The Musings of an Elective Orphan

Sarah Brandis

Social awkwardness is for life, not just for Xmas.

At least I am not this guy!

Things could always be worse!

Halloween is nearly here, with Christmas hot on it’s heels.  Now is the winter of my discontent… well, not so much discontent, but unease (washed down with several Xmas Baileys).  For an orphan, the holiday season is a big fat reminder of how different we are from conventional society with their next of kin, and how awkward that difference can be; further adding to the sense of alienation (and the drive for more Baileys).  

In my last counselling session, it came to light that I wasn’t really as ‘over‘ my ‘parents‘ (if you can call them that) as I had allowed myself to believe.  In sixteen years of pressing on (travelling, working like a demon, studying, running marathons and book writing) I hadn’t done enough looking back and reflecting.  I did write my memoirs, and this was amazingly cathartic.  But when asked about my mother, I had always said “fuck her, and fuck my father too, for what he did to me”.  I hadn’t actually ever mourned what I had lost.  When I chose to leave their home, for my own good I hasten to add, it had always been the thing that saved me.  I never really saw it as something to mourn, only something to be proud of.  And I still am, very much so.  

head-in-sandBut as my counsellor pointed out, I became an orphan that day, in one way or another, and that is a reason to mourn.  No longer could I be a little kid with her head buried in the sand, wishing hard that my mother would leave my abusive father, and become the parent that I deserved.  She didn’t die, but something did.  And in the years that have passed, I have not let myself acknowledge that until now.    

I love this cat!

I love this cat!

Still, here comes my seventeenth Christmas season as an elective orphan.  I am well rehearsed at this by now.  Get up, pretend I’m not stressed out by the pressure to have a perfect day, eat chocolate and drink Baileys.  See, normal, just like everybody else!  

More about my story so far on my about page.  Please feel free to comment, I won’t be offended, and I like to know how people with ‘normal‘ families find the whole Christmas experience too.


6 comments on “Social awkwardness is for life, not just for Xmas.

  1. diahannreyes
    October 19, 2013

    Sounds like a powerful aha moment!

    • sarahbgoode
      October 19, 2013

      Absolutely. Now I need to figure out what to do with that realisation. Might just let it sink in for a while… and breathe 🙂

  2. Aussa Lorens
    October 31, 2013

    Agh. I can relate to this– though I need to go read through your about page.
    I stopped talking to my parents when I was 18. Narcissistic/evil father + docile subservient enabling mother. The usual story. I have had many many sad christmases in which I drew deranged cartoons of rudolph getting hit by trains and other such nonsense (really just to alarm my coworkers). After many years I have FINALLY reclaimed a sense of happiness in the holidays– after spending a lot of time alone overseas. But I very much feel you on this and relate to the sense of being an orphan.

    • sarahbgoode
      October 31, 2013

      Hi there, Aussa. From your brief description there, our parent sound rather similar. Oddly, I was always angrier at my mother, even though she wasn’t the driving force. Orphan’s Christmas is always weird. I do wonder, if I should have children in the future, would that make Christmas feel more ‘normal’, purely because I would have a blood relative there… probably not though. I guess the day will always just be what I can make of it. Being overseas definitely helps me too. I’m very lucky that my partner’s family live on the east coast of Australia (we are in London), so guess where I’m off to this year! Physical distance may not be a substitute for psychological distance, but it is a help… and there are beaches too 🙂

      p.s. I never minded Rudolph myself, my pet hate is Christmas music.

      • Aussa Lorens
        October 31, 2013

        Over the years I’ve definitely found that having kids around during Christmas helped to melt my cold little heart because it was about giving them that magic I had been missing. Also, starting last year I’m in charge of planning all the Christmas festivities for the patients at the psych hospital where I work– many of them can relate to us and have not had a proper Christmas in a long time, possibly ever. So all that helps– not the same, but it helps.

        I’m totally jealous that you’re going to Australia for Christmas though– WHAAAAAAAA?!

      • sarahbgoode
        November 3, 2013

        I know, I’m really lucky to be going somewhere hot and sunny. Makes a big difference to your outlook too, being in the sun. I haven’t tried xmas with kids yet, but what you said totally made sense to me.

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