Christmas reflection

The problem is these dark moods that sometimes come over me, they scare me. A perceived slight, a dirty look, not being invited to a party – the actions of others always set them off. Recently I’ve recognised that I have control over what happens in my head and I can choose not to slip into darkness – but it’s very hard not to. There was a moment on Saturday night, on the tube home when I was close to breaking down because of what had happened. That feeling of not being important in anyone’s life, so powerful and dominant even in spite of the sure knowledge that there are people who do care about me. The knowledge couldn’t quite reach down into my depths in those moments. I was the sad child once again, left out of everything that my father’s side of the family did because I was his mistake.

There’s a fine line between looking at these feelings and indulging in self pity, I accept that. But clearly I never got over them. I think I am finally understanding the trauma, and I get to know myself better as I do so. I don’t want this trauma to define me forever – but how do I stop it from defining me? What now?

Again it’s the idea that I can choose how to respond to external events over which I have no control. Maybe I’ll have to remind myself of it every minute of the waking day starting now. In the past I drank on these feelings, there’s no doubt about that. I remember on many occasions feeling this exact way in pubs and clubs, wanting to get drunk all the quicker so I could stuff it down and forget about it.

When I know I have the power to change my feelings it’s much easier to be brave and reach out to people, to build true friendships. But when I’m not ok, when something has happened, even something small, the knowledge seems much further away and it’s much harder to overcome my self-protecting instincts. And because I’ve spent so little time reaching out in a real sense, there is no one in the world who knows everything I feel. Only regular readers of this blog know – it’s the only place I’m really honest all the time. Without it I’d have nothing, so it’s a life line to me.

Christmas was ok. It always is. I have nothing against it, and it’s quite nice when there’s a good film on the TV and mum lets me eat what I want without making any of her usual comments. Towards the end of the day I couldn’t help watching the time, waiting for the hour when it would be polite to call it a night and go to my room. At 8pm there was nothing left on TV that I wanted to watch, so I said good night and retired. I wasn’t going to bed – I’d be up for hours yet, enjoying things only I wanted to watch on Netflix. I was returning to my normal life, now that Christmas was over for another year. It really came and went quickly this year, didn’t it?

The news about George Michael was sad, and later I found out that the motorcyclist who crashed near my home on Saturday had died in hospital. So I ended the day in the same pensive mood that I ended Saturday with. I wouldn’t call this a cheerful Christmas at all, but then I don’t suppose many people were cheerful from the beginning to the end of the day yesterday.

I still felt a bit off at tonight’s meeting. I’d made the mistake of going to Westfield to look for a cheap pair of trainers in the sales. I’ve made the same mistake on Boxing Day before, so I should’ve known it would be mayhem, but for some reason I just thought “oh it’ll be all right, surely they’ll all be too stuffed with yesterday’s turkey to go shopping.” I couldn’t have been more wrong! It was like the whole of London had decided to go to Westfield today, for the same reasons as me. I came away with the decent pair of trainers that I wanted, but it took over an hour to get them, and by the time I was leaving the shopping centre I’d have been happy not to see another person for the rest of the day.

Instead of getting the tube I decided to walk back into town. It would be a long walk and I could put my headphones in and enjoy some of George Michael’s best songs on my own for a couple of hours. God, he wrote some brilliant music. I’d forgotten. When I arrived in town it was nearly time for the meeting so I went straight there, hoping I’d get a reprieve from the awkwardness of Saturday. I didn’t quite feel like talking to everyone there, but I tried really hard to smile and be nice, since I know all too well what happens when I don’t try. I feel bad about it afterwards and a vicious cycle begins in which it gets harder and harder to make any effort.

So I tried to talk to everyone and find a proper connection with the meeting tonight, but I know I didn’t try hard enough. Most people were doing that thing they always do when I’m feeling difficult – smiling and chatting effortlessly, forging connections and friendships that I could only dream of. As always, with the benefit of a couple of hours of hindsight I can see that I only perceived my fellows as being better at the whole social thing than me. I have no way of knowing that none of them found it a struggle in the same way as me.

When the meeting was over I gave it five minutes then I left, saying half a goodbye to one or two people without getting involved in anything. This is the problem – I’m not involved in anything with people in AA, or out of it for that matter. I keep myself to myself. A few years down the line I might end up being a hermit. As a way of life it may seem harmless to some, but it’s not what I want. I want to be involved in life, in the rooms. I’ve described before all the things I’m not doing that I’d like to do more of, such as going to dinner parties. To do that I understand I need to keep making an effort when there are opportunities to connect with people, but I don’t know what the right level of effort is. Should I have waited and said goodbye to everyone? Chosen a few to focus in on for a longer conversation? It’s hard to judge these things.

Roman philosophers said that the key to happiness is to learn to desire the things we have now, and let go of things we may or may not have in the future. I don’t know whether they were just talking about material things or if they meant something more. I’m aware that pursuing more friendships in my life doesn’t mean desperately longing for them and clinging to people when they come along. Friendships, and relationships, if they happen should just be a nice bonus of the things I’m currently doing to make myself happy. I don’t think they should be the aim.

Companionship just happens – I can’t ever plan for it. And that’s the hardest thing to accept about all this. Those people who had lovely Christmases with their AA fellows yesterday, they secured that not by obsessively arranging everything to ensure an invitation to someone’s house, they were just in each others’ lives at the right time. I appreciate what I’ve got in my life, I do, but I know I’m not in someone’s life in that way. You can tell when there’s something missing, and I’ve always felt this particular thing missing, this companionship that other luckier people than I enjoy.

I’ve about managed to work out that I can make more effort to engage with people in social situations and that might set me off in the right direction. If I’m trying and trying to be a social butterfly all the time, is that pushing things too far? I suppose it’s a fine balance that has to be struck. I certainly don’t want to push myself into people’s lives where I’m not necessarily welcome, but at the same time I don’t want to avoid those openings when they happen.

I wasn’t invited to anyone’s Christmas dinner but I have been invited to other things this year. That’s a positive. They were things that everyone was invited to, though. Is it ungrateful to want to be invited to something that not everyone is invited to next time?

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