Last night was as bad as I thought it would be.
The day had been navigated well, and in spite of not going to my sister’s house or doing the New Traditions with Niece and Neff (poor Sis was ill, and we didn’t want to share her germs), Husby and I had a chilled-out afternoon.
I went for a run, and missed my damn 10mile goal by 0.5 of a mile, but I didn’t let it stress me.
Dinner was nice, and we watched the season finale of Homeland and had a laugh about it.
Then two hours before midnight the panic set in.
The Facebook updates were coming thick and fast – photo after photo of beautiful children, smiling as their Christmas was about to begin – trees and decorations which happy families had worked on together to make all thinks sparkly wonderful.
I couldn’t not watch.
I put myself through hell, because I couldn’t tear myself away – I want this so much – I want to see how it’s done. I want to vicariously enjoy that people get to do Christmas with their kids – that the magic is there for them, and that it’s right and good and perfect – even as it kills me.
The midnight service was a sombre affair, tucked away upstairs in the balcony, in the dark, while everyone else sang their hearts out and got excited downstairs in the pews.
My mum came and sat with Husby and I, and we huddled in our pain and hurts, and cried and weren’t noticed.
Then Husby and I went home and drank (his suggestion, for once) and I ended up (to borrow from the lovely Kate again) with the following status on Facebook
“I’m ‘spills wine down the Tigger onesie and doesn’t notice’ drunk”
Then sleep, and blessed release.
This morning, no hangover, and I even managed to shove the few, small things I’d bought for Husby, into his Christmas Stocking and dump them on the bed next to him. Made him a cup of tea, too. And felt bad because he’s given up so much Christmas for me.
Then I cleaned in the kitchen and waited.
At the appointed hour, we drove into town, to the hall where the Christmas Cafe was taking place.
Open for (primarily) the homeless and the lonely, it’s running for three days and began today. A disparate group of volunteers were all standing around, wearing their name badges like armour, and looking uncomfortable. We joined the ranks.
Once the jobs were handed out though, and we got going, the talk started happening, and we reached out to each other, exchanged names, stories, backgrounds. Reasons for being there. And I found connection with others who were also running from Christmas day. Who also didn’t want to be at home and didn’t feel as though they were doing a noble or unselfish thing, but that they were the beneficiary of the exercise. We comforted each other that the guests would just be pleased that we were there, serving them and making the day happen, and that they’d be blessed by our presence no matter how we came to be there.
And it was game-changing.
Once things got going (and there were 76 guests and about 25 volunteers, so they really did get going), there was no time to think.
There was time to laugh.
Time to serve.
Time to bitch about the couple of idiot volunteers who were winding everyone up by being too enthusiastic and literally taking the plates of food away from others who were trying to serve.
There was time to interact (briefly, for me) with people who are used to being overlooked.
There was time to show each of them some respect, and treat them with gentleness and deference.
There was time to encourage other volunteers.
There was time to feed back how good it had been, and what a resounding success the day was.
And the guy in charge said that historically (because the Christmas Cafe has been running for many years) the volunteers usually find that in giving of themselves in this way, they usually also receive.
I received peace; happiness; contentment.
I was absolutely in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing.
My Christmas was made in making it special for others.
And it has been beautiful.
Later I go to my mum’s and sit with her and WonderAunty and nibble fancy-schmancy foods (I’m starving, because in spite of feeling better, I still kept Christmas at arm’s length and didn’t eat the lunch or the pudding or the chocolates or the anything. I had two cups of tea and that was fine – that wasn’t ‘special to the day’) and watch Downton Abbey, and maybe play Scrabble.
And once the clock has struck midnight, I can come home, and know that not only did I survive the day – but that it went well.
So to everyone who’s been worried about me or sending me prayers or best wishes that this day would find me coping and not brought to my knees and able to pick myself up and carry on.
Thank you 🙂