In Praise of Depressing Holidays

I never expected or planned that I would live a single life. When I bought my home over a dozen years ago I thought that this house would become a home, with a wife and children.

It was a hard decision to make alone. I agonized over buying a house since I feared making the wrong decision.

When I finally found two houses that interested me, my real estate agent asked me in the midst of my indecision, “What would make the decision easier?”

I looked out the car window as we sat in front of one of the houses. “A wife. A wife would make the decision easier, because then I wouldn’t be deciding on my own what house we want to make a home.”

He mustered the best reply he could. “Well, that’s one reason you have me to help you.”

He was a good agent, but he wasn’t my soul mate. He wasn’t a companion I had chosen to share my life with. Buying a house by myself made me feel more terribly alone than I ever had in my life.

I was grateful for my job, grateful to have a house–finally–but it was an empty house. How I planned and dreamed! I made sure the house had three rooms. Enough for kids. The basement was going to be a perfect play room for the children when they came, just like my house growing up. The backyard looked like a park. I would build a sandbox and hang a hammock between the massive trunks of the soaring white pine trees that lined my yard. How I loved them, the tallest trees in my neighborhood–so tall that a hawk nested among their branches. I dreamed of rocking my children to sleep on a summer’s afternoon. I could see us, swinging in the hammock, looking up into the trees for a glimpse of our hawk. I would tell them stories, while they were soothed to sleep by the sound of the wind whispering through the needles that danced far above us.

I slowly made the house my home. I picked colors for rooms, always mindful of my bachelor state. “For now, I want my house to feel like it’s a den,” I told my friends. Leather chairs, deep dark browns, reds and mahogany, dark stained oak.

No feminine touches here.

Not yet, anyway.

“One day, soon,” I always hoped.

I used to write letters to my wife. On cotton stationery. I imagined giving them all to my wife on our wedding night, wrapped in a silken bow. “These are my gift to you,” I would have said to her, on my knees.

Writing to her kept the dream of her alive in my mind. When I was feeling particularly lonely I would write to her, saying things like, “I know one day we will meet. But will I know, in that first moment, that here, on this day, I’ve met the woman I one day will wed? What joy there will be when look back on the paths that led us to each other! We will be happy when we both realize we’re in love, and you will choose me, and I will choose you, over all others.”

I would pray for my wife, that she would be happy, that she would grow in love for God. I would pray that God would help me to be a man worthy of her love. Despite my attractions to men, I believed with all my heart that God’s plans would somehow bring a woman into my life who would cause me to say, like Adam said of Eve, “here at last is bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!”

That day never came.

I burned those letters long ago.

There are no children’s voices greeting me when I arrive home, nor, I realize, will there ever be. I have my trusty hound who greets me with tail wagging, but like Adam surveying all of the animals in Eden, my dog isn’t a suitable companion to me.

Solomon said ages ago, “two are better than one. If the one falls, the other will help the fallen one. But woe to the solitary person! If that one should fall, there is no other to help. So also, if two sleep together, they keep each other warm. How can one alone keep warm?”

So what is a man to do who’s chosen the single life out of obedience to God? Who feels lonely, and who longs for a companion to keep his bed warm?

I must say to God, “thank you for loneliness.”

This may seem like madness to some, but this is the only way to true peace and contentment I have found that works. This can only be done by an act of the will, aided by the grace of God.

I hate the loneliness I so often feel, especially during the holidays. I don’t particularly like Christmas, to be honest. I’d just as soon hibernate for a few weeks and wake up in the following year,with no change in my schedule, than go through the Octave of Christmas as a single man.

I could numb the ache, and fill the coldness of my bed easily enough with another lonely soul, and have some pleasures while I’m at it to help me get through the holidays. Or I could say in 2015 that I’ve had enough loneliness, turn my back on my rational mind and my faith, and try to believe the lie that all that matters is whether I’m happy in the way I’d like to be happy. It wouldn’t be hard to find a man to share my life with, if I decided that my loneliness is the worst thing that could happen to me in my life.

