abandon you for their families.
However the human mind has a great capacity to deal with challenges in life. The most important asset is that of choice.
You can choose to sit in the living room alone and remember people who have left you behind, or you can remember that they carried you forward so that you could survive.
Instead of remembering that things aren’t how you wished, you can remember that things are at all.
There are so many people in the world with few happy memories or comforts — most of us in the West have many by comparison. We can turn our mental flashlights on those and rejoice that we have a memory that works, that warms us, that gives us a chance to relive the good times even when the times or people are gone.
It’s a terrible sadness to have had a loved one die during this season. It’s so annoying to hear every Tom, Dick, and Harriet wish you a Merry Christmas in that cheery way and ask if you’ll be with family this year — when they are dead. You get sick of trying to explain it, just as you would any other time of the year. It’s just the rabid insistence by masses of strangers that you have a happy time that overwhelms.
Consequently I plan to spend a few minutes every day sitting at the window watching the squirrel chase the birds away from the feeder. It makes me laugh.
It makes me recognize the good fortune of my life watching that crazy squirrel working like a madman to protect its cache of seeds (that I put out for the birds!). It makes me realize that life is really very chancy — sometimes the squirrel takes a flying leap off the deck at a bird, and sometimes it misses. It falls, usually catches itself and continues on a mad chase through the trees after the flock of birds. They obligingly flutter up to a higher branch, wearing out the squirrel — getting it just high enough so they have time to fly down and feast before he can run back to the deck and chase them again.
Life is full of absurdities — surely a squirrel chasing birds is one of them. So is letting one day of the year make you deeply depressed about things you can’t change.
The social circumstances of Christmas can make it worse for those of us who are having a “Blue Christmas, “ but we don’t have to make it worse for ourselves.
Look at the many gifts you have in the simplest things — thousands of unseen elves in distant places have worked to make everything in your home and life. Society is a tapestry of anonymous individuals who don’t care about your trouble of today, but who did care enough to make you a house, a chair, a car, your clothes.
In your loneliness you are still supported by this fantastic web of humanity, one that stretches back throughout all time. And for those who believe, an even greater web of spirituality.
Let your power to choose override that rising sense of abandonment.
Perhaps those thoughts will uplift you, or at least shift you from deep despair to passing sadness. Life is too rich and precious to waste on long-term sorrow.
Carpe diem. Seize the day.
Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka-based freelance columnist.