Christmas Tree

My Christmas tree is up and dressed.

It looks all sparkly and bright – and when there are no other lights in my living room my tree adds a pleasing seasonal glow between my TV and book case that wasn’t there before.

It took me about an hour of casually attaching baubles and tinsel last night to get it to the point where it looked ‘balanced’ as opposed to ‘busy’.

I kept standing back and looking at it from different angles to try and gauge whether or not it looked ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ until I finally decided that it was a pointless exercise.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (in this case me) and I came to the conclusion that my tree looked nice.

After all – nobody but me will be looking at it for the next month so the only opinion that mattered was my own.

Liberated from deliberation I sat down in my armchair to enjoy the satisfaction of a room lit only by Christmas lights and quietly sipped my coffee.

It looked nice but…

It made me feel…

Sad.

And there it was.

A dark cloud was suddenly hanging above my armchair – and in its long shadow sat myself and my Christmas tree.

I’ve had my head buried in books all week – and rather than outputting to my blog I’ve been focusing on inputting to my brain.

It’s not my usual type of behaviour.

When I withdraw and do this kind of thing I realise (mostly after the fact) that it’s generally because something seems to be ‘missing’ or ‘off’ in my life.

I’ve been really rather enjoying ‘The pursuit of Happiness’ by Ruth Whippman – which is written in a humorous and engaging style that has really sucked me in.

Sadness was far from my mind when I started reading this current tome (despite its title) because I wasn’t really expecting to be confronted with the answer that it professed to have.

The book rather bravely gave away its conclusion quite early in the first chapter – with the author deciding instead to spend the remainder of her book supporting her initial hypothesis.

Her argument is that whoever studies suggest are the happiest individuals (be they in cultural groups, religions, family units or even cults) all happen to have one thing in common.

Fundamentally they provide happiness because they all have human relationships at their core.

Families often persist through the worst abuses and difficulties and members will forgive many transgressions, forgo short term freedoms and sacrifice personal happiness for one another in the hope that life will ultimately be better for their sacrifice.

Whilst situations like this may cause stress there’s an implied payday waiting at the end of it all.

Husbands, wives, children, brothers, sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles will have an enduring family, companionship and love.

No matter how restrictive your religion is, however difficult you find parenthood, whether your philosophical clique requires you to work for free or give up your wealth in its service they all provide happiness because of the sense of community and belonging that they offer.

Some become oddly abusive relationships – such as homosexuals continually trying to exist in restrictive Mormon churches that consider them aberrations.

Even in these extreme situations – (despite a tradeoffs where they are required to make immense personal sacrifices) they can still come to believe that the pain is worth it.

Ruth Whippman argues that if we can bear to give up certain freedoms to remain part of a tribe – we can still legitimately and truthfully profess to be happy because the sense of belonging and support that other aspects of it give us still outweighs the ‘bad’ aspects of membership.

This is what keeps us coming back for more.

The need for human connections.

The pursuit of happiness makes some interesting and thought provoking arguments – and therein lay the origin of my Christmas tree related feelings.

I looked up from it’s pages in the warm and chatty coffee shop that I was sitting in.

My legs were crossed and my booted feet were resting on a low radiator which ran along the length of a large window looking out onto a street below.

Outside the sun had broken through the clouds of the early morning and it was shining.

My coffee tasted wonderful, my feet were warm, my clothes loose and comfortable and my surroundings were pleasing.

Like most things in my life though I was suddenly aware that all of these things were being experienced alone.

It all began to hit me there.

I was reading a book that was convincingly explaining why a huge chunk of the western world is fundamentally unhappy and it was describing me.

All of the people it described that were isolating themselves in mindfulness, yoga or spiritual retreats to find happiness were me.

Frustrated by other parts of my life that didn’t seem to be ‘working’ I was looking inward, trying to understand myself and gain insight into what would make me a more contented and loveable person, when in fact just being with other people made me feel and come across that way.

For many years I’ve actually been very comfortable with my situation.

Well.

Not really.

That’s not entirely true.

What I really mean is that I’ve learned to just exist on my own.

This isn’t because I dislike the company of others.

It’s quite the contrary in fact because I revel in it – but several (mostly self inflicted) factors led to me feel like it was ‘normal’ to live the way I do.

For the longest time I never really felt that there was an option to be otherwise.

My weight and health provided an excellent excuse for my lack of impetus to address this part of my life and was a really convenient cover.

