http://www.digitaljournal.com/life/lifestyle/op-ed-for-new-lovers-sharing-their-first-christmas-together/article/364411

Op-Ed: For new lovers sharing their first Christmas together

Posted Dec 21, 2013 by G. Robert M. Miller
We had only been together for a month at this time last year. It was Christmastime 2012, and the first time in my life that I had a girlfriend to buy a present for on the occasion; it felt special.
I’m a sensitive guy, and for some reason (I’ll blame my emotions) I saw this as a weird milestone. Step one: Find an amazing girlfriend. Step two: Buy her presents at Christmas. Step three: Happily ever after. Easy.
For us, Christmas came two days early – we got together on the 23rd at my place so that we could still be with our own families on Christmas Day. It was a burgeoning relationship, sure, but we weren’t close to being ready to share relatives… Anyway, I ended up giving her a board game (well, “Cards Against Humanity”, if that counts) and two bottles of wine. She gave me some pillows (I really needed them), a notebook and a pen.
The new pillows meant she would stay over more often, that was the whole idea behind them. Before them, I had only one pillow, and it was as old and ragged as any pillow you can imagine; twenty shades of brown when the pillowcase was off. No more though. Now we had nice pillows... The writing materials meant just as much to me – I’m obsessed with writing, it’s something I can’t shut off and that I love to do, and so that part of her present felt like encouragement; like she believed that my dreams and aspirations were possible, and like she was trying to push me down that road.
Once we’d opened our gifts – we were in the kitchen at the time – I grabbed her by the hips and brought her in, said “Thank you”, gave her a quick kiss and then told her I’d make sure to write an undeniable masterpiece in that notebook and with that pen she’d given me. You’ll have to take my word for it here, but she really does have an incredible smile, and wearing it she said, “If you want to babe.” She paused for a second and returned the peck I’d given her, “But you fill it up with whatever you want” and she kept smiling and looking at me. “No, this is special _______. I’m gonna write something great in it.” Another kiss. “Doesn’t have to be,” she kept smiling, “It’s for whatever you want.”
Almost lost in the moment was the card she’d bought for me. I hadn’t seen it and, if I’m honest, I was about ready to head to the bedroom at the time. She remembered though, and so we looked for it in the heap of wrapping paper around us and it soon turned up. I looked at it so quickly that I entirely missed the pun. Slightly disappointed that I hadn’t read the joke, she made me have a second go at it; it was cute – something like, “I’ll call you Santa if you’ll put me on your naughty list.” She let it slide that I clearly hadn’t attempted to read the card the first time through and that I had instead just gazed at it, glazed-over, and said “Thanks babe”. But the record needs to be straight here… It wasn’t that I was trying to ignore the card in order to get to the bedroom quicker – or at least not just that – no, instead I remember thinking as I was looking at the card the first time and as I was re-reading it a second time (I guess I should say ‘reading it’) that her presents knocked the socks off’a mine; Sure, I gave her two of her favourite wines and a fun game, but damn, her gifts were really thoughtful. And now this; the card was good, too! What to do, what to do?
I still wonder just how much of a lasting impression that night made.
I wanted to say that I loved her presents and that I could tell she put a good bit of thought into them; that I really appreciated them and that I wished I had have bought more personalized, considerate presents; that I couldn’t wait for this same time next year so that I could redeem myself; that I, even as I was doing it, consciously knew that it was a jerk-move to not actually read the card she bought… But I was fumbling with my thoughts that night and, as I always do, wanted my words to be perfect.
The result was that – while carrying on an awkward, halting conversation with her – I ran through a stream of dialogues in my head, desperately trying to plot a run of sentences that would not just make up for any one of my subtle slipups, but all of them; the crappy presents, the lack of attention, and now, as I carried on this internal conversation, a second bout of apparent disinterest in her... The best way to explain how I felt that night may be by way of a half-decent Christmas metaphor. That night I felt that my thoughts were all lumps of coal, and – in feeling that – thought that if I could just put those thoughts and my mind under enough pressure, they would condense into shiny little diamonds. The words would come to me if I just thought it all through, top to bottom. No such luck though, and I remember feeling a bit stupid by the end of the night; X-mas 2013 would have to be better. And New Year’s Eve. And Valentine’s Day.
A functional  lovely pillow (left) beside a lumpy mass of grossness (right).
A functional, lovely pillow (left) beside a lumpy mass of grossness (right).
~
We next got together on Boxing Day – it may have been a day or two later, all I know for sure is that it was after she gave me the pillows but before New Year’s Eve because we were rolling around in bed together and, quite vividly, I remember thinking that it was way nicer now that we both had pillows and that the pillows were actually comfortable. What a revelation!
