years ago, I spent Christmas day completely alone. It
wasn't entirely by choice, but it happened, and that day was an
important turning point in my life. It was a quiet,
peaceful, reflective day--I didn't go out anywhere at all.
I just stayed home and listened to Christmas music and tried to
get the most out of what before I would have seen as a very
negative situation. Before it happened, I never would have
been able to imagine spending Christmas alone, but I grew more
on that day than I ever have on any other single day of my life.
sure, I come from a family that isn't particularly close--we've
never had those holidays with lots of relatives over, those
crowded-house ordeals that are so enjoyable. I've also
lived overseas for at least six Christmases, but I've always had
somewhere to be during those holidays. But a few
Christmases ago, it became apparent to me that I was probably
going to end up being alone for the holiday, and I was surprised
to find that I didn't dread the idea. In fact, it seemed
rather attractive. There were a few places I could have
gone that day, but I didn't feel drawn to any of them. As
the day got closer, I turned down a couple of invitations and
decided to be on my own that day--just me and God and Christmas
possibility I most dreaded was that of depression coming back--I
had just gone through a rather serious bout of it much earlier
in the year, and I wasn't too thrilled about the idea of going
through it again.
In the past, holidays had sometimes been
a trigger for the down feelings, and I didn't want that to
happen. On the other hand, I felt that I needed to do
this, and I couldn't go against it just because I was afraid of
something that might not even happen.
I have to
say that there was really nothing special that day, except for
the feeling I had inside that I was turning a very important
corner in my life. There was no moment of epiphany, no
miracle in the form of something spectacular, no special contact
with God or any of his angels.
The day started with a bowl
of oatmeal and some coffee and an English muffin. As it
went on, I read, worked on the computer, listened to music, and
thought about friends, wishing them in my mind a very happy
Christmas. I called my parents in the evening, and I might
have talked to some other people on the phone. But that
was about it.
important thing in my life, though, was the fact that that day
seemed to act as a kind of catharsis; it was some sort of peak
towards which I had been climbing for quite a while. That
day, it truly didn't matter that I was alone. I had a nice
place to live, I had work I loved, I had friends, I had food and
shelter, I had clothing and transportation, I had hope for the
future and the possibility of making hopes come true. Yes,
there were parts of my life that felt somewhat empty--I was
single and didn't want to be, I was working hours that precluded
a lot of things that I would have liked to have done. But
on that day it was very clear that the good outweighed the bad
so strongly that the negative was almost insignificant.
Pascal said that "All men's miseries derive from not being
able to sit in a quiet room alone," and on that day I
understood fully what he meant. On that day most of what
Emerson wrote about in "Self-Reliance" was clarified
for me--no one else can bring us peace or hope or happiness. It
must come from within. I shouldn't depend on anyone else
for my happiness or contentedness--it can come only from inside
with some help from faith in a loving God. On that day I
didn't feel that I got closer to God--I felt that I finally let
Him get closer to me. I realized that I was just as worth
loving as anyone else He had created, and I let Him be a part of
my day. It was all pretty cool, to tell you the truth.
the day came to an end, and I went to bed with the Christmas
tree lights on. I slept on the couch so that the tree
could keep me company. And I went to bed a much wiser
person, thankful that I had obeyed the calling to spend the day
alone. I had learned more from that one day than I could
have in a year of Christmas days spent in crowds.
my life was different after that day--it wasn't just a one-day
thing. I found it very easy to be much more accepting of
many aspects of my life, especially the loneliness of being
single. Interestingly enough, I met the woman who would
become my wife the following summer, and from the moment I met
her, I was able to treat her differently than I would have been
able to had I not become so accepting of being alone. And
I'm convinced that the way I was able to treat her had
everything to do with her eventually becoming my wife. And
I have that Christmas day alone to thank for it.