Christmas and loneliness

Christmas is almost here, only one sleep to go. I’ve done what food prep I can for tomorrow and just hope Number 1 Nephew shows up with the ham as promised or I’ll be scrambling to feed everyone with tins of beans.

Christmas is renowned for being a high stress time of year, either because we’re with family or because we’re not. Damned if we do etc. I’ve been thinking a lot about past Christmasses spent on my own and how choosing to be alone is so very different from being alone because there’s no other option.

I’m thinking particularly of the elderly. In the paper there was a story about a Meals on Wheels volunteer who was making the regular weekly meal delivery to one of his charges, when the customer asked if he could spare 5 minutes to come inside. The elderly woman just wanted someone to be there with her when she opened her Christmas present.

This choked me up. It seems desperately sad that at the end of her life this woman was so isolated. It’s not uncommon, I know, but it seems like a terrible indictment of our way of life that this happens.

My love of solitude, my preference for spending time alone, may mean I never experience this kind of loneliness. Or it might lead me to exactly this point. I don’t know.

My father struggles with loneliness, not that he’ll admit it. He does all sorts of irritatingly demanding things that make me cross and it’s only later I realise they are driven by loneliness. He doesn’t call it that because I’m not sure he realises it’s that.

What strikes me, thinking about this, is how a lifetime spent pretending all is fine can become a handicap later in life when you can’t ask for what you need. The woman who asked the meal delivery man to be there while she opened her present at least managed that. It takes real courage to ask someone to help you be less lonely.

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