I love almost everything about the holidays; buying presents, Christmas music, lights, trees, food, and I feel an optimism and hope about life in general that seems even stronger this year. But at the same time, I remember what I felt like in 1987. It was only my second year of being sober, and my first year of being divorced. My former husband had the kids for that holiday, I was alone, and all of the gaiety of the season just made me feel even more isolated.
As I sat in an AA meeting, trying to feel connected in some way to the rest of humanity (but feeling such a hole inside) a woman named Patty came over to me and said, “If you would like to come to my house tomorrow, I’d love to have you.”
Patty was someone who’d had a nervous breakdown, and spent time in an institution before getting sober. She was very shaky and had a nervous laugh. She’d come into AA a few years before me and we wouldn’t have dove-tailed socially before getting sober. But she saw right into my heart that day and she noticed that hole, and without making me feel pitiful, she offered the light of friendship. I was totally shocked by her offer. I didn’t realize that others knew what I was feeling. Maybe because she had been in hell too (that dark, lonely, desolate place that I was feeling), she could recognize it.
Of what greater value to the world can we be, than to use the painful experiences of our own lives (the places where we have marched into hell and come out as stronger, wiser, and more compassionate people) to light the way for another? That is what Patty did for me that day.
So if this holiday season is not feeling joy-filled or comforting to you, then I offer you the light of friendship. Maybe we can’t be together in the same physical space, but we can be together in spirit, and I am here to tell you that you are wanted and loved and that it will get better. Sometimes we are the ones who can shine our lights, sometimes we are looking for the light of someone else to guide us back, but always we need to keep focused on the light.
“I am going to notice the lights of the earth, the sun and the moon and the stars, the lights of our candles as we march, …..the light that is already present.” Anne Lamott