A little over two years ago, on Christmas Eve, my then boyfriend (now fiancé), told me “I love you” for the first time. He was heading back to Ohio to spend the holiday with his family, and I was staying in Chicago, as I couldn’t afford to visit my family in Louisiana. After we exchanged our gifts, he hugged me and smiled as he said those words. It was one of the sweetest moments in my life, one which I will never forget.
My roommates were also away for the holidays. I loved my roommates, and very much appreciated being with them, however, I simply required a certain amount of me time, which I was rarely granted. The idea of being alone was exciting in theory but it didn’t take long for reality to set in.
Did I mention I was really broke at the time? Not like, homeless poor. But speaking of people who are homeless— That is who I worked with. I was a case manager making a salary in the mid-30s trying to make it in Chicago. No lie, most of my clients were on SSI and part of a housing subsidy program that paid a majority of their rent. Usually, my client’s monthly take-home was higher than mine. Don’t misunderstand my sentiment here: my clients deserved that subsidy and their SSI. The privilege which I have experienced and will continue to experience throughout my life is huge and in large part unearned– It’s not fair, but reality. Not to mention that I choose to move from Louisiana. I had a choice… Which is something a lot of my clients at the time didn’t get to have… Then or now.
With how blessed I am being acknowledged, I was fucking broke. Again, I lived in a nice area of town and had a car… But like, things were tight. I had 3 jobs, one of which included being a über driver.
After Nick left, I watched some mind fodder, probably Real House Wives of something then made a list of my night— Making lists always relaxes me.
First up: Make some money… Sorta. Driving for über always felt like I was making money, but really it’s a scam. Trust me, if you’re thinking of it, just don’t. I did make about 20 dollars in tips that night, which felt nice. After a couple of sad trips, I found myself growing angry towards my riders, just imaging what they were doing and how they would be surrounded by friends and family, so I decided to throw in the towel.
It was around 8pm, and I couldn’t bring myself to go home so I parked my car on the side of a busy street and researched church services. Mind you, I haven’t been to church in over a year, but it felt right.
The church building was old, with a bright red door. It had two candles lit outside and the service had just started. I walked up and hung my coat and gloves in the lobby.
I sat in the front, and an old man quietly gave me a candle to hold. Unknowingly, I had picked a service that was only music.
Other people trickled in, all older, and as everyone began to settle into the music, I began to cry.
These were tears of joy, pain, happiness, and sadness– all being held together by my dear friend loneliness. As the stream became steady I started to examine my thoughts and these tears weren’t because I was alone on Christmas Eve, they were tears that I have been locking away for six months.
These tears were for having to have three jobs and still not making ends meet. These tears were being told “I love you” by Nick. These tears were for my new friendships with my roommates. These tears were for missing my friends back in Louisiana– and don’t even get me started on how I missed my family. Theses tears were 28 years of anguish and hurt releasing like a volcano in a church that I’ve never stepped foot in.
In fact, I felt so much, I asked for help.
I’m really big into family history and on a regular basis I acknowledge my lineage that I have never met… I’m talking about the ones from 1700s through present day— Those family members. At that hopeless point, I asked for them to be there with me.
It started with my grandmother, Lucile. She was my dad’s mother, and she passed when I was younger. I talk to her often, actually– but that night she was there. There were others, too. I don’t know them, or even their names, but I felt them. They filled the church in fact. Suddenly I didn’t feel so small, or alone. I had the biggest group surrounding me and holding me together. I was filled with love. Which of course, also made me cry.
Occasionally, someone will ask me advice on if they should move out of state. Those people are always shocked when I respond with, “It’s terribly lonely and really scary… But you should do it, whole-heartedly.”
Of late, I am all too reminded that in order to experience joy, one must experience pain. Sometimes, a lot of pain.
For instance, Christmas 2014 was one of the most painful days of my life. I granted myself, what I thought was a moment of weakness and in return that despair turned into immense joy.
Not immediately, of course.
After I listen to Silent Night, I blew out my candle and slinked out of the puddle which I created and snuck out of the church and went across the street to a gay bar. I had a nice conversation with some lesbians, paid for my drinks with the tip money I received, and decided to abandon my car and walk home. I was still sad.
In fact, I struggled a lot in the months to come– However, little by slowly things got better.
Last night, Nick and I bought a reject Christmas tree from a church located a couple of miles from our lovely apparent outside of Seattle Washington. We drank spiked cider as I watched Nick correct the Christmas lights that I haphazardly assembled, knowing he would fix them anyway. We shared laughs, and very serendipitously Silent Night began to play. My soul, and face, released a tiny smile as I thought of that lonely Christmas Eve in Chicago not many years ago.
*Photo credit: Nick Heggestad. I hate posed pictures so he always sneaks them.