That’s not the path for me, however.

I don’t have many choices over what life has brought me, but I do have a choice in how I will respond.

My brother recently reminded me of St. Paul’s words to the Thessalonians in his first epistle to them. “In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.”

That’s a hard saying, and it makes me irritated sometimes, if I’m honest. Give thanks to God during the holidays, when all I want to do is stay in bed until I’m back to work? Give thanks to God when I come home to an empty house? I can’t seem to do that, but I realize I need to try.

So often in my life I’ve shook my fist at God and said to Him that He doesn’t know what He’s about. Why did he allow me to be attracted to men? Why didn’t he take that away from me in all of those countless nights of crying out to him? Why is my lot in life the single life? That’s enough to make a man turn his back on God.

And I did.

For a time.

I still sometimes want to shake my fist at God. I still get angry with him, but that time away from God showed me how little I know about my own well being and happiness. One of the greatest gifts God can give to His children is experiencing some misery in this life. The loneliness and pain I’ve experienced is the only thing that could ever make me long for heaven. Thanks to loneliness and the heartbreak of broken hopes, there’s nothing here that I know will bring me the joy or fulfillment or happiness that I really want.

I have loneliness to thank for that. Because of loneliness, pain, heartbreak and depressing days in bed, I think of heaven every single day of my life. And every day of my life I desire to go home.

This earth–it’s just a house. It’s no home for us. We’re pilgrims, wayfarers in a poor man’s inn. But even for all that, it’s not so bad. We have friends, beauty and love. And music, and beer, and yes, even dogs to help keep us warm at night, until we finally reach that far distant country, where joy, infinite joy, will be ours.

That moment when we go home, where we enter finally into the great promise of eternal life, Pope Benedict XVI called, “the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality.” Our true home, he says, “would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time—the before and after—no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy.”

I see now why the dark days of depression I feel during the holidays are such a gift to me. For without them–without that loneliness that grips my heart like a vice–why would I desire heaven as much as I do? Oh, how I long for that day! Every unmet longing in my life points to that desire in me to plunge into the ocean of infinite love, where we can love others and be loved by them, finally and completely. With no impediments. No selfishness, no fears. No need for approval. No doubts, no insecurities. No envy or regret, or suspicion or lack of trust. Nothing, but love. Not love as an emotion, but Love, as a person, flowing in and through us. We will overflow with the infinite love of God for us, a love with the currents of the eternal and boundless love of the Father for the Son and the Son for the Father, bringing joy in its wake. The tides of that love never recede. There is always more, it is never ending and boundless, and like an ocean swallowing a drop of rain, all of our pain in this life will be as nothing. We will be glad for it, for it was the path that led us home.

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37 thoughts on “In Praise of Depressing Holidays

  1. I, too, live alone and cannot marry. But, the companion with Whom I’ve chosen to live my life is Jesus, though I live in nearly as much solitude as a monk in the desert. Like St. Paul who said, “When I am weak, then I am strong,” Our Lady’s words, “Whenever you make some sacrifice, pray: ‘O My Jesus, it is for the love of Thee, for the salvation of souls, and in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” that enable me to say, “When I am sad, then I am happy.” It’s a supernatural thing, thank God! “)

  2. Much of what you express is also experienced by individuals in marriages which are infertile, so far as children are concerned. In fact, I’ve often likened the experience of infertility to that of same-sex attraction: Sometimes, there is no obvious reason for its occurrence, and, as Catholic Christians, there are just some things we cannot do, if we wish to remain in intimate fellowship with God and His Church. Ultimately, either is just one cross among many we human beings bear on our individual journeys into God’s Presence. Denying our particular crosses’ existence is not constructive, because it’s HOW we bear them that makes us who we are, not the specific cross, itself.

    God bless all!

