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Work has long been my defense against love. In high school, I skipped social activities, sports, family Christmas Eve celebrations, and even my junior prom in favor of running the school newspaper, writing for the town paper, waiting tables, car-hopping at Sonic, lifeguarding, and cleaning churches…whatever I could do to stay busy.

Like Bill Murray’s character in Scrooged, work was easier than the hard, frightening labor of building relationships and opening myself up to the pain of rejection. My mother taught me that. The woman who was to nurture me instead physically and verbally abused me; I had a mother, but no Mommy. As a result, I did not trust people. It was easier, safer, to bury myself in work, achievements, tasks, and busyness. But I did not need busyness; I needed love.

For most of us, our holiday expectations are tinged with a rosy glow. It’s the time of year for love, connection, and bonding—a perception reinforced with cozy ads and heartwarming movies with happy endings. But life is not a Hallmark movie, and sometimes the holidays hurt. We’re lonely, grieving, depressed, estranged from family, or stuck with dysfunctional relatives.

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Discussion: The Holidays Can Be Hard; Don’t Spend Them Alone  was originally published on