I often spend Christmas alone – the table set for one. My children and I live far apart and agree that the holidays are not the time to travel. The expense, weather and stress are not worth it during an occasion that is for little ones, kicking back to relax and reflection. We believe each family needs to recharge and celebrate in their own way – creating memories within their own homes.
Don’t get me wrong – I miss my kids. I ache for my seven amazing grandchildren. I also often think of what was and miss my grandma and the celebration that was sure to happen at her cheery home each Christmas eve. I miss my mom, who is in another province and the cornerstone of our family.
My humanness can creep up on me and that can pry the door open to feelings of intense loneliness – an emotion that I have given much thought to over the past several years. Not only in terms of my own experiences, but in our society as a whole.
It is loneliness that crushes our health and can be the base for depression, disease, self doubt, anxiety, malnutrition, poor performance, addictions, confusion and cognitive decline. It rips through the heart of isolated seniors and those in long recoveries, through children that feel unloved and struggling single parents, through young professionals, immigrants, inmates, the outcasts and the superstars and those who do not have the physical or communication skills to join in. Loneliness lives in marriages, in busy homes and in empty ones. It lives in students, those working care shifts, pumping gas, checking cows or running the soup kitchen. It tests all of us and yet still – we quietly ask for a table for one.
In this culture of isolation, it is somehow acceptable to see one person sitting at a café table with three empty chairs. Gone are the long tables for sharing where folks mix and mingle. And even if we could, I wonder – what fears keep us back from joining in or asking someone to the empty seat nearby?
I admittedly love a long table and have enjoyed the company of people from all over the world simply by extending the invitation. The farm house was always packed with visitors of every age and background. It was a base for many traveling Nuffield Scholars and homesick college kids, community and family parties. Today, a smaller table in town also welcomes scholars and students, farmers and fishermen, folks from every walk of life who become new friends and share new experiences.
Yes, there are still times when loneliness is the shadow in the room but often those spaces are quickly filled with discovery and shared stories. This is nurtured when we open the door in invitation and inclusion and when we open ourselves to joining in.
I know I am never truly alone for the universal love I believe we share is also our messenger. How we live our lives and welcome others into it – is an energy that cannot be contained and is felt by others. This is my comfort on those days where the table is set for one and it is at that time that I reminded once again to make an effort to welcome the world.
More importantly – it is a time of profound gratitude to all of the people in my life who have generously invited me in.
Thank you. Thank you for the memories.
May your journey be blessed.
Copyright Brenda Schoepp (2022)