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Pauline Lerner

December 26, 2009

December 27, 2009 at 6:31 AM


Another Christmas has past. Whew!

I'm sure I'm not the only person on this site who experiences holiday stress, but I may be the first one to write about it this year. I'm divorced. I have no family. My family of origin, like so many others, was rather dysfunctional. These are the ingredients for a spell of depression. Indeed, on December 24, I was listless during the day and sleepless at night. I was sure that I would feel better on Christmas day, when I would go to the home of some friends for Christmas dinner, and I was right.

My friends have dozens of photos, mostly of their children and grandchildren, in their kitchen. Other photos show their extended families or friends of various ethnicities from the years they spent living and working abroad. I took one look at a picture of the man of the house with one of his grandchildren and thought, "My father loved me!" That was the key that opened Pandora's box for me.

Our brains behave strangely at times. One part of my brain had been trying to protect me from bad feelings by walling off another part of my brain, where memories of my family are stored. I had lost touch with both good and bad memories until I saw that photo.

Christmas dinner was a lot of fun. There were seven people at the dinner table. The youngest, an 18 month old girl, sat quietly and contentedly in her mother's arms, watching the rest of us, one by one, with intent blue eyes. Our host played little games with the toddler, trying to make her smile. He reminded me of my father. Our conversation was wide-ranging and interesting. The baby's mother, who had moved back into her parents' home, talked about her baby and what wonderful babysitters her parents were. A man in his twenties told us about his trip to Morocco with some friends to shoot a film and the near-death of one of them in the remote Moroccan desert. This was not the Morocco I had seen in the classic film "Casablanca." We talked about digital photography, Macs vs PCs, Robert Burns, songs of the progressive movement, apartheid, health care legislation, traditional Irish foods, and lots more. The whole scene reminded me of dinners and conversations with my parents and their friends long ago.

In spite of all my misgivings, my homecoming felt great.




From William Gibson III
Posted on December 28, 2009 at 3:42 AM

I think I can understand what you feel sounds a lot like what I have or currently am going through it is one of the reasons I am trying to learn to play the violin ... So much to explore and places to hide and maybe in time give back to others it's joys and  the ablity to share ones sorrows and thus making them a bit less painful or burdun... 

   May the New Year bring you what you need and all of the good things you want ....

 Bill G.


From Pauline Lerner
Posted on December 28, 2009 at 6:02 AM

 Bill G, thanks for expressing your honest feelings.  I appreciate your new years wish, and  I wish you the same. 

From Bonny Buckley
Posted on December 28, 2009 at 6:29 AM

Thanks for sharing that.  Holidays aren't that easy for me this year either but I am thankful to be in the US for it and am grateful to have family.  This was an unusual Christmas for me too as my brothers were not able to come to our parents' for Christmas eve, so it was just my folks and me for a long time until 2 nephews finally got off work and came by.  We watched SF Ballet's Nutcracker on PBS.  I'm going to play some chamber music in an elder care residence on Tuesday and get to try out a new cellist at the same time.  Looking forward to that.  Thanks for all your blog posts. 

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on December 28, 2009 at 2:02 PM

Hewww this makes me appreciate my family even if I often feel very "crushed". At my age, I'm so anxious to have my home and thus my life!  Now, I'm just lucky to have more or less a private basement to practice my violin but how annoying when they appear in the room and make me jump 6 feet since I don't always hear them + break my intellectual and emotional focus.  (really a trun off for violinists lol!!!)   It's really hard to always be with your family and also grand-parents in my case spying me 24 hours a day. Sometimes forgetting I'm 20 and try to introduce themselves in my business (how much music and studies I do, my grades, my friends).  This is the hard thing nowadays with universitary studies from which you go out (no are liberated!!!) at almost 30 yo... When your parents help, they always make you feel that "hey we're paying for you so we have the right to control you a little..."  But you're still an adult that wants a life (with no spying of parents or relatives lol)  I am anxious to earn my own money but in the meantime, reading posts like yours makes me realize that a family is precious, especially in Christmas time and that the lack of it is heard too!

Good luck and best wishes for the New Year Pauline! Happy to see you have wonderful friends!


From Pauline Lerner
Posted on December 28, 2009 at 6:06 PM

 Anne-Marie, we all have to balance time we spend with ourselves and time we spend with our families and other people.  Our balance points can change with time, too.  Thanks for your contribution and your good wishes for the new year.  I wish you the best in the new year, too.

From Ray Randall
Posted on December 28, 2009 at 10:31 PM

My wife of 41 years has terminal cancer and willnot be here next Christmas. I'm dreading  next Christmas already.          


From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on December 28, 2009 at 10:49 PM

Thanks to all of you for opening your hearts to this community and for your perspectives.

This was an unusual Christmas for us also--the first one since our children were born that we didn't spend with parents.  My 7 year old daughter was heart-broken, and I couldn't convince her that it would be fine.  She had to wait to see for herself.

Anne-Marie,. I'm glad you said what you did.  Our 16 year old son feels the same way.  It's hard for us his parents to understand, but comforting to know it's not our unique problem.

Best wishes for 2010 to everyone.

Fran Rizzardi


From Laurie Niles
Posted on December 29, 2009 at 12:11 AM

I'm so sorry, Ray.

From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on December 29, 2009 at 1:49 AM

I follow Laurie, very sorry Ray. Hope life will be more fair with you someday. Pauline you're right and Franscesca, happy to learn I'm not an alien to feel like this.


From Pauline Lerner
Posted on December 29, 2009 at 7:46 AM

 Ray, I'm so sorry that your wife is terminally ill.  I suggest that you cherish every moment you have with her.

I'm glad that my blog broke the wall of silence about holiday stress.  I thank everyone who shared their experiences with the community.  I hope that this empathetic sharing will be part of healing for everyone.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on December 29, 2009 at 1:49 PM

 Holidays are so very hard for sensitive people. There's either too much/too bright/too loud, or too empty, too bleak, too dark. There's no easy solution either. You just wade through the hard stuff and wait for the "season of cheer" to pass.

Thinking of you, Pauline, and you too, Ray. : (

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on December 29, 2009 at 5:34 PM

The morning of December 27, I was reading an article online in the Boston Globe about loneliness.  It said that loneliness can be contagious.

Then, I shut the computer off and went to church, where it was a small service around a fireplace.  The kids wanted to stay home and play with their new gifts, and my husband doesn't go to church, so I went by myself.  Instead of a sermon, the minister opened up the service to sharing, and asked us all what we wanted for Christmas. 

My performance anxiety always hits me for these things, but after a few people shared very moving stories I decided to et up and say something about this article, which was still on my mind.  I said I had had a good Christmas, but like many people during this season, still felt lonely.  I mentioned that there is depression in my family, my mother in particular.  I said I thought she was lonely too, and that it was a hard problem, to reach out.  The scientists in the article had done a careful and meticulous job of cataloging what loneliness is, who is susceptible, how it might spread.  But their ideas for how to combat it were nothing revolutionary.  Meet the grumpiness of loneliness with patience and care.  Transform it, don't pass it along.

I said that was what I wanted for Christmas:  the ability to do this, to stop loneliness from spreading.  I had started to cry at that point, and so stopped talking, lit a candle, and sat down.

Afterwards, I felt better.  It opened a couple of wonderful conversations with people at church who I either hadn't known that well or thought I had known, but not as well as I thought.   So many people feel lonely.  And it's so hard to talk about.  But we still try, and try again.  Thanks, Pauline, for sharing this.  I wish you the very best for the new year.  


From Anne-Marie Proulx
Posted on December 29, 2009 at 7:03 PM

Yes, I read this article too. And also many say the net is good but too much can't remplace real people. But how nice when no violinists around you ; )


Karen, this is very courageous and a nice experience!  (it is not easy to talk or perform unfront of a group).  I am generally not shy at all to talk on forums or written stuff but when I'm in a group of people, I'm very quiet and know one knows I exist.  But with performing music, you learn a great deal about beeing confident in public and how competence can bring confidence even in the shyest person.

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on December 29, 2009 at 9:00 PM

Thank you, Karen, for the link to the article and, especially, your story about speaking about loneliness at church.  That must have been a very emotional experience because it melted you to tears.  I'm glad you had the courage to tell it again here.  In my experience, talking about something troubling is very hard at first, but it gets easier with repetition. UUs honor the Transcendentalists.  I believe it was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said that talking to a friend doubles your joys and halves your sorrows.  Obama's autobiography, "Dreams from My Father," is about his spiritual journey.  At the very end of the book, he connects with his father and grandfather at their graves.  He "tells" them mentally that there was no shame in anything they did except for keeping silent.  If only they had talked honestly about their troubles, they could have helped their family and others.  Thanks so much for your input.  I hope that it helps you and that it will help other people, too.

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