After all – who would want a man that was so physically colossal and such a huge failure in life?

Compounding this internal thought process was part of the reason things had gone so wrong with my life in the last two decades in the first place. My last relationship (which ideally I wanted to continue forever) ended rather abruptly, and frankly when it did I felt cheated out of happiness.

I was angry and in pain – and I smoked, ate and drank to avoid dealing with it.

For many many years I treated this point in time the same way that others treat a bereavement. I felt like the part of me that could love and trust a partner ‘died’ the day that she left my life.

If I’d have been Queen Victoria this would have been the beginning of my humourless and stoic ‘black period’.

I isolated myself in self flagellating grief.

Honestly it wasn’t that hard to do.

I’d had a largely solitary childhood with a mother who was abusive and a father that was distant.

My nearest sibling was over a decade younger than me and school represented nothing more than a war of attrition. Looking back it feels like I only ever seemed to learn how to not show fear, pain or loneliness during the relentless bullying I suffered on an almost daily basis.

It wasn’t until the age of 16 that things started to change – and at this point I embarked upon a previously undreamt of period of popularity with friends and the opposite sex.

I remember at the time (by then having lost a lot of weight) that I was ‘fixed’.

The past was behind me and I was now free to bend the world into whatever I wanted it to be.

Furthermore I’d enjoy it in full technicolour and get as loaded as I possibly could.

Unpopular Dave became ‘party Dave’ and he did EVERYTHING to excess.

Ultimately though we all realise the folly of our personal delusions – and I now know that I smoked, drank and did many other mind altering things to paper over painful personality cracks.

I never once tried to repair one of them – mostly because I lacked the self awareness to see them for what they were in the first place.

I couldn’t see that every action was the result of childhood damage and the vast majority were either physically or emotionally self destructive.

Relationships were an extension of this – and were all designed to prove to the world that I was ‘normal’ and ‘deserving of love’ when deep down I felt I was neither.

If I’m truthful I didn’t love the majority of my partners.

I liked them a lot – but back then I was far more concerned with whether or not they loved me. If they did then they functioned as outward proof to the world that I wasn’t wicked or evil (my mom’s preferred way of describing me) or the odd little fat kid alone in the playground.

When the poor lifestyle choices related to the weight of my emotional burdens eventually translated into physical bulk it actually made things easier.

Now I didn’t have to prove anything to anyone.

No one expected me to have a relationship – and instead all I had to do was learn to manage my time and construct a framework to my life that would make loneliness instead appear to be ‘freedom’.

Now though things are different and physically I have a new lease of life.

I possess freedoms that I’ve fought hard to regain. It’s real rather than imagined – but all of a sudden I feel desperately alone in it.

Over the last couple of months I’ve quietly tried to fill it with personal entreaties and dating sites – but so far I’m not making much headway.

Up to this point I’ve just made choices that ultimately served to exacerbate my feelings of isolation and instead of feeling closer to anyone or anything have been left feeling generally alone and more disconnected.

I’m not really into writing ‘poor me’ blog posts – but I can’t deny that currently this is pretty much how I feel.

The Christmas tree with it’s glittering tinsel and baubles in front of me is a reminder of my problem – not the cause.

Life isn’t meant to be lived alone.

A Christmas tree is meant to be shared.

In some ways making ‘steps forward’ and trying to fix this has made the problem even more acute than it was before.

Whereas previously I felt like there was a gap that I probably needed to fill at some vague point in the future – now I’m just beginning to feel rejected and needy.

Every chat that I have on dating apps seems to put me in contact with people that are either not interested in me or that have omitted huge things from their profiles.

This is presumably in the hope that somehow people will never ask whether they’re actually divorced, if they have loads of children or a job that means they have around 1 hour a week spare if they’re lucky.

So far I’m at a loss.

I have also become painfully aware that whilst I’ve succeeded in transforming myself into a ‘normal’ man I still feel that underneath all my success lies an uncomfortable truth that even if I find someone I like that I’m never going to be accepted for who I am.

In the dark of my living room, in the half light of my tree I feel lost.

On the plus side though internet my Christmas tree looks nice, so that’s something at least.

Davey

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7 comments

  1. Hi Dave

    Up relatively early on a Sunday morning and just reading through your blog.