  3. It gets better you know. The loneliness remains, but the emotions are purified in and through the sufferings – hard for me to explain. It gets better because you learn to rejoice to the extent you share in the sufferings of Christ. You are halfway there when you understand that the things you imagined would fill up the loneliness do not do so. I wonder if that makes sense?

    In emptiness and pain is the sweetest encounter. Stay a long time after communion and see.

      • If it wasn’t clear, it was because of my writing. 🙂 Nice piece on the new Crisis article. I’ve been sort of taking a break from all of this, though I’ve been working on and off on a review of Eve’s new book which I’ve put aside over the holidays. Time to get back into writing.

  4. The Lord gave me that verse in Thess too brother. To give thanks in all things. I mean everything. I even thank Him for the SSA. If He had an issue with that, He would tell me, but for now, it’s apart of my list of utterances. Even thanking Him for the occasional masturbation that rises out of obscurity from time to time. I feel more freer being free with Him and He has never hinted that He is offended by such notions. He did take an issue with me at one time when I would hold on to my sin because I thought He was angry with this yo yo up and down, in and out ‘sin and repent’ syndrome. He lovingly rebuked me, saying, ‘did you take on the sin of the world?’. ‘did you carry your sins to golgotha?’, He went on to say, ‘I AM the sin bearer, I carried your sins and the sins of the whole world. And with boldness He brought this home to me. GIVE TO ME WHAT IS MINE, for I alone know how to get rid of them’. With that instruction, I stopped holding on to any known sin that I was aware of and now without hesitation hand the whole thing over to Him. I stopped asking that He change my sexual orientation. I have prayed for many things. He has answered everyone one of them, accept that one. He is not deaf, He heard me, but it’s something that might be chalked up there with what Paul heard Him say one time, “My grace is sufficient for you”. But Christopher, I understand your lonilness at this time of year and throughout. I too long for a full house. I just have my ‘den’ too.

    • Thanks for the comment. I don’t agree with thanking him for something that is sinful, however. Masturbation, from time to time, isn’t something I think is wise to thank God for, since sin never comes from God. Rather, I thank Him for the reminder that without Him I can do nothing. I might thank Him for allowing me the lessons I learn after a fall, because that reminds me of my utter need for Him, but that’s a bit different. Though perhaps that’s what you’re saying.

  5. Beautiful essay D.C.!

    In addition to bringing the promise of eternity, I believe that, by the grace of God, suffering with Christ fosters a peace and joy that shines bright in the eyes of our neighbors.

  6. Daniel, you and other people who who bear up under the cross of SSA and other disordered attachments — especially publicly — are truly heroic role models for me and many others. I’m so grateful to you for your great courage and compassion, which clearly comes from an immense love of Christ and His Church. You and those who struggle with you to be chaste in this difficult world are in my prayers daily. I struggle with chastity myself, and you have given so much to me, personally. Thank you and God bless you and the others here who’ve left wonderful comments.

  7. By the way to one and all let me say that my screen name here only struck me belatedly as potentially offensive, and I hope that it didn’t raise doubts for anyone as to my intentions/attitudes toward those who experience SSA , or…toward anyone, period. It’s a tongue-in-cheek nod to a Robyn Hitchcock song of that title and I picked it on a whim at the spur of the moment some time ago. So….just to be clear I thought I’d ….just say that.

    Daniel, thanks for your nice response.

  8. Don’t know if this is the appropriate place to ask, but I’d welcome recommendations from you, Daniel, or from anyone about readings or other resources that might help me to develop in myself the kind of gratitude and love that I see reflected in this blog.

    My indescribably wonderful mother recently passed away after an agonizing illness. The pain of her suffering and death has been compounded by other family dynamics that have just …hurt. The pecking order thing has been a drag. I was the primary caretaker for Mom and my dad for months before her passing, and I have been confused and troubled in these months because any progress I’d thought I had made with regard to my own chastity seemed to go out the window during this time (of all times) when I wanted so much to feel close to God and to do what is right. And to not do what my mother wouldn’t do.

