For the first time in my life, at 26, I found myself single and with no home to go home to at Christmas. My parents had divorced and moved across the country to different states. My ex-boyfriend and I had split back in April and I was still getting my bearings after 8 months of sobriety. And to add just a little extra something of fun, my birthday is 10 days before Christmas.
Christmas is always a rough time of the year for me. In 1998 my family suffered the sudden loss of two beloved family members at Christmas time, one the day after my birthday and the other on Christmas morning. It’s fair to say that we never really “celebrated” Christmas after that. The ornaments, stockings and trimmings never came out of the box in the attic again.
And for the first time in my life, I didn’t have the noise of someone else’s happily unaffected family gatherings to drown out the sadness. Nor did I have the comfort of alcohol to turn to. Not even a warm body to wake up next to on Christmas morning.
Holy crap. I was going to be alone on Christmas morning. For the first time in my life.
I leaned heavily on my mentor, whose advice surprised me. I, like so many other blog titles I’ve been reading this season, merely aspired to survive the holidays. To not feel so lonely. But she turned everything on its head, like she so often does.
“Savor it,” she said. “You may never be here again.”
Coming from someone with a husband of 10 years and two kids, I took her words to heart.
I may never be single again. I may never get to spend a Christmas alone again. I may never have the total command of my holidays to do whatever I wish with them again.
Needless to say, I was a little pissed to be there again the following year, but by then I had figured out how to enjoy my Christmas solo. As a matter of fact, I grew to love spending the holidays alone.
Do your favorite things.
I was surprised to find my local Starbucks open on Christmas Day, so I took full advantage. I rarely get to sit, carefree and unscheduled, in a café with my journal, headphones and latte, without anything else on my mind. Christmas gives us the freedom to do this, if only for one day, obligation-free.
Give yourself the gift of permission to do your favorite activities, free of schedules, obligations, and guilt.
Organize a meet-up.
Guess what? You’re not the only person in your city spending the holidays alone. My first Christmas solo I organized the first annual Sad Bastards Christmas dinner. OK, so it was only me and one other person at a greasy spoon, but it was fun and I made a new friend. I liked it so much that I also organized a Sad Bastards Valentine’s Day tweet-up the following year (there were a lot more attendees at that one). You don’t have to be alone if you don’t want to.
Help someone else.
There are tons of volunteer opportunities on Christmas Day. Even though I’m not alone this year, the boyfriend and I don’t really have anything to do on Christmas Day, no family gatherings or dinners, etc. so we’re going to volunteer feeding the homeless. In these tough economic times, it’s tough not to want to give of your time wherever you can to those who have had worse luck than you.
Cook something yummy.
It just wouldn’t feel like Christmas without something yummy. I’m not saying cook a whole turkey, but something small to make you feel like you’ve celebrated. Food can be a comfort, but it can also be a major downer. There’s just something slightly depressing about gnoshing on a turkey sub for your Christmas dinner.
Do something holiday-ish. Briefly.
I do have extended family in town, and while it’s not the same as spending the whole day with your parents and siblings, it’s still nice to spend an hour or two with them celebrating their Christmas. I keep it in small doses to ensure that I don’t get sad or mopey that I don’t have what they have this year.
I’ll never forget my favorite moment of that first Christmas alone. The dreaded Christmas morning had come. I made a pot of coffee and poured a piping hot mug. I sat on my stoop outside, watching the wind blow the leaves off the maple tree, warming my hands on my mug, and savored that moment.
I was alone on Christmas and I might never be there again.