I remember how excited I would be if I met someone who showed some real relationship potential in the months or even weeks leading up to the holiday season. Finally! This Christmas I might actually be a part of a relationship - a couple! I might actually have someone to show up with me for the office holiday party and family Christmas gathering! Someone to exchange romantic gifts with and to snuggle with in the cold nights; to kiss under the mistletoe.
And the best part was that I’d have someone to spend New Year’s Eve with – it wouldn’t just be another year with me babysitting my nephews so my sister and her husband could celebrate their togetherness (as much as I loved being Auntie Jane, seriously - they could find another babysitter for one night!).
But most of the time the timing didn’t work out and I was, once again, alone for the holidays. Alone in every sense of the word, regardless of how much time I spent with my family. Alone in a season where everyone was full of excitement about the season of love, peace and joy. Alone in a world where it seemed everyone else had someone to spend it with, except me. I was on the outside looking in with no way of getting through. There was no me and him, just me.
So there I’d be, single again during the holidays. I’d go over to my (married) best friend’s house or my sister and brother in law’s place. And, of course, they were all oblivious to what I was going through. To me they had everything: a husband, children, the house, a pet or two – I loved being around them but it also only highlighted for me what I was missing in my life. And that I didn’t have a life like theirs. Like I wanted. To have someone in my life. Even if their life wasn’t always perfect, it was so much more perfect than what I was living.
The conversation would always eventually get around to how I was doing. As soon as it did I would feel the sense of dread in the pit of my stomach, because I knew what question was coming next. What about that guy you were dating? They’d ask. What was wrong with him? What I really felt like they were asking was “What is wrong with you?” I mean, it wasn’t as if I hadn’t already been asking myself those same questions. But to hear it come from the very people who were supposed to be my support system, well, that just made it so much worse. Because I really didn’t have an answer.
The truth was I really didn’t know what had gone wrong with the last one. Why any of my relationships hadn’t worked out for that matter. Why none of them evolved into the relationships they had showed such a potential for being. I didn’t know if there was something wrong with me, but I was sure beginning to think there was. I think that was the hardest part of all.
As I left their cozy little worlds to get into my car alone, to drive back to my one bedroom apartment alone, the tears would start. They’d begin with a trickle until they were rolling down my cheeks; I could barely see through them to drive. I’d run in the door, lock it behind me, and let it all out. It was like my sad little annual Christmas tradition.
So how do we get through this season without so much of the sadness and lonely feelings? I don’t think anything can totally take away those feelings, and we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t have them, but at least there are a few things we can do to help us get through what can sometimes be less than the happiest season of all.
With a little shift in focus and a whole lot of love for yourself thrown in, this can truly be a special time. So here’s my list of the top things that have helped me get through the (more than a few) Christmas seasons I spent as a single girl…
Let those tears flow. This is one of the most overlooked, but also one of the most important things to do during this season. So often we try to hold back those tears; keeping that smile on our faces, acting as if everything was ok, not wanting anyone to see our sadness during the season that’s supposed to be filled with such joy. Let them out! Tears are so healing if we just let them flow like nature intended them to. Whatever helps to get them flowing, let them pour out. Put on some beautiful Christmas music and let it all out. All your hopes and dreams and wishes for the season, all those things you’d hoped to have been by now. Grieve it all. They’re healing tears and there’s a reason they need to come out - so you can get to the other side. But be with them fully as you feel your heart breaking, grieving for all those things you wanted your life to be that haven’t panned out (yet). And know that after the tears, the healing will come. But let those tears flow until there’s nothing left. That’s when you’re ready to pick yourself up and get moving; because we’ve got some living to do!
2. Get Social
So here’s the thing. You’re totally not the only one feeling this way during this time of year. Almost every single person, male or female, whether they admit it or not, go through some feelings of loneliness during this time. So going out and finding others like you (read: single, unattached people) can only be good for you. To reinforce that you really aren’t alone. Really. So find your favorite places to congregate, whether that means your favorite coffee shop, mountain top, sandy beach (if you live somewhere warm), frozen pond (for our northern friends), some planned singles event – wherever you’re likely to find other singles to meet and mingle with in your neck of the woods, go there. And enjoy. Don’t bring expectations with you, just be. Just enjoy the art of meeting and mingling without any ideas of what you’re going to get or not get out of it. Trust me, you’ll feel better just getting out and seeing you’re really not so alone. And it sure beats the heck out of sitting in our apartment alone, feeling sorry for ourselves (I mean, we’re already done with all the crying, so now it’s just boring!).
3. Give Back
Whether you volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about or donate toys to a local toy drive, giving the gift of yourself through time and/or money will make you feel really good about what you can contribute to this season. You’ll experience the wonderful feeling that comes from knowing you made a difference in someone’s life, just by being yourself and helping out someone who needs a little extra help this time of year. Find something you actually enjoy doing so you can have fun while you also get the genuine feeling of happiness that comes from brightening someone’s day. And if you can combine this with something social, all the better. Remember this is one of the loneliest times for the elderly, especially widows and widowers who have a different kind of loneliness, but still feel very much alone, too.
4. Get Active
Studies have clearly shown that exercise can help us to beat the blues, so get up off the couch and get out and get moving! Getting the heart rate up, the blood pumping through and clearing out our minds and bodies is so healing. It relieves stress and helps to take our mind off of whatever is bothering us. Whether it be ice skating, snow shoeing, hiking, biking, dancing – whatever it is that you enjoy, get out and do it. This can also be a good one to combine with #2 – get social. Join a hiking, skiing, or biking club. Take that yoga class you’ve been thinking of. There’s no better time than now – so go for it!
5. Spend Time with Children
Seriously, you can never spend too much time with little children around this time of year. Their parents will love you for it, you will be so blessed by being around little people that only know how to live in the present without a care in the world, and the children will love their time with you as a fun new playmate. They have a way of putting everything in perspective just by their living so fully, so carelessly, that it can’t help but rub off on you. New Year’s Eve with my nephews was the next best thing to a date, and their excitement at staying up until midnight (although they never made it) will be enough to make you forget why you’re at home alone yourself. Because you aren’t. You’re the next best thing to sliced bread to these little ones who have enough energy to give you a work out while you’re hanging with them. So whether you have nephews, nieces, friends’ kids, church kids, neighbor kids, wherever you find them, see about spending some time with them around the holidays. And if you don’t have any that you’re close enough to, consider becoming a Big Sister – that’s a whole other wonderful thing you can do for someone who may be having a hard time with the holidays, too (and ties in with #3 – give back!). If you’re more than a little skeptical, just try it. If it doesn’t come natural to you at first, just wait – they’ll grow on you! Sometimes as adults we need to re-learn how to play, which can also be very therapeutic.
6. Celebrate You
This is the last, but most easily forgotten thing to do; celebrate you! Whether than means getting a facial, a manicure, a pedicure, a massage, a makeover, treating yourself to a special gift, going to a special place, taking that class you’ve wanted to take, whatever that means to you - do that special thing for yourself that you wouldn’t normally do. Treat yourself the way you would love a significant other to do, because that’s what you deserve!
And most of all, when you’re tempted to slip back into a funk, remember that one of the reasons you are alone is because you refuse to settle for anything less than you deserve. Sure, you could be in a relationship, have some guy in your life. But that’s not the point. You aren’t here for just any guy, you want the real thing! And that’s exactly what you deserve. Nothing less. It just might mean this holiday season isn’t the time for you and him … yet. And when you think of it like that, and remember that this is about your choice, you’ll realize that you’re powerful and in control of your current single status.
This is about you!