    I can’t help feeling that the people that you’ve come across so far on those sites aren’t being open and honest as you’ve been. There will definitely be someone out there for you, accepting you for exactly the person you are, with no whistles and bells or other strings/conditions attached.

    In the meantime, as I have been, there are so many people who read your blog or see you at Slimming World, who are so impressed with the genuine person that you are, and feel like they’ve got to know you over the past few months and years and feel like while you’re waiting for the right person to come along, you have a very large group of people rooting for you, accepting you just as you are.

    Looking inwards is a good thing, as long as you’re still out there with your friends, able to accept that they do accept and love you, just as you are.

    I’ve been struggling these past few months, and have had a few similar thoughts to you. I’d been playing with following the plan, and after yesterday’s session, I got my journal and my get set for success books out, and printed off a couple of photos as my inspirational photos – of you, I might add. You have helped to get me re-started on my journey, so thank you for that.

    Love

    Sara

    Like

    1. Sara – it genuinely does me the power of good to know that my openness makes people feel that they’re not on their own and that to feel a huge range of emotions associated with weight loss is completely normal.

      The sad truth is that the weight is a symptom rather than a cause – and while I’m probably more open than most I’m still painfully aware at time that the man who damaged himself so badly did so because he didn’t function very well to begin with.

      In some ways (not to diminish my own or any one else’s struggles) losing the weight is the easy bit.

      Emotionally rebuilding yourself afterwards can at times seem like the hard part. X

      Like

  2. Dave, a brave self assessment to share. I had a lot of thoughts while reading this. Some were empathetic, I think loneliness is a very human condition. It’s a response to the basic fact that humans are communal and, historically, living in a large group or social structure provided a safety net when crops might fail or the neighboring barbarians cane calling with clubs. We are hardwired, I think, to seek out groups to join. To find protection in the herd. But not everyone is comfortable with such closeness. There is so much I could say, but I’ll boil it down to this, loneliness is hard to bear. But being comfortable being alone is good too. Looking outside yourself for the person or persons to complete you is problematic in that you are likely to remain unfulfilled because people are flawed and lacking. Humans are not giant jigsaw puzzles with perfect edges and the ability to match up to form a perfect picture.

    I’m probably babbling. I tend to do this when I’m thinking out loud.

    I hope you can find solace that you are not alone in being alone. We are all alone—even when surrounded by a crowd. It’s just we feel less alone next to a group. If that makes any sense.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment kirizar 🤗

      I’ve been ‘comfortable’ being alone for many years now – although the truth of my situation is probably more ‘scared to be with someone’.

      I don’t plan to base all of my happiness on other people – and I take your point about them being flawed meaning there’s a high degree of possibility that I will be disappointed at some point in the future.

      However at the moment the alternative is an empty house and a life increasingly filled with positivity and joy that I simply can’t share.

      Sigh. The human condition eh?

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A brave and searingly honest post, Davey – more than above averagely honest, even for you. You are blessed with a very healthy self-awareness, which I imagine has come from the time you’ve spent alone over the years. But in your ‘before’, you buried your feelings, self-medicating into oblivion. In your ‘now’, you no longer choose to hide away, or self-medicate with food, alcohol and the rest. In your ‘now’ you’re facing up to your needs and wants – looking them in the eye, so to speak. That’s tough, and I can relate only too well. But with an understanding of what you were, and what you are, and what you need – and a much stronger resolve and confidence to go out and look for what you want and need, it WILL only be a matter of time. You’re really good at putting yourself ‘out there’, and you make friends and connections easily (more easily than you think, I imagine). So keep smiling at strangers, talking to people in coffee shops and on walks, and keep clicking ‘like’ on the dating websites too (because that really IS a numbers game!). You know about not giving up, and you know about remodelling your world, one pound at a time. Now, you’re remodelling another part of your world, and welcoming in the new, one ‘like’, one ‘hello’ and one smile at a time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I feel better at the moment. Days like that thankfully don’t come around all the time – but when they do they hit like a brick, and leave me metaphorically on my back looking up at the sky and wondering how I got there.

      Thankfully the oblivion I once sought is not what I want or need to manage this aspect of me any more.

      I’m not going to lie – this day in particular made me want alcohol a LOT, but I never felt at any point that I was in danger of acting on that impulse.

      Instead I swam and swam and swam until I wore myself out.

      If there was ever a win that was it. 😊

      Hopefully one day it will happen 👍🏽

      Liked by 1 person

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