Monday, November 26, 2007

Alone For The Holidays?

Back from a Thanksgiving Holiday, time spent with my husband and with my family, I am very aware of just how lucky I am. This was a wonderful holiday. I have had many wonderful holidays. Some of those wonderful holidays I spent alone. Happily alone.
Below is an article I wrote last year for the Holiday Pages on my website COPD And So Much More. If you are facing the holidays alone this year, I hope it will be a help to you.

Alone for the Holidays

Seasonal hype leads us to believe that the only way to achieve holiday happiness is by spending time with family and loved ones. Facing the holidays alone can sometimes make people feel sad and lonesome.

-and please don't think that this is some sort of Susy Sunshine article written by someone who always has a houseful for the holidays, but who is still going to give you advice on how to put on a happy face.

I am very, very blessed in my life now,
I do have family with me,
I even have a child to share Christmas morning with.

But that has not always been the case- far from it.
I have spent holidays alone. Some I spent miserably, most I spent happy, blessed,
alone and well. It can be done.

The truth is that being alone does not have to mean being lonely.
Recognizing that no one else is responsible for making your days merry and bright is the first step to enjoying a stress-free holiday season alone. Try to stay positive and avoid getting into a negative mindset.
Here are some tips that may help.

Focus on the present and think positively.
Think about something you enjoy and do it.
This will help reduce some of your frustration and unhappiness as well as build your confidence and enable you to live in the spirit of the holiday season.

Indulge yourself

Decorate the House
Even if you're the only one who's going to see it, take the time to decorate your home.
Put up a Christmas tree, hang some lights. Send out cards. Make Christmas cookies.
One of the hardest things about spending Christmas alone is the feeling that everyone else is having a great time and you've been excluded.
Make sure you're not excluding yourself.

Plan Something Special
There's nothing worse than hearing everyone else's excitement over the upcoming holidays and having nothing to look forward to yourself. If you haven't got big plans for the next couple of weeks, now is the time to fix that. Plan a treat for yourself, something really special. Not only will it add to your holiday, but it'll give you a great answer to that dreaded question: "So what are you doing for Christmas?"

A lot of new movies come out in December and many theatres are open on Christmas Day, so treat yourself to a show or plan ahead and rent some films you've been wanting to see and watch them on the holiday.

If the weather allows, go outside for a while and enjoy the peace of nature. Or go for a drive and look at holiday lights and decorations.

Eat well.
Hit up that trendy eatery you've been eyeing for a while, or stop by the deli counter at the supermarket and try some interesting ethnic dishes. Buy a great big steak and your favorite bottle of wine and savor both. The holidays are synonymous with good food, so why not enjoy it, even solo?

Get away for awhile.
Even if you go no further than booking a room at the nearest local hotel, play tourist,
enjoy room service, relax and unwind.
Enjoy the peacefulness of a day without obligations.

Stop by the library or neighborhood bookstore and stock up on some great books.

Whatever you enjoy doing, indulge yourself.

Maybe you just don't want to try and enjoy the holidays alone.
There might be ways to solve that problem too!

Extend invitations
Be proactive.
Call up other people who might be on their own and arrange a holiday dinner,
agreeing to split the meal preparation duties. Don't assume that everyone you know
will be busy throughout the holidays. Yours might be just the invitation they're waiting for! Even if they have family commitments, they still might welcome the opportunity to escape and spend some time with you.

Accept invitations
When people ask about your plans, don't create a fictitious family gathering out of embarrassment. Be honest and say you don't have any plans. With any luck,
someone will issue a sincere invitation for you to join them for a holiday meal or special outing.

Go to church or a senior center or other places that offer community activities. If you don't have transportation or you don't drive, call and ask if they can provide you with a ride to holiday services.

Giving gifts or giving of yourself is a big part of the holidays.
Lend a hand to other people who are unable to shop, make a meal or bake cookies. Make some crafts and have them distributed to residents of nursing homes, homeless shelters and so on. This will help you feel the holiday is more meaningful.

Consider canine company
Although it may seem like an unusual idea, create your own company by offering to dog sit for friends who are going out of town. Of course, this will only work if you actually like dogs, and if you're familiar with their dog in particular. You'll be doing both them and yourself an enormous favor. A dog can be great company on a long winter's night

Don't forget the online community.
Visit a chat room or play some online games. Spend some time emailing New Year's greetings.

Make the best of being alone

Make resolutions
Take the opportunity that comes with solitude to reflect on some realistic New Year's resolutions. This is the perfect time to take stock of your goals and create an action plan to attain them. Most resolutions are broken because they're too broad.
Avoid this outcome by breaking yours down into a workable to-do list. If you want to lose 10 pounds and begin to exercise, you need to decide on your routine and check it out with your doctor, schedule your exercise times, throw out the junk food, make a grocery list of healthier foods, and so on.
You've got some solo time on your hands,
so use it to your advantage.

Give Yourself Some Quiet Time
Sometimes the reason we're alone on the holidays is a sad one.
If this is you this season, give yourself the time and the permission to feel sad,
just don't let it become your entire focus. Christmas has a way of turning the world into a fantasy place where everyone is supposed to be happy and everything is wonderful.
Resist the urge to fake a smile all through the month of December. If your heart is broken this year, take the time to remember, to look at old pictures, to mourn.
Just make sure you call a friend afterwards and go for coffee.
Life does go on and Christmas still can be a most wonderful time of the year.

Hard as it may seem sometimes, there are lots of worse positions to be in than on your own, so get into the spirit of the season as best you can and celebrate.
Enjoy your own company.
Do what you take pleasure in but never seem to find time to do.
And most of all, remember that it's just a day.
Make it a happy one, however you choose to spend it.

I wish you a joyous season
of peace and renewal.
Merry Christmas.