It's been the best Christmas I've had in quite a long time.
I am largely a social creature; I am happiest when among others. My giving season started on Friday the 14th. I love to host, and I invited my closest friends over for a fancy-dressed party to celebrate the holidays. We laughed, drank, exchanged gifts...and had a fantastic time. The gifts I gave were well received, and my friends were generous. We sat around and played the Wii U as well. I looked around at one point, saw my friends enjoying themselves, and was filled with a gladness of heart that would've sustained me for the entire Christmas season. But a week later, I had another gathering. I met my weekly board game crew for another gift exchange and a game of 7 Wonders. Once again, it was a group of friends sitting around and enjoying each other's company in the spirit of giving. In the last two weeks, I not only had these two gatherings but hung out pretty regularly with other friends, too.
This brings me to this past extended weekend. I made a quick decision to head up to Pawhuska early and get some extra visiting time with my family. I took my camera, too, and took my time driving up Highway 11 to reach the city of my father's family. The next two-and-a-half days were full of the kind of family time that had only existed in distant memory. We hadn't all been together as such since Grandma passed in late 2010. Since that terrible winter of death and divorce, I've felt somewhat estranged from my family. And my friends, really. As happy and busy as I've been, I have not been able to shake this feeling that I don't fit anywhere. Do not misunderstand me; this is not the fault of anyone but myself. I've just felt out of step with everyone in my life, and it has cost me relationships and left me with many sleepless nights.
After a wonderful few days with the Martin clan, I came home and spent today with my family here. Mom 'n the Gang. Once again, it was an environment I hadn't felt I'd fit into for a very long time. But today felt good. We were laughing, enjoying each other's company, and there was no rush. I felt normal, for the first time in a long time. I wasn't trying to think of an exit strategy so I could get back home and sulk in the dark. Everything was fine.
At the end of this busy season, I sit at home listening to music by myself and I feel FULL. I can close my eyes, smile, and the smile is deep. I know I still have a long way to go; the high that comes with these gatherings will wear off sooner than I expect. But this Christmas was a big win. I have my friends and family to thank for that. You are all wonderful people and I am so very thankful for you.