Christmas / by Deborah Clague

This is a short story about my annual Christmas breakdown. Over the last three years, it has become an event that happens at random, at unexpected times and unexpected places. It is also nearly invisible to those around me; despite writing this public online journal about my life, I am very private and covert in person. Only those truly close to me ever suspect an emotional shift.  

Last year, it happened at work after I glanced up at my bulletin board and saw a picture of him. As it's right in the periphery line of vision of my computer screen, it is technically an image I see every day. Yet, last year I felt it. The weight of its meaning gave me pause as my breathing became heavy and I could feel my eyes well up with tears. I was having an anxiety attack. Thankfully, I have my own office and quickly closed the door to take a ten minute breather. 

Today, it happened in my car while waiting in a long drive-thru line at McDonalds. All afternoon I had been shopping with a friend, listening to them talk about their upcoming family gathering while observing other families out and about sharing moments and completing their Christmas shopping in tandem. After we parted ways, I knew I needed a junk food hit. The greasiest of burger, the saltiest of fries. Only this could provide comfort. After pulling in, it hit me. My lips quivered and the waterworks began. Good God, I miss my father. 

I don't really look forward to this season anymore. The emptiness of loss (and anger and sadness) is still there every. single. day. But in the week or so leading up to Christmas, it becomes amplified. And only those living it understand.

It really sucks.

It really sucks that my father will never meet my future husband or ever get to play with my future kids. I think that bothered him. It definitely bothers me. 

It really sucks that other people's happiness brings me down. I hate admitting this but I'm not above being human. It's a terrible thought to harbour and I feel great shame by it. It's not that I don't want their contentment to happen - most definitely not, it is what everyone deserves - just that I can't be 100% present in these moments because my mind is so clouded by envy. 

What doesn't suck though are small, serendipitous signs from the universe. After today's pathetic breakdown, I received a text from an old friend looking to reconnect. They, too, are still mourning the loss of their much loved mother. And my neighbour, an elderly widow, left a surprise gift at my doorstep of freshly-baked bread and cookies, inviting me for tea as she misses my company.

Perhaps these unexpected gestures were karma to detract from the negative one. 

That's the other thing about loss - those living it always look for meaning. I believe it is there. I am willing to search for it. I am not alone. 

And neither are you.