I’m going with wonderful, but there were years when I definitely didn’t feel that way.
As I am talking with clients and also already getting my kids’ “suggestions” for presents this week, my thoughts are focused on the Holidays and the various emotions that they evoke.
Let me be upfront in saying that although I don’t have a real religious connection to Christmas, I absolutely love it! Thanksgiving…not so bothered as I didn’t grow up with it. However, I do like the idea that it a Holiday that anyone gets to celebrate. And who can argue with a day that is all about feeling gratitude?
My younger Christmases were not exactly hallmark but were much better than the “regular” days in my house growing up.
- Getting the (used to be) white plastic Christmas tree out of the attic and washing it in the bathtub before putting it together and covering it in tinsel.
- Getting up early and ripping into my presents. No one waited for anyone else, we just opened them as we got up.
- Mum was usually up early cooking in the kitchen and didn’t see anything going on.
- My main present consisted of the selection box…which for those of you who aren’t British is basically a bag of chocolate bars. Which I then proceeded to stuff myself with immediately.
- Big sit down lunch with my immediate family and as time went on the addition of my sisters’ husbands and kids. (These were always marked by at least one large and heated disagreement.)
- Christmas Crackers and paper hats. For real, we actually all sat around in these.
- Watching TV and feeling too full. Oh yes, I think we did listen to the Queen’s speech too.
- My mother’s amazing Christmas cake! She had been working on it for at least a month. Including making holes in the bottom with a knitting needle and steeping it with rum. Royal icing it. Then adding the plastic reindeer, Father Christmas and snowmen on the top. I won’t hear a word against fruitcakes! That thing was delicious and lasted forever.
- Boxing day, repeating the whole day without the present part.
When I got married and had kids, I kept some of the things from my past. For sure, and much to their continued dismay, the paper hat wearing. I didn’t ever learn the art of the Christmas cake though and despite me making them almost every year, no one will eat my mince pies. However, I also learned a different way of doing things. Like going to church on Christmas Eve, all opening the presents as a family, breakfast together, family cocktail hours before dinner and no actual fights.
Then I got divorced.
My British family was 3000 miles away. My extended American family were not my family anymore and eventually all moved on with their new dynamic.
So now it was time for me to learn another new way of loving the Holidays.
In the last 10 years I have spent Thanksgivings with various friends, volunteering at a church serving food, on my own relaxing and feeling grateful that I only needed to bake some pies (because my kids would never forgive me if I didn’t have those in stock) and every other with some or all of my four children… with a couple of boyfriends sprinkled in there at times. I have to say, I have enjoyed all of them. For the most part I think it was because all of them were on my terms. Instead of focusing on what they used to be, I was able to look at each one as it was coming up and look at what I wanted to get out of it, depending on who was going to be around on the day. This year I am excited because I’m shaking things up and taking my youngest with me to visit Boulder, Colorado where two of my other kids live. Unfortunately we are missing my oldest, but she is happily establishing her own traditions in her life in New York.
As I stated earlier, Christmas has more of a hold on me than Thanksgiving. So this was a much harder day to wrap my head around being alone and changing traditions. The first Christmas morning that I woke up and it was just me and the dogs was really tough. I’m not going to lie. It was strange that this was just like an ordinary day in a way. I think I spent the day baking and cooking for the next day that I was planning on spending with my kids. Apparently one of my love languages towards my family is food. And I appreciate that I am more fortunate than some in that my kids were still living with me, so it was one day only. There was a shift in traditions, not a total absence. As I’ve gone through each of these 10 seasons, I have had to adjust my mindset quite a lot around everything to do with the “this is what Christmas SHOULD be” impression we are constantly fed from the world. Things are already starting to shift once again as my kids get older, but this is gradual and so easier on the psyche to adjust to. I’m curious to see how that will develop. Although I’m still refusing to imagine that I will be a grandma at some point 😉
The biggest takeaway that I have come up with from these last 10 Christmases is to focus on the greater idea of the Holiday, not focus on that one day as a make or break indication of who I am, my relationships, my future and my life.
If you want to, you can totally sit home feeling sorry for yourself . Fretting over what you have “lost”. Honestly, everyone is stressed out and busy at this time of year. Even if they love you, chances are your friends and extended family are dealing with their own stuff and you may not be top of mind, especially as the years pass. You are in control of how you go through the next month and a half. It isn’t anyone else’s responsibility to make you feel any way at all.
OR, you can choose instead to do what you can with what you have at that time. Given who will be around…or not, where you are physically or what resