Another year, another atypical Christmas for me, and for everyone else, there’s not much anyone can do about it.

It goes without saying, but I am pretty sure that a year ago nobody was expecting this year to end up the way it has. If the COVID-19 pandemic had not thrown a wrench at my life’s plans then I would’ve most definitely be at the verge of spending my first Christmas outside of these borders, something I’ve been dreaming for years now — alas, it is what it is.

This is the third Christmas since my mother passed away, and once again I find myself wrestling with my own mind. In 2018 I barely had any will to celebrate, in 2019, despite it also being a rough year, I was able to reignite the festive joy, rediscover our traditions, and my brother and I even set up our first Nativity Scene on our own.

This year, well . . . you know . . .

While I’m not as emotionally downtrodden as I was in 2018, I do feel kinda down lately. Perhaps it’s just a continuation of my mental woes, after all, I’ve never talked to anyone about it following our mom’s passing, I’m that neglectful about myself. In any case, I do really find myself lacking that Christmas spirit once more, and not for the lack of trying, as I’ve done my best to reignite the flames, but with all that’s occurred, it’s hard to keep them stoked.

I really miss my mom during these days. Almost every dream I’ve had for the past weeks involves her being alive and us not being here — every time I wake up there’s that crushing realization that I’ve been fooled by my dreams once more, and I find it most disheartening.

It feels like a rollercoaster, sometimes I get that energy and cheer from the season, but then I stumble, I may feel just fine in the morning, but by the time the sun sets its ‘local autist really feeling it’ hours, so to speak. I’ve spent the whole month going back and forth in this duality, seeking balance.

Can’t say that it fully feels like Christmas for sure, the pandemic, and the state of the country do make it hard to celebrate anything. The state of Venezuela’s affairs is the same old tale of inflation, gasoline shortages, et al. but with the added element of COVID-19 making everything worse.

A pandemic isn’t exactly something that makes one feel cheerful as well, no matter where you live in, it’s been rough and brutal. Many have lost their jobs or have theirs severely impacted, some have lost people, and we now live in a new normal that just plain outright sucks.

In spite of it all, I am determined to celebrate Christmas, and this year’s Christmas season officially began for us when my brother and I assembled our 2020 Nativity Scene.

It may not be glamorous, but it was assembled with love.

It’s a bit lacking, compared to last year’s, some of the set pieces are quite worn and old now, and only one set of lights is fully working now. It’s been years since we last had a Christmas tree — in any case, a Nativity Scene is far more important for us, for religious reasons.

Once more, there won’t be Hallacas for us on our Christmas dinner, I don’t have the expertise to prepare them, and without our mother, they’ll just never be the same, not to mention that preparing them has become rather costly here with the hyperinflation that continues to devour us all.

With that in mind, and factoring the ever consuming inflation, I slowly began to buy all the ingredients for our Christmas (and New Years eve) dinner. The Bolivar: US Dollar exchange rate sunk to new depths (it is now at over 1,000,000 Bolivars per USD), and that caused everything to dramatically jump in price over the past weeks, which is why I started to buy some of the ingredients in advance, staggering the purchases over the course of the month to accommodate our budget as well.

With hallacas out of my budget and expertise, I settled for the other big part of the Venezuelan Christmas culinary repertoire: the Pernil (or pork leg). I got a small piece that’s more than enough for my brother and I. I’ll prolly accompany it with mashed potatoes maybe, still got a few hours to decide.

I am really grateful to God and to all who continue to support me because it is thanks to you all that I was able to secure and afford everything for this special evening — because many in Venezuela (and the world for that matter) won’t even be able to have a warm meal on Christmas eve.

As I mentioned above, this will be the third Christmas without our mother, and we don’t have anyone else to spend the holidays with. While I did make peace with my father over the past year it’s not like I can suddenly pop up at his house, and I don’t think it’d be appropriate with his own family anyways, not to mention that the gasoline shortages have seriously impacted travel around the country.

