Thursday, December 7, 2017
One is the Loneliest Number
More than any other season, the end of the year orgy of togetherness is most difficult for those who are not 'blessed' with friends and family. At least that is the conventional wisdom. I'm not so sure about the statistics. I believe it's all about expectations and needs.
For some, a nice quiet day alone, doing what the heart desires with minimum effort, can be a great gift. I have several friends across the globe who are 'onlies', some by choice, others through circumstance. I have observed that those who truly don't want to be alone on holidays make an effort to be with other folks. One person I know spends holidays feeding the homeless. Another prepares a feast and invites other onlies to share it.
Over the years I've been blessed with holidays I spent with a multitude of relatives and I've also had others alone. One is not better than the other. One Christmas seventy of my nearest and dearest sat down to dinner. It was a spectacular experience. But dare I admit I've reached a place in my life when three or four friends sharing a quiet dinner is more my style?
I think we've let that Norman Rockwell painting influence our expectations to the point of silliness. Do we really need to cook enough food for an army so we can spend time with people we don't even like? Are we so determined to deny the truth--the painful truth--that many of us dread spending time with extended family?
I once had a conversation with my father about how things were with our ancestors. They didn't travel long distances to share a meal on a specific day. Heck, often, families were so far flung they might not see each other for years. Holidays (if celebrated) included everyone on the homestead, related or not. And if family came to visit...say in August or March, well then there was a dinner and conversation.
I wonder how it would be if we went back to small congenial gatherings, or even better, just stayed at home with our loved ones, spending time together? What if we banned electronics for that day? What if we planned for surplus spending on food to go to a food bank or homeless shelter? What if we invited that neighbor who lives alone to join us for dinner? Often, folks who spend holidays alone are that way exactly because no one invited them to join them. After all, most of us don't just show up on our own. So are we observant enough, compassionate enough to share our bounty and good fortune with others?
Instead of packing up a food basket for a disadvantaged family, why not invite them to join in with our celebrations? Then send them home with the leftovers so they have not one meal, but several?
Technology hasn't brought us closer. It's provided the means and opportunity to foster great loneliness and alienation. Ultimately, our unrealistic expectations leave us with dissatisfaction and sadness at the end of the day. We wearily return to our homes, put the too generous leftovers away, do the mountain of dishes, and wonder why we don't feel any joy. Maybe...maybe, one isn't the loneliest number.