I spent the Christmas of 2015 drunk and alone. I remember waking up and mixing my bourbon into the eggnog before grandma could come over. I spent the day quiet. I didn’t feel like talking at dinner. I was alone and I was depressed. I was, however, still talking to Amber. Amber and I worked together at a Payless a ways from my house. We had established between each other our interest in punk music, and that was enough for me to decide I needed to bother her.
I don’t quite remember if I said much on the day itself, though I remember Amber having to heavily console me over the fact that Christmas just happens, and even though it sucks it’s just a day. In a nice way, she was telling me that I was really letting out a lot of information, and probably being more dramatic than I needed to be. I took the hint; we asked each other what we got for presents, and I remember even just that making me feel better.
I am an only child. But, you have not killed anyone; you don’t seem like a psycho you might say to yourself, and you are correct: I have not killed anyone and I personally consider empathy to be the greatest virtue. I did not have the same Christmas’s that my friends seemed to enjoy, however. My earliest memory of the holiday is of waking up too early, just after my parents had happened to go to sleep, and finding all of my presents under the tree; among them was the Scooby Doo stuffed animal that I had specifically wanted. I immediately ran to it and was quickly caught by my dad coming down the stairs. “Woah! Santa already came! We’ve gotta wait for everyone else (just mom) to get into the presents, though,” and he put me back to bed. When I woke up in a couple of hours, I found the most amazing list of presents I could imagine. Everything I had asked for and then some.
Being an only child on Christmas has its downsides, though. I got a video game system and didn’t have anyone to play with, I got a skateboard and didn’t have anyone to ride with, and I’d get a movie and have no one to watch it with. To make things worse, my dad was then absent for a few of my childhood Christmas’s, and I now feel a compulsion to try and make the day as joyful as I can for everyone else, with no regard for myself. It is this mindset that has established my anxiety, my distrustfulness, and my need to try and make as many people happy as possible – this time of year at least, I feel as though my seasonal depression eases up in the summer when there are no major holidays. It is also this mindset that has ruined this holiday for me, from being alone as a child, to feeling guilty for trying to not be alone – it has just always been a shitty day for me.
Shortly after the Christmas of 2015, I began hanging out with Amber, a lot. We began dating within a few months, and kept becoming closer and spending more time together, until I had completely fallen in love. As the 2016 holiday season neared, I feared the worst: Was my anxiety and depression going to resurface? Was I going to end up drunk and alone again? Would I be able to devote my time to all those who cared about me, equally? I assumed I would let someone down, and as the 25th grew closer, I knew I would let everyone down. For most of December I became short, needy, irritable, and broken. I lost my head in the bullshit that is American consumerism. I felt as though my just-above-minimum-wage job would cover the expenses for shit I wanted to buy everyone – fancy beers for the guy roommates, fancy wine for the girl roommate, a record for my best friend, art supplies for my girlfriend – and when I was wrong, I couldn’t handle it. I got into arguments with everyone. If a friend would invite me to lunch, my response would be “Is money everything to you? What is wrong with you?” When they’d explain that they just wanted to hang out with me, and would even cover my meal, I would become even more internally upset. I can do this on my own. I can do this on my own! I can’t do this on my own.
But then, something strange happened. Christmas day rolled around and I didn’t want to jump out of a window. The opposite, even. I remember waking up next to Amber and being excited for the holiday. Staring into her eyes as we woke up together, I was excited in the same way I was when I was little. Everything was ahead of me for the day, I wanted to make her happy and I knew I was going to at least come pretty close. Not because of the presents, but because of the thought. I genuinely couldn’t afford to buy much of anything, and so all of my presents had to rely upon the basis of knowing her intimately, of remembering our favorite moments together. What I got her specifically does not matter, but the fact that I made her feel loved, and that she made me feel loved is what matters.
The loud, and sometimes white-trash-tending roommates we lived with at the time would be gone for the entire day, and probably the night, too. We were free to be ourselves, to eat what we wanted and drink what we wanted, watch what we wanted and say what we wanted. It was that moment of having our own, complete space together, knowing that our only jobs at the moment was to make the other person happy that made everything so incredibly nostalgic, freeing, and reassuring. Amber and I had seldom had these moments together, when it was only her and I in a space that we were allowed to call ours. I had never in my life been in a place that I had worked together with someone for, experiencing it being filled with love and care and acceptance. It was a feeling that people live for it keeps them alive. I know that it is now on my list of reasons to be alive – not just for Amber, but for what we will build together. For the spaces which we will make ours. Places that will be closed off to the world, and even if they did see it, would never understand what they were looking at, because it was not their world. Every person makes his place in life, and this is mine, with Amber.
And now, as Christmas 2017 draws near, I only know more and more that a space with her is all I want in life. To be with her, and watch her do so many things, and help her when our heads are awful, and to feel like I will never, ever be alone again.
I know that my neurosis far outstretches hers, but she takes care of me any way. And I know that I am going to get better with her. We are going to grow together, and live more together, and become something even better than we are now. I know that our lives aren’t destined for mediocrity in this, or any suburb.
So merry Christmas to anyone who is struggling, to those who need it most, and to those that have not yet found out what they are waiting for. In 2017, it is easy for posts like this to go by the wayside, or for strangers to assume that this is something else manufactured, but it is not. From someone who has found a true home in someone who is my confidant, my best friend, my help at all times, and the love of my life, I wish anyone who can manage to read through all of this a very merry Christmas.
And I love you, Amber. Merry Christmas.