Internal air travel remains shutdown, and travelling by road may not be worth the effort/cost. The remaining family on my mother’s side is well — peculiar, for the lack of a better word, so it’s best if we keep distance, I have very personal reasons for that. I’ll see them for a bit on New Years for sure, they’re family after all.

It’ll just be the two of us, my brother Christopher and I, so I guess I ought to get some snacks, we’ll have a few drinks, we’ll each play our video games, watch movies together, or something, and we’ll have a simple but cozy Christmas dinner — all without forgetting to pray and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, to be thankful that despite us being alone and confined here, we’re safe, sound, and together.

The feeling of isolation and loneliness does hit you hard, but what else can I do.

With churches still closed, our mom’s vehicle still missing some repairs, and a steep gasoline shortage that makes it hard for people to give you a ride, then a candle and prayer will have to suffice, this is a quarantine Christmas, after all.

If I may be honest with you, I seriously was not expecting to spend another Christmas in this place, nor do I wish to spend another one here. I don’t wanna be here, really. It’s not a whim, or a desire to spend it at some other place in terms of vacation or leisure or whatever (which I do need, but that’s beside the point), it’s just the fact that by staying here, by walking on our own house — it all reminds me of the fact that our mom is physically no longer with us, and that I failed to save her.

It reminds me that if perhaps, I had studied and gotten a career, gotten my life together in my early 20s and all that, then I would’ve counted with the means to get her out of the country before her cancer worsened, and that perhaps she would’ve been able to receive the treatment she needed.

It’s Christmas, and I shouldn’t feel this melancholic and depressed — it’s just that while I miss her every day, I miss her even more so during Christmas.

This was a special time for her, she loved the shit out of Christmas, and for us, she was what gave us our Christmas joy. This isn’t a luxurious apartment, it’s unfinished, and it’s really falling apart, but my mom knew how to fill it with festive joy, the actual one, not the partying, alcohol drinking kind that some members of my family opt for.

Of all the people in her family, she was the one that really gave a damn about Christmas. I’ve tried so hard to recreate it all only to grossly fall short. Our old decorations, no matter how hard I try, feel lacking, they lack her touch, even if I put them in the same way. I don’t know how or why, but I can’t find the old Christmas boots that she knitted for us when I was younger, that really bummed me out and I spent a few days trying to find them to no avail.

My mother’s 2017 Christmas wishes, which I mentioned last year, still remain in the same place she left them at, between the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus set piece. All she wished for was for God to not take her away until my brother and I would find our own road in this life.

I didn’t have the heart to remove them last year, but I will try to do so before we store the Nativity Set away, because I will be definitely carrying that piece of paper with me once I am able to leave this country and keep it until I die, that letter is too invaluable for me.

I don’t want this Christmas to be bleak, and I’m trying my best to not be so negative in this, most important month for Catholics like myself, but it’s hard to feel joy these days, not with all the burdens in my mind, the whole passport situation, the lack of a visa, the uncertainty of the future.

Yet, I will try my best to get the most out of this atypical Christmas season, after all, what can I do but to pray and remain hopeful that the puzzle of my life untangles and I’m able to obtain new passports (or new extensions) for my brother and myself, and the much sought visas to start a new life.

Focus on the road that still needs to be walked, and not the bumps and obstacles, that’s something I need to keep in mind.

Sword’s final draft is almost done, I’m taking a bit of extra time on rewriting some aspects of the last two chapters, not changing what happens but how it happens. Once that’s done I will begin working on Sins right away.

There are also some great stuff in the works that I can’t still publicly talk about. I will pray during this Christmas with the hopes that all of these things I’ve been working on become a foundation that helps me not just get outta here and give a better life to my brother, but to help others as a result, that’s all I want for my life, that’s my Christmas wish.

Yes, this pandemic has screwed everything up, and Christmas is no exception. Regardless of how bleak, dire, and grim your circumstances are, know that I wish and hope that all of you are able to have a wonderful Christmas this year, and even if Christmas isn’t your thing, I hope that you’re able to be with your friends, family, and loved ones.

May next year’s Christmas be better for all of us.

Stay safe, Merry Christmas, I love you all.