“What’s hard is simple,
What’s natural comes hard.
Maybe you could show me
How to let go,
Lower my guard,
Learn to be free;
Maybe if you whistle,
Whistle for me. ”

—Stephen Sondheim, “Anyone Can Whistle”

This is the first Christmas that I remember not feeling filled with joy, and thankful for the friends and family and relationships I have with people all over the world, and the bit of money in my pocket, and the small things that make the holidays worth appreciating. It is the first year I am not excited about traveling, seeing loved ones, embracing the lights and the energy of the city…because I’m not able to do any of those things. In fact, I feel an overwhelming depression that’s becoming more difficult to bear as the month drags on.

The beginning of the month didn’t get off to a stellar start. In addition to testing positively for a variety of medical issues, sinking even deeper into debt just trying to find out why I can’t function like a normal human being, and being de-friended by two people I once considered friends and actually cared about, I had struggles with work. Namely, the 9 projects a day I was receiving had been cut down to three a day; sometimes three every other day. The result is that my first paycheck for the month is smaller than if I’d spent my time working for minimum wage at Starbucks. My only hope was that things would improve, and the assignments would start rolling back in for the second half of the month. In the meanwhile, I contacted everyone I’d ever done work for, seeing if they had work for me to handle.

This hope yielded some positive results. I’ve gotten my 9 assignments per day, plus another client that said they’d have some work for me around the 17th of the month. Then, I find out today that I won’t be receiving another paycheck this month. My work won’t be paid until the 27th, due to the office being closed for the holidays, which means it won’t show up in my account until the 30th or 31st…which means it won’t, because weekends and holidays are not banking days. Therefore, not only can I not afford to visit family or do things with friends, even if I could, but I can’t afford to buy presents for anyone, either. I basically can’t afford to leave the house for the next two weeks.

But you always have your health, right? Well, unless you’re me. Then, you’ve spent 6 months being physically and emotionally ill and racked up $50,000 in medical bills that the insurance company won’t cover. Once you pay out of pocket for the tests that can diagnose your issues, you find out that you do have medical problems: one that will supposedly “resolve itself” but I can expect to be extraordinarily painful, and one that will likely require surgery in my ear…that is, after more tests that I can expect to pay for out-of-pocket are done to confirm the diagnosis.

And, if you’re me, you’ve also gained 20 pounds in six months as a result of said medications, and have constant breakouts for not reason…and it’s gotten to the point where you can’t stand to look at yourself in the mirror, much less identify yourself as a person anyone, anywhere would ever be attracted to.

However, since I’m in a relationship with a guy who’s not shallow enough to stop loving me because I’m fat and unattractive and can’t hold the pieces together long enough to have any semblance of a fun social life, at least that should bring me comfort. It doesn’t, though, because I feel like there’s a growing chasm between us. When we spend time together, we sit on our separate computers, play trivia, or watch movies. When I try to talk about serious things, I don’t really get answers. Serious things like: “Why have we been together for three years, but I still spend every holiday alone?”

Yes, The Guy I Am Currently Dating lives 15 minutes away, and I will be spending Christmas alone. I would have spent Thanksgiving alone, too, if not for friends that invited me to be part of their family for the weekend. In fact, I spend as many holidays alone as when I was single, when I was dating a guy who denied my existence in his life to his parents because they wouldn’t accept me, and when I was unwisely keeping company with a married suitor….which by nature of being “the other woman”, means you will spend every holiday alone. The Guy I Am Currently Dating spends every holiday with his mother, the lovely woman who has called me “ugly piece of shit”, pointed out all my undesirable physical and emotional flaws and told me no man would ever want me, told me I was trash, likened me to Casey Anthony, told me her son only settled for me because his self-esteem was too low to chase after pretty girls, called my a psycho, and wished me dead three times, before threatening that something vaguely bad would befall me if I didn’t move out of Georgia and get out of her son’s life.

Yet, that’s who he’s spending the holidays with, the person who treated me that way. Not me. It kind of shows where I rank in the grand scheme of things, and when I asked if any of this would ever change, if we’d ever have a normal life together, I didn’t get an answer. And it’s because I know the answer is “Not until my mother is dead and we can live together”. And I don’t know if I deserve to spend the next two decades of my life alone, waiting for someone who supposedly wants to build a life with me to put me first.

So, when I hear from a good friend of mine all the romantic things he’s doing for a girl he’s been dating for a few months, it makes me terribly, terribly sad. When I hear about my couple friends, who have all, in the same time I’ve been dating The Guy I Am Currently Dating, met, moved in together, gotten married, and had kids or adopted dogs, it makes me terribly, terribly sad. I feel like asking why I’m always the one left behind and alone when holidays and family occasions come around, always “the other woman”, even when I’ve changed my lifestyle to avoid that outcome. Why am I not the person that someone, somewhere moves heaven and earth to be with, travels with, adventures with, and not only *says* he cares about more than anything else, but shows it. I’ve had a lot of lovers and love affairs in my lifetime….too many….and yet, I’ve never been that girl. I’ve always been loved, amused, entertained…but never that girl worth changing everything for. I’ve had diamonds and Dom Perignon and holidays in the Caribbean, but never been treated like a permanent part of anyone’s life, never been anyone’s family. And that hurts me, somewhere deep inside. I guess I understand it, because committment and old-fashioned family values have never been my strong suit, and I don’t even know how to promise monogamy to someone I love….but there’s a hole in my heart that wonders why everyone seems to find this life-altering love and romance thing but me. It’s not that I’ve gone through life alone, but that all the love and romance I’ve ever been offered seems to come with a “but”….and that “but” means I’m not the girl that the men in my life have worked to woo and plan romantic adventures for or desire quiet holidays alone, just the two of us.

And part of me really wants that, feels that, maybe at some point in my life, I should start deserving that…and if I’m with someone who can’t or won’t offer those things, I’m with the wrong person, no matter how loving and supportive he is in other ways. It can’t be “I want to spent my life with you, but…”. :( ((((

In the past, I’ve tried to fight against all these feelings by visiting with my own family, who aren’t exactly paragons of love and support and remind me that I don’t know if I’ve ever really been part of a family, or loved like part of a family, since my first day on Earth. I’ve leaned on my friends, who over the years, have grown up and started their own families and fallen in love with their ideal partners…many of whom learned the hard way that that person turned out not to be me…and they’re happy to be there for me, when they’re not spending time enjoying the families and relationships they’ve built.

I still feel like the “other woman”, always, no matter what choices I make in my life. Maybe at one point, that was a specific road I chose…to be free, alone, unattached, unconventional, up for amusement, even connection, but afraid of love….but I had no idea back in those days that I’d end up at this point, feeling this lonely and isolated.

I don’t even recognise myself anymore. I don’t feel like any of the things that used to make me who I am are still there. Sometimes, I don’t feel like I have anything at all, and life just isn’t a place for people like me, who are always a step or two out of sync, marching to a different drummer, on a path that’s not only isolating, but easily forgotten.

It isn’t a surprise that people aren’t calling to invite me to parties this year, seeking out my company for drinks or celebration. I have another birthday coming up soon, one that puts me at an age where I’m well-past grown up…and I don’t have much to show for it, much less celebrate.

It’s like I’m still waiting for life to happen to me. Once upon a time, I tried to make life happen rather than the other way around…and I live four decades in less than one. Maybe it’s just that I’m done now. I don’t know. I’m what I never wanted to be: an aging party girl that’s lost her health, her looks, her charisma, her self-confidence, and is meant to spend a lot of her life alone, watching others easily find all the things that have never come easily to her.

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