    Daniel, I’ve asked myself after hearing you speak in Desire of the Everlasting Hills and reading your words here, how did he GET to where he’s at? I am still so far away (chronically) from the peace that comes from deep, habitual gratitude and lately I’ve felt really discouraged about having the same old desires and feelings of absolute compulsion. And giving in to them. Again.

    Thoughts, anyone?

    • Sorry I’ve not gotten back to you sooner. There are a few books that have helped me immensely. I would say a good place to start is Interior Freedom by Jacques Phillipe. Such a good and wise book. Peter Kreeft’s book Making Sense of Suffering has helped me a lot, which is basically a reworking of C. S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain, another book that has helped me immensely. Man’s Search For Meaning by the Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl has also helped me greatly as well. For me, the path I’ve been on has been one where I’ve tried to make sense of suffering–why does God allow these painful things in our lives? These books have shown me the way forward probably more than any others. Also, John Paul II’s great encyclical on suffering is rich with assistance and wisdom. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_letters/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_11021984_salvifici-doloris_en.html God bless you!

  9. Daniel, you speak the truth for so many ghosts – so many victims of the “gay” lifestyle who are long gone. I am thinking now of my friend and bartender, Wolfgang, who was sent by his parents as a youth from Nazi Germany to New York City. After years in the gay world, at 40, Wolfgang could only think of getting a facelift so he could reenter the dating scene in a community which was just beginning to see AIDS. Well, he got the facelift and he was in demand socially – and he died just 2 years later.

    God has downloaded some deep truth in you. Hallelujah! Thank you for your courage and great love. Mysteriously, this person who lives alone … is a great lover of souls.

    • Thank you for stopping by. Such a tragic story of Wolfgang, and the sad world we’ve created where youth and beauty are paramount in so many minds. I pray for the soul of your friend, and all those other victims who are now memories. Eternal peace grant unto them, oh Lord!

  10. Dear Daniel (and others who are hurting), I can’t go into all of the details because the pain is still way too raw, but my husband has been healed and renewed by the combination of making a Catholic general confession after working with a Catholic therapist who has dedicated her life to helping those with all kinds of sexual addictions and issues, and reading a couple of Leanne Payne’s books; The Broken Image, and The Healing Presence. If you haven’t read them, I beg you to do so and see if God doesn’t speak to you through them. I would be so happy to provide you with the therapist’s name if you are interested.

    • Hi Michelle, I am familiar with Leanne Payne’s good work on this topic and have read much of her. They are very good, and indeed God did speak to me through them. However, the Catholic Church doesn’t require of anyone that they attempt to change their sexual attractions. Nor is it likely that anyone ever loses their attractions to the same sex, even if they can reach a point where they can be in a healthy relationship with the opposite sex. One has to be careful when speaking of “healing” when “healing” means being able to enter into a sacramental marriage. This happens sometimes, but not often. As in all things, one must leave this in the hands of Divine Providence. As for me, the idea of being married isn’t all that appealing to me, and I am content in leaving my future to God’s good pleasure. I do think many benefit from Leanne Payne’s books though, and indeed, some men can find themselves sufficiently attracted to women to be married. So thanks for the comment!

      • Yes, you are so right that the Church doesn’t require any change of attraction. I hope I didn’t imply that. And my husband’s healing was of the effects of former molestation as a child and a very hurtful upbringing. I don’t mean that his “healing” was that we married. He has carried such unspeakable pain all his life and I just recently found out about the acting out he had hidden for so long. We are on the road to God now. It breaks my heart to hear of people who feel so lonely. I wish I could help. So I keep praying….

      • Thanks for the clarification Michelle. But don’t wish away loneliness from me. When it comes, it is good that it comes, for it makes me realize that this world isn’t home, and makes me long for heaven. Thanks be to God I feel lonely sometimes! When I know that this earth isn’t really my home, that’s actually when I can have joy here. It’s a place of training and correction, and in the midst of that training and correction there can be laughter and joy–but I wouldn’t wish away the things that make me realize I don’t belong here, and that my land is in Heaven.

