My sister asked me this morning, “Is it hard?” We had been talking about my Christmas on My Own this year. It’s certainly not the first Christmas I’ve spent on my own. One of the first Christmases I spent on my own was the first one after my first divorce. Momma came up for the days before the holiday, but I had Christmas Day by myself. For that one, I spent the day reading and taking a hot bath and spending some time in tears. I certainly survived, but it was not a pleasant day. This year, in comparison, is a piece of cake.
It was much harder to spend Christmas with someone who made holidays very painful because of their propensity for holiday chaos. In that scenario, Christmas was just a painful day that reminded me that I had to do something different with my life. The loneliest Christmases I’ve ever spent were when I was in an unhappy marriage. Being single and alone for Christmas is just a tad lonely and sad at moments. Being trapped in a painful relationship at Christmas feels hopeless.
All of my friends that are spending the holidays in the Louisiana flood area have mentioned how hard it is to be there right now. The newness has worn off, and the heavy lifting on cleaning out their homes is over. The rebuilding takes so long. People have moved away because they don’t want to deal with it. Families have been co-habitating for months, and the welcome has worn off if it ever felt welcome in the first place. Traffic, I hear, is unnavigable. With so many people impacted, it takes longer to get appliances, supplies and contractors. They may be feeling hopeless that Christmas will ever be happy again.
I’ve had 55 Christmases in my lifetime. I imagine most were happy. Particularly as a child Christmas was magical. As an adult, there really isn’t any magic. The adult Christmas season is about celebrating relationship. And there’s nothing magical about relationships. They are hard work. Christmas as an adult is about spiritual connections and connections with other people on earth. And if a person has superficial or strained or downright abusive relationships, Christmas sucks. If someone special is missing from your Christmas gathering, it can be a very painful Christmas indeed. Christmas, it seems, can be a litmus test for whether or not you are truly content in your life.
So, as I reflect on my Christmas on my Own today I don’t feel sad about it. Sure, there are moments when I feel sad, but on the whole I have some great relationships. Just because I am here on my own, and they are busy with family elsewhere doesn’t mean we are not connected.
One of my good friends is celebrating Christmas with her husband today. It is the first time that they’ve ever celebrated Christmas without their kids. Because of jobs and distance, they won’t be coming home this year. She was a little nervous about it and not sure what they would do. Another friend decided to work today because Christmas is really kind of painful with his family. And I know lots of people who are going through the motions. They will be glad to rip the tree down out of the stand and get this sh*t done. The old refrain “Christmas just aint’ Christmas without the one you love,” is really just sort of a sappy sentiment. Christmas is Christmas always… it just sometimes looks different in its execution.
If this is one of those Christmases that feels unhappy to you, my heart goes out to you. I’ve done so many things in the past to make it special or at least bearable:
- Take a long hot bath and journal about the great things in my life.
- Pretend it’s not Christmas and just do whatever I’d normally do on a day off.
- Focus on my spiritual practice and the real celebration of the season.
- Join other “orphans” at Starbucks or at a Chinese restaurant.
- Go to a 12-step meeting or church gathering for some spiritual food.
- Curl up with a good book.
- Let yourself cry and feel your feelings.
- Take a long walk and enjoy the Christmas lights.
Above all, remember that “this, too, shall pass”. That’s my mantra for this holiday season. I’m in a new area and not well-connected yet. Christmas will not be like this next year. Christmas, like everything else in life, changes from year to year. It could be better next year, or it could be worse. But you can bet your Christmas stocking it will be different.
Merry Christmas, my dear readers…. whether your Christmas is happy or sad or somewhere in-between, I hope you’ll find it informative. The holiday season can be a great time to reflect on what you need to do to make your life better. It’s very appropriate that New Years’ resolutions follow on the heels of Christmas. And, remember your happiness is not about him or her or them doing something different. Happiness and good health are inside jobs. If there is something lacking about Christmas or any other day, it’s up to you to create something different.