ALONE…SOLO…SEUL…ALEEIN…no matter what language you whisper the word it’s loaded. To a working mother responsible for a family of four “alone” signifies a utopia just out of reach. To the single person ensconced in “alone,” it represents more of a chronic condition…some have gotten comfortable, others claw frantically at the word, wishing to escape its clutches and enter the realm of “together.” Not only does alone carry a different meaning for each of the 7 billion souls that inhabit the planet; it carries different meanings at different life stages. The trick is to embrace your current expression of alone, because alone is not just acceptable…it’s beautiful.
That in itself is difficult, but come the holidays, alone gets weighed down with an anvil, and your single status becomes a noose around your neck. Snuggly couples appear as grotesque as beheaded jumping cockroaches, and we take kisses exchanged as a personal affront to our aloneness. As the decorations come up and the snowmen wake, that excited thrill that accompanied childhood holidays is replaced by that sharp, familiar pang—“It’s that time of year again…and I’m alone…again.”
Fortunately, there are many different coping mechanisms to embrace.
Remember the Times
If you are indulging in the pathetic and comparing all the good times with past lovers to your current sad state of aloneness, then do yourself a favor and remember all the bad times too, because there were plenty. Some of my best Christmases have been spent in solitude, and some of my worst have been spent with the people I’ve loved. Think back to that Christmas with your ex-lover…you know, the one where you felt so incredibly alone even though he was at your side, and you had to pretend that your relationship wasn’t slowly disintegrating? There is no sadder state of alone than the one that finds you feeling loneliness with the person or persons you love. Solitude can be much, much more filling. Solitude is a big leap up…and a holiday gift to be celebrated. So don’t trick yourself. Alone is not sad, unless you insist upon it.
Hang the Dang Decorations
I’ve had three full boxes of Christmas decorations unused in my garage for ten years. For TEN YEARS I have not bothered to decorate, because I didn’t have anyone to decorate with. I wasn’t living with anyone…if I had a boyfriend at the time we either spent time with our own families, or traveled together to visit them. But really, I was always afraid that I would feel sad if I bought a tree and decorated…alone. You see, I’m really skilled at ignoring loneliness, but what if I opened those boxes and loneliness flew out to taunt me?
It took a helping hand from a friend to pop open the lids, buy a tree, and welcome the holiday spirit. And remarkably, the lights shining on my Christmas tree don’t make me feel alone; they make me feel part of something, a part of something much bigger than a couple…a part of the collective community. So take the time to decorate for yourself. Drink in the festivities, not despite being alone, but because of it!
Go to Parties
Whether you’re only invited to an afternoon work party, or you’re the toast of the town and have two parties a night during the holiday season, be sure you get off your ass and GO! Don’t surround yourself with people so that you can tune out the mantra of alone that follows you around during the holidays. Surround yourself with people so you can give others the gift of you. Your interactions with others, however brief or un-dynamic they may seem, are important. Everyone needs a connection of some sort, even if it’s a brief hello, a sweet smile, or a quick, “nice to meet you.” Let yourself twirl around with the holiday energy, and you’ll realize “alone” is never truly severed from “together.”
If your invite list is a little low, or you have nowhere to go on Christmas or New Year’s, don’t sit around bemoaning how unpopular you are. Get the word out, ask around, you’re bound to either drum up a holiday invite, or you’ll find someone who is likewise alone and looking for companionship.
Relish the Solitude
Let’s say you truly are alone—as in absolutely no one to share the holiday festivities with. This is great! This means no one is around to annoy you and prevent you from doing exactly what you want to do! So…what do you want to do? Do you want to go to the Christmas Eve service at the church down the block you’ve never been to? Great! GO! On Christmas day, do you want to go to the theatre and watch back-to-back flicks until your eyes burn and your butt aches? AWESOME! Movies equal imaginary friends, and it’s nice to escape real life every now and again. Do you want to soak in the spa and pretend it’s just another day? SURE! Because it is just another day. Do you want to cook yourself a ten-course meal all for you! DO IT…gluttony is a holiday treat. Do you want to sing Karaoke to Christmas tunes all night long? INVITE ME OVER! The one thing you shouldn’t do when you’re alone for the holidays is wallow in it…unless you wallow like a pig in the mud.
Did you know that homeless people take holiday donations? If you can’t give money, then share your time by volunteering. It’s hard to feel alone when you’re surrounded by thankfulness. But nothing cures the holiday blues like a furry or feathery companion. Millions of cats, dogs, rabbits, birds…even turtles…are languishing in animal shelters. Thousands of healthy animals are killed on the daily. For goodness sakes, if you’re feeling lonely (and are responsible enough to make a furever commitment) then rescue an animal in need from your local shelter. I promise…you will never feel lonely again…unless you are a wallower who just can’t get enough of alone.
Take a Lover
When all else fails and you think you’ll die if you have to spend another holiday alone, find a lover…or at least someone to make out with. Enough said.
And as for all the couples out there who spark your envy…reframe your reaction. Do you really think their happiness is your discontent? Do you really think the fact that they found theirs means you won’t find yours? I have a hard time relating to couple envy. I look at two souls kissing and feel giddy. They are filling the universe with love…and I’m a part of that. If anything, it stokes my optimism. Do the work and clear your thoughts of lack and isolation. Their love brings you closer to yours.
Know that Nothing is Permanent
Don’t kid yourself. You won’t be alone forever. One day, you’ll have to compromise. You’ll have to sacrifice your own holiday desires for those of your partner…or your kiddies…or whomever else takes priority in your life. And at those moments, you will think back to the holidays you spent alone and wax nostalgic, craving the freedom of just YOU. Don’t wait for some future aha moment to realize how lucky you are right now with just you. Instead, take a deep breath and breathe it in…that beautiful alone.