      • Here’s a different angle. I always feel guilty as a child for wanting to be alone – preferring my solitude to family and friends – and have carried that guilt into adulthood. I came to the conclusion that the easiest path for me would be to live alone, but that God wanted me to extend myself and live in community. The best solution I’ve managed has been to adopt a child, which has been a furnace of learning. Best wishes and with all appreciation for the love you bestow upon your reading audience.

  11. Dan, your insights and your willingness to share them are admirable. I thank God for you, that you have eyes to see and that you have been obedient to Him. No doubt you have helped countless who struggle with SSA. There are so many lonely people in this world.. it can be overwhelmingly lonely even to be married with children. I can speak from experience on this point. When there is not harmony in a family, when there is abuse, when you have little ones and live in constant fear of how you will feed and protect them.. This can be a very lonely existence. What God taught me through these sufferings is that He wants me to rely completely on Him. This is truly how we live by faith. I am also so much stronger, maybe even stoic, because of the fear and loneliness I have experienced. This is what I needed to learn to look to God for answers, and to lose my taste for, or any hope in, this world. This is also what I needed to look outside myself, to a world full of lonely and hurting men, women, and sadly, even the smallest of innocent children. And is this not why God has commanded us to not forsake the gathering together of ourselves? Together we are strong! We are a balm to one another’s wounds! And we are a formidable force working together to bring hope, help, and the love of Christ to a dying, hurting, lonely world! I love how you describe us as foreigners just passing through this world. Our time here is short! Let’s throw ourselves into the needy world around us and redeem our time. And along the way, God in his goodness gives us many gifts… Music, good food, friends, pets. He is so good!!! You are loved.

  12. You are a good man. Thanks for your sharing. Know, too, that I also feel that loneliness and deep longing for heaven quite often, even in the midst of my spouse and family. I long to be fully understood and loved by my creator because often I don’t even understand myself, and the job of showing God’s love to my children is daunting without fully trusting that He can turn these loaves and fishes of mine into a feast of His own making. I won’t pray away your loneliness, but will pray for God’s sweet touch in your life here in our temporary home. You are doing a beautiful job of letting God work through your gentle and loving words.

  13. Hello Daniel. I’ve been at my Dad’s house for weeks caring for him and had no way of getting online or even leaving the house for more than a few minutes! I just saw your response to my question about readings; thank you so much for getting back to me on that. I’m looking forward to reading the books you recommended!

  14. “the Catholic Church doesn’t require of anyone that they attempt to change their sexual attractions.” Is this a “Courage Statement” or it is somewhere in the Church documents? As a disordered conduct, wouldn’t anyone want all the help to deal with it? I have read of many success stories and it makes sense to try to do some therapy

    • No, it’s not in Church documents. But here you seem to be conflating “attractions” with “disordered conduct.” Of course, if one is engaging in sexual conduct outside of marriage, open to life, one must strive to change one’s conduct.

      • Right, thanks for making it clear. However, many “tendencies” not in our design, would need to be re-directed emotionally. That would be the ultimate goal. Why shy away from it, when there is help out there? Which it brings to educating future parents in helping minimize the problems.

      • I’m not sure as I’m reading you what you mean by “many tendencies not in our design would need to be re-directed emotionally.” What tendencies are you thinking of here, and what does it mean, in your thinking to have them “re-directed emotionally?” What, in your mind, is the ultimate goal here, at least specifically concerning same-sex attraction? And what is “it” when you say “why shy away from ‘it’?”

  15. Dan, I have come back and re-read this three times over the years. It is among the most human writing I have ever read. Your love for truth shows in your fearlessness at being vulnerable. Being single also, and seeing your path is comforting to me. The struggle with loneliness is shared too, despite a different cause. You are out there ahead clearing a path and leaving navigational aids. Thank you for being who you are. I will remember to thank God for my loneliness. Godspeed friend.

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