There was a time when I was married to a man and the holidays were always busy for me. I cooked for days just like any passionate holiday guru would do. The house would be decorated to the hilt as if I was competing in an art show. During the holidays, my house would be full of family and friends as we shared recipes and dishes.
My first Christmas after coming out was absolutely devastating. I was recently divorced and made arrangements with my ex-husband and his girlfriend to send the kids over their house so that they could spend Christmas with other children. I was hesitant because I wanted to spend the holiday with my children as well. After all, it was the most difficult Christmas to date.
My hesitation was obvious and the Girlfriend smiled at me gently and said, “I know how it is being a mother, why don’t you come over and spend Christmas with all of us so that you can spend it with your children as well.” I felt a high level of gratitude and accepted immediately. On Christmas day, I called the Ex and asked, “I am on my way, I will bring the wine.” There was an awkward pause of silence and then, he stated, “Ummm, yeah, it’s best if you don’t come over after all. She’s been drinking and now you are not welcome.”
The dead silence reigned for almost a minute. “What?! now you’re telling me that I can’t spend Christmas with the kids?” He became defensive and said, “You can pick them up tomorrow if you want. We can trade holidays.” After hearing him falter through his excuses, I hung up on him and stared around my empty and silent apartment in utter shock. Since I had been planning on eating over their house, I was starving so I opened my refrigerator and stared blankly at a bag of broccoli, a gallon of milk and random expired leftovers. I had avoided the grocery stores because of the insane holiday shopping so I had nothing appealing to eat. Finally, I grabbed the bag of limp broccoli and threw it in a pan to cook.
As I stared blankly at the oven I received a call from my girlfriend who was at work an hour and a half away. “Merry Christmas Baby!” Her voice was warm and sweet as she exclaimed at me. “I wish I could be there. What are you doing?” the silence was deafening and my throat tightened with tears as I tried to lock my emotions inside. Of course, I lost control and wailed into the phone while melting to the floor in a puddle of sobbing misery, “I’m eating broccoli for Christmas dinner!”
I will not repeat what she said about Him and the Girlfriend but she was a sweetheart. She told her boss that she was clocking out and taking care of me. She drove almost two hours away and took me out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant and then she took me to a karaoke bar where we sang Christmas songs and musicals with a room full of strangers who hugged me and made me feel special on what had originally started off as the worst Christmas of my life.
It’s been 3 years since our divorce and this year, my ex-husband picked up the kids for Thanksgiving vacation and at first, I felt a sense of relief as a single mother because I knew my house stayed clean and I could finally relax and think about tasks that I had been neglecting due to my busy life. On Thanksgiving Thursday morning, I woke up with a smile even though the sky was overcast and it was drizzling. I went to the gym and felt good about myself because I was going to eat like a good glutton and not worry about gaining weight because I burned over a thousand calories.
After the gym, I sat in my quiet living room all by myself and since I was bored, I jumped on Facebook. I clicked through all of these amazing pictures of my friends spending time with their family, laughing joyously and cooking together. Every click was a picture of amazing food and happy people. For about a minute, I was actually jealous of other people for being with family. Though I felt lonely, I did not feel motivated enough to drive three hours away to Dallas to visit my family so basically, I accept full responsibility for my loneliness.
Dealing with my own sense of isolation, I started to think about the other people who do not have a family to go home to for the holidays. For many people, the holidays are exciting and fun, but for many queer folks, it is the loneliest time of the year. Some people do not have a family that accepts their homosexuality and become isolated by familial discrimination. Many who do have friends are still left alone as they go out of town to visit family members. I am so grateful that I have a family that accepts me as I am without any judgment. They may get a bit stiff if I mention anything personal about my love life- but hey, at least they still call me and invite me to family events.
My isolation was not actually caused by my family, but by accepting my lifestyle choice and embracing it. I actually isolated myself by not knowing where to start. I learned that I actually did not have enough in common with the friends that I made while married. No one wanted to go to the gay clubs and flirt with women with me. No one wanted to go to drag shows and celebrate sexual diversity with me and I had no one to talk to about my relationships as I transitioned into my new life.
From 2012-2014, I did not know what to do with myself. In 2015, I was tired of feeling alone and trying to fit in with my old friends so I joined several LGBTQ groups on Meetup.com and started to meet new people. I went to gay clubs by myself and talked to anyone and everyone. I danced with women and learned how to let go of my fear of judgment. I learned that I did not need to hold on to my past and that was the secret to removing loneliness from my life.
Loneliness is a self-induced state of mind that is temporary. In a world with so many people, too many of us feel alone. This false isolation is perpetuated by propaganda, websites and cell-phone apps like Facebook or YouTube that can distract one from making a connection with other people face to face. If you are lonely, I highly encourage you to try Meetup.com and look for any type of group that you wish to participate in for the holidays. Strangers can feel like family when they welcome you as if you are a long lost relative. People will hug you as if they know you if you smile at them. I bet you could probably find a gay-friendly Christmas party to attend this year if you search. If you cannot find it, you can facilitate the group for a nominal fee and invite others to celebrate family style.
I wish you the happiest of holidays and hope that you enjoy connecting and celebrating with other people. Please feel free to leave a comment for everyone on ways that you helped yourself through lonely days and what tactics you used for meeting new people.