Like many of you, I’ll be alone this year for Christmas. The years I have Laurel, we go to my parents’ house in New England, and the holiday is festive, even hectic, full of visits to family and friends.
This year, I have to admit, I am really looking forward to the time alone. So much so, that I hedged and stammered when the couple next door invited me over for a cocktail after dinner. My neighbors are great, but instead I am going to relish a day with no obligations and commitments, no email coming in — a quiet day that is all mine.
What follows are eight things that can transform this potentially lonely day into something uniquely my own. You can do them, or your own version of them, as well.
1. Take a Hike
Chances are there is a local park you’ve always meant to go to. Maybe your city has an arboretum or a nature trail running through the woods. Even a cemetery can make for a fascinating ramble, if you’re lucky enough to have a historic one nearby.
Going somewhere new, and to a place with natural beauty, will take you outside your ordinary life and provide new perspective. And the exercise will make you feel better.
2. Start Keeping a Journal
Writing down thoughts, feelings, ambitions, and even shopping lists is a semi-obsession of mine, and it has really helped me through some hard times.
It’s an especially important thing to do if you are in the throes of the divorce process. You never know when you might need an accurate record of what happened. Plus, the stress is bound to make you forget basic events from that time, and you’ll be glad someday that you wrote down what your kids were doing and saying.
3. Really Try to Meditate
Meditation tops my own personal Christmas agenda for this year. I’ve been talking about it for years, but I haven’t had the gumption to follow through. I’m trying mindfulness meditation, which is an adaptation of Buddhist Vipassana meditation.
The goal is to be able to accept thoughts and feelings without the emotional baggage we’ve attached to them. Done properly, it has clear health benefits. You also have to sit motionlessly for up to 20 minutes at a go, which I think I’m going to find the most challenging part of all.
4. Speaking of Gumption, . . . Watch The Holiday
Okay, you have your own go to comfort film. I just love this one, though. Even though I am experiencing a chronic case of romance fatigue, I find myself rooting for the characters, who are imminently likable. It’s true, I never fail to wonder how Cameron Diaz’s character packed so many coats into her luggage, but that’s a small point.
Nancy Meyer’s 2006 film stars Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, and Jack Black in a romantic comedy about two women who are fed up with their lives and decide to swap houses at Christmas time.
5. Go Through Your Closet, Pantry, or Junk Drawer
Just do it. It won’t seem like fun at first — and okay, it may never get to be fun — but cleaning stuff out is cathartic.
I consider myself pretty organized, but the last time I went through my closet I found a brand new t-shirt and a sweater I bought last year at Christmas and put away in the wrong drawer! Getting divorced has made me a bit absentminded, I think.
6. Make an Adult Christmas Feast Your Kids Would Never Touch
I’ll be having Goan Style Mussels, Beet, Carrot, and Ginger Soup, and a lamp chop. These are three things Laurel simply refuses to eat. It may be an odd combination, but it’s exactly what I feel like eating.
And to be honest with you, I don’t really like turkey and sweet potatoes that much anyway.
7. Research Fantasy Destinations
When I was feeling the worst about my situation, right after Duane left, I spent literally hours each night scouring real estate websites in Portugal and France. Thinking about buying a house in the countryside, or fixing up a gite so that I could live there with a few like-minded women, was a good fantasy that lifted me out of the situation.
Although I have abandoned the idea of escaping to Europe, I still have my fantasy real estate moments. Planning the next phase of your life, imagining the perfect vacation, looking at houses like these
helps make life more manageable, especially if you are trapped in a place you don’t want to be.
8. Take Stock of Your Life
What thing about your life would you most like to change? What are some small steps you could take to get there? What things did you accomplish this past year that you feel especially proud of?
Set some time aside on Christmas to assess your life and try to think about small steps you could take next year to get closer to your goals.
I’d like to figure out how I can shave some money off my monthly budget so that I can work a bit less, all part of my larger goal to reduce the stress in my life. So I’ll probably sit down for a few hours Christmas morning and go over my bills and see where I can cut things out.
In short, Christmas doesn’t need to be a lonely day just because your children aren’t with you — a day that you spend picking mindlessly at whatever food is in the house and checking your social media sites. It can become the day when you start a new tradition — a celebration of your life going forward.