So early in our relationship and just past our first shared holiday, we were still stuck in that phase where you can’t help but look at your partner overly-lovingly every time you make eye contact. We just had a quiet night. Lotsa music. Good conversation. We were together this time because we knew we weren’t going to be together for New Year’s. It’s a bit of a story, but I had work obligations and she had a party to go to out of town. We didn’t do a count down or anything like that – that would be stupid – but it was an awesome night.
To take you to one particular moment in it, I remember we were both in bed – each with a pillow – and I had my arm under her head. Yep, just another one of those moments you find yourself in every night when you’ve got someone beside you. I looked over to her and said, “What’re you thinking babe?” She let out a deep breath and smiled nonchalantly, “Nothin.” And then she looked at me, “What about you?” I just grinned and shook my head, “Nothin… I’m just really happy we met. I’m really happy right now and I like it.” “Me too.”
~
Six months ago we split up. Through the early months of 2013, there was a steady decline in the time we spent together which was met, in proportion, by an increase in my drinking. I’m still not sure if I wanted every meeting between the two of us to be a ‘party’, or if I was struggling with back-of-the-mind thoughts like the ones I had on the 23rd – ones that can be summed up in the line, “Damn, her presents knocks the socks off’a mine”, as long as you change “presents” to “presence” – or if it was something else that I still don’t understand. All I know for sure is that I don’t like how it went towards the end. It sucked.
We never met face to face to try and sort things out, never spoke on the phone to talk about what was happening; it all just sort of fell apart through text messages. I sent a slew of them her way asking for another chance, sent letters for weeks promising to change, and e-mails every month or so to frantically, frenetically, ramblingly suggest that I had changed and that we should try again (and if you’re wondering: Yes, all of the notes I sent her included only the vaguest of apologies, were all poorly edited, and above all else, lacked any sense of justification for why she’d want to come back. Oh, lulz...).
I guess that’s probably one of the reasons why, even after all this time, I still can’t sleep well or think straight… The whole pillow association thing probably doesn’t help much either. Also, if I’m honest – and I think anyone who has been involved with someone they consider utterly, perfectly gorgeous will agree – the memory of her smiles in those early days, which I can’t seem to shake, keep me up too.
I still have the notebook she gave me. It has a few scribbles in it. I stared at it for months, not wanting to put any ink to the pages until I had something I would start and finish within it – a masterpiece – but I eventually starting using it for notes back in July after we’d broken up… Somewhere in the pages of that notebook is the point of this story; yes, there is a point to all of this.
Said Book of Notes.
Said Book of Notes.
~
It’s 4:47 in the morning right now, December 21st, 2013.
I’m 28. I still want to be a Writer, I still struggle to express coherent thought, I still haven’t found anyone remotely comparable to _______, and I still miss her. Like every Christmas but the last, this one will be defined by the gifts I am buying or have bought for family members and friends.
But there is one more gift I have (if it can be called that, and I’m sure many won’t give it that designation), and it is in lieu of the promise I made to her and to myself last year – to be more thoughtful and considerate the next go around. And so, what I have below is a brief reflection on how (I think) one can succeed in new love, and in particular, in new relationships where you're wrestling with the feeling that you may not be ‘good enough’ for your partner.
For you - new lover who's about to share a first Christmas with someone special - a few points of advice from a writer with nothing to gain or lose; advice from someone who has a sincere hope that you are able to enjoy countless nights with your arm under the head (or vice versa) of someone you cherish and admire, with no clear thought in your mind other than, “I am really happy right now.”
1 Listen and pay attention.
- It isn’t any more difficult than that. Instead of worrying about what to say or do next, which I did throughout our Christmastime last year (and throughout our relationship, really), just listen and pay attention!
2 Don’t try and be smarter than you are.
- Sometimes – most times – you don’t need to be perfectly well-spoken. Yes, it’s nice when you are. Yes, it does feel good to come up with a gem of a thought; but if the cost of those once-in-a-while thoughts comes at the expense of being engaged with someone you care about, check yo’self! Lovers need lovers, not professors.
3 If you’re nervous about meeting expectations you’ll fail, so just relax.
- How do you avoid nerves re: expectations? 1) listen and pay attention, and 2) don’t try to be too smart. It’s almost impossible to be at a loss for words when truly engaged in wandering, unpretentious conversation; the hardest part is usually deciding what to talk about next... Follow 1) and 2) and relaxation will come naturally.
4 Be honest.
- I don’t know if anything could need less of an explanation, but to give a good case-in-point for honesty, if I think about my Spring with _____, it seems to me that if we were honest with each other during those months, we may have made it. If she had have told me that she was concerned about my drinking and if I had have been honest about my concerns of ineptitude, maybe we would have solved the problems.
5 Evolve.
- Okay, so there was a point that needs even less explanation than "Be honest". “Turn and face the strain. Ch-ch-changes!”
Bonus: Get a good set of pillows!
Happy Holidays