Anyone out there feeling a bit morose about being single at the holidays?
Why should I feel morose, Tracy? HUH? Are you saying I'm LESS THAN because I'm alone this time of year? Hey, just because I'm not coupled up wearing matching holiday reindeer sweaters with some Goober doesn't mean I'm not HAPPY. What would YOU know? You're not single anymore, so shut up!
Ooh. I just channeled my single holiday self there. The Ghost of Christmas Defensiveness.
I understand the tetchiness. Thanksgiving and Christmas are a time of oppressive Intact Family Togetherness. Look, I'm married now and I still want to throw a brick at every Kay Jeweler's TV ad. "A Memory She'll Wear Forever." (Oh, hey, I have a holiday memory I'll wear forever -- discovering my ex was cheating.) The holidays are not always super jolly fun times. Raise your hand if you went through a break up during Christmas! Double bonus points for anyone who broke up and got a crappy gift! Triple score if you got no gift! Anyone with me here?
So if you've ever wanted to set sail for the Island of Misfit Toys, take heart. Here are my pointers for getting through the holiday season if you're unaccustomed to being single.
1. Realize you can do anything you want to do. Skip church, eat cookies for breakfast, live in pajama bottoms. It's your holiday, celebrate it your way. Maybe you like a formal holiday dinner and your ex didn't? Invite people over and go all Martha Stewart. Maybe you want to curl up under an electric blanket and have Netflix marathons? When you lose a partner, you also lose at least half of your holiday obligations. I'm not driving to Pittsburgh in three feet of snow. It's almost a decade later. I'm still grateful.
2. If you're lonely, do something about it. And I don't mean go on a date. I mean reach out. Pet a dog, invite over a neighbor, go volunteer. Heck, go to work and make some overtime. It's harder to feel sad when you're active. It's ok to feel lonely, just don't indulge too long in self-pity. It doesn't help anything and most healthy people find it repellent. (So ultimately, you're not helping the Loneliness Problem.) If you must, just fake it for now -- you're self reliant! Independent! Plucky!
3. If you get misty, make a list of every crappy thing your ex did. Make a virtual bonfire of every crappy memory and set it alight. Burn, baby, burn.
4. If you're a single parent, find your own tribe of other kick ass single parents. (Even if you have to find them online.) You there, at the holiday choral concert by yourself? I've been on that cold metal folding chair of Single Parenthood. Surrounded by all those uber mommies and square-jawed Irish Spring dads and their photogenic offspring, at every school function making videos documentaries of their Legacy. If you're feeling wobbly, avoid flamboyant displays of Public Family Unity. Bring a plus-one. Find another single parent to unite with. After a period of adjustment, you can mingle again with the Coupled. But in the early days, especially, it's rough.
Don't feel bad about that either. If you just lost a child, you wouldn't want to hang out at playgrounds either.
5. It always bears repeating that being single is a gazillion times better than being in a lousy relationship with someone who disrespects and abuses you. If being "single" gets you down, maybe you need to reframe this as mightiness. You're probably single because you didn't put up with crap and respected yourself. That's admirable, not "less than."
And if despite my pep talk, the holidays still really suck? (Sometimes they do, sorry.) Distract yourself madly. January is coming, I promise.
Tracy Schorn is a blogger at Chump Lady, and the author of the forthcoming "Leave a Cheater, Gain a Life" (Running Press 2016).