Alone on Christmas Day
It’s Christmas Day. Many of my friends and all of the rest of my family will be waking to stuffed stockings and gifts wrapped elegantly and placed neatly under or around the Christmas tree. Later they will enjoy a feast. My day will roll very differently. There are hardly any presents under my tree. The stockings hang limp and lifeless by the fireplace. This year I am alone on Christmas Day.
It is customary to ask, at this time of year, what one is doing for the holidays. “So, how are you spending Christmas?” I love the response I get when I respond simply, “I’m spending Christmas alone.” I receive looks of horror, sympathy, even pity, some curious enough to ask, “Why?” get The Story about how it is the ex’s year to have the kids at Christmas. The next question is usually, “What are you going to do with all that time to yourself.” My next answer catches many folks off guard. “I’m going to enjoy every minute.”
It is amusing to me how many people equate being alone with being lonely. It is surprising to me, how many people think that being in a crowd, with family, or friends means you are not lonely. I’ve spent many a Christmas surrounded by friends and family, and yet I was lonely, unhappy, worried, and stressed out. I look back at those years and nothing much was happy. I was still lonely and miserable but I was not alone. Society, especially in the U.S., has a problem with solitude.
What I think concerns people is the fear, that if left alone for an extended period of time, they’d actually have to deal with their inner life, somewhat. Of course, they can crowd this out by watching TV, by going to movies, by keeping busy, by finding organizations to be involved with over the holidays or good things to do…for others. I can only speculate why these people, who are so afraid to be alone, are so afraid to be alone. Is it because, if they slow things down, if they pause for a while to reflect, to ponder, to think about who they are on the inside, they might be terrified at what they discover? Or worse. They might discover nothing? Emptiness? Void? Or is it that, they’ve spent so much time and energy covering over pain, that they’ve never really dealt with it? Maybe the solitude would cause it all to come rushing back in force.
It’s true we are social beings. It’s true that there are those who are extroverts and more drawn to the party, the crowd, the interactions with others. Yet I know many extroverts who are comfortable being alone when necessary. It isn’t their preference, maybe, but they are comfortable enough with themselves, to cope. I also know some introverts, who can’t stand being alone for very long either. They don’t like seeing themselves as introverts and so they fill every minute with activity and company. I don’t think it is a matter of introverts vs. extrovert. I think it really is a matter of being comfortable in your own company.
Today, my son called to let me know he received a cycling jacket that he wanted and that he was thrilled with it. It’s highly reflective, rainproof, and has pull-away sleeves so it can be worn in all seasons, except for the very coldest. I helped his dad choose it. I know he and his sisters, are sitting around a tree, opening gifts, surrounded by all sorts of people. They are having a good time. Do I wish I was there? No, I do not. Do I wish I had a similar situation going on here? No, I do not.
For me, it boils down to this: I’m a single mom with four children. My life orbits around making sure the kids are cared for and on time and prepared for their activities. As much as I would like to have a more predictable routine around here, there is always some last minute change than cannot be anticipated. A rehearsal was moved up, a volleyball practice has been scheduled, snacks are needed for the class party tomorrow. This often means an extra outing in the evening when I’m trying to get dinner on the table, laundry done, and homework supervised. Further, I am usually up very early and I work at professional position. There’s not often enough “me time” in my regular routine. As much as I love my children, I’ve been looking forward to this week without them, for months.
So, today, I will spend Christmas alone. I have already done a number of things I wanted to get to, during my eight days of solitude. (The refrigerator is almost completely cleaned out.) I’m trying out a new recipe for turkey breast in the slow cooker. (It’s not so easy cooking for one.) I intend to write, and later, I may go out for a walk or head to the gym. (Workouts are nearly impossible to squeeze in on a regular basis.) I have an endless list of tasks that I’ve saved for just this time. (There will be no interruptions!) The days already have flown by. Soon, it will be Thursday afternoon, my front door will burst open and the kids will come tumbling in, lugging their suitcases, backpacks, and gifts. There will be plenty of noisy and loud then. Plenty of interruptions and distractions. Once they’ve all settled in and we’ve celebrated the youngest’s birthday, we will all go to bed and Santa will come, just like he does on all the regular Christmas Days. I will have my Christmas with them soon enough. Until then, I’m enjoying every minute of peace and quiet. I’m enjoying every minute of being able to plan and follow through on what I plan. I’m enjoying the time alone.
So, for all out there, I wish you a very Merry Christmas, and hope that, whether alone or with a crowd, you too are having a delightful time!