The ghosts of Christmas past: dead man walking.

Of my 46 Christmases on this planet it is surprising, considering how terrible some of them have been, how easy it was to pick out an all time low and it is this one.

Pick a day, any day from the past year. Providing it wasn’t your birthday you would be hard pressed to remember what you were doing, even on the most awful or the most magical, it’s just a day. There were ones before and ones after until the one on which you die. But on days like Christmases and birthdays, they come around again and again and, after a while, patterns form. 

There are gifts you get given on certain days, some make everything in the world seem right but some, most even, just leave you feeling hollowed out inside. Of these there are the tangible ones, the ones that demonstrate how little someone knows you, like giving the goth Chris at seventeen a copy of micheal jackson’s Bad cd or the time I got three hideously expensive bottle openers after I had given up drinking alcohol. The worst gifts though are the intangible gifts of worthlessness, acts of apathy, thoughtlessness and unkindness that intentionally or not are guaranteed to knock your self esteem through the floor. This is one of those…

It has been a grim year, one of those where you meet inertia at every turn. I have had to do a lot of fighting throughout to keep my head about water both financially and mentally. I have fought all my life though, not with fists, I’m never violent, but with a constant iron will. You see people like me every day, the walking wounded, the bungled and the botched as Nietzsche described them, the flakes of human dust beneath the butterflies on a wheel. They fall through the gaps in life, casualties of capitalism, the necessary byproduct of a system designed to favour some more than others. Usually, when you fall, you stay fallen, you drift further down into homelessness, substance abuse, alcoholism, premature ageing and death. Patronised by some and exploited by others, people don’t come back from that. Me, I stopped myself, I dragged myself back to sobriety, to stability and started to make a career rather than a job as I slowly over the course of a decade crawled back up the sewer pipe of life into the world again. It all took its toll though, and left its mark.

It is rare to find true friends in this world, most people want to keep you stuck. It is often the case that when you are poor, they will not help you up the ladder out of poverty and if they are single or unhappy in their relationship, they will subtly and less subtly try and undermine  your relationships in turn and if they are really nasty and manipulative they will do it in such a way that you will probably end up being grateful to them for their support. If you find true friends, friends who will support you even when it means they will be getting less attention from you in the future, hang on to them, they are precious. I had a year of shitty people, gossipy, unpleasant, stupid, ignorant, self absorbed people, causing havoc. And I did exactly the wrong thing, I made it worse, I fought back, I let every stinking one of them know what I thought about them. It was fun at the time and there was and element of reward but it was as unwise and self destructive as a drunken tattoo. 

To me, the worst gift you can give is the gift of worthlessness, to demonstrate by your actions just how little someone means to you and how little they matter. The easiest way of guaranteeing that someone feels like shit, in my books, is to make sure that you choose the most appalling people to spend time with and the most pointless, and preferably actively harmful, things to be doing instead of spending time with them

Like I said it was a rough year, culminating with long hard days dragging equipment for miles and lying on cold concrete floors in December. And then I was left alone. Some bizarre misconstrued nonsense about a drawing of a Shepard and sheep, a passive aggressive excuse to walk away. Things went from bad to worse, unused tickets went in the shredder (again) I soldiered on for a while before a bad week and suicidal thoughts and then plans led me to my doctors surgery. For once I had a decent doctor, I hit all the red flags and received some serious attention and through sheer fluke and a chance comment he picked up something gravely serious. I had heart problems. In retrospect what I had was unstable angina excacerbated by stress induced cardiomyopathy and a 94% blocked left block aorta. Stress and heartbreak can be fatal apparently.

Things happened and appearances were made but the upshot of it was that I would be spending Christmas Day alone. Alone whilst a travesty went on around the corner, a farcical pretence at a family Christmas, perpetrated by people who had had their knives in each other’s backs all year long, I suspected there was an ulterior motive to this travesty and was proved right later but at that point it was enough of a snub considering my suspected condition. 

It was a squalling dark day of a Christmas, the cold bit into me. It was a constant toss up between feeling ill because of the cold and feeling ill because the weight of warmer clothes was just too much to cope with. I opened my presents, mostly bought for me, by me, the only way to prevent almost certain disappointment. The worst thing about Christmas though… No decent coffee, nowhere to go and have a walk by the sea. It was with grim determination that I made a flask of coffee, stuffed it in the capacious pocket of my  vintage mod parka and headed out into the cold, down towards the seafront. I think I got two hundred yards, I fought to breath, my left arm and fingers twinged  and stung and for every step I struggled forward I was painfully aware that I would have to struggle back again. I sadly turned around and went home, battered by the cold and sideways rain all the way. I had to use my heart spray on the way home, it is mostly nitroglycerin, the main ingredient in the explosive dynamite, it gets oxygen around your body but also leaves you a sweaty nauseous mess with a pounding headache like a brain hemorrhage. I took to my bed for many hours when I got in, waking again in the dark, above the pain in my chest and the pain in my head, the pain in my soul was far worse, knowing that I was worth so very little, as next to nothing as the laws of physics allow. Knowing that a life was going on around the corner, a life I was being slowly but constistantly pushed out of, a death of a romance by a thousand tiny cuts. Rather than distract me from my worthlessness, the pain framed it, gave it shape and form. The day went eventually, in minutes and seconds each like an age. I would like to say that things got better after that, but they didn’t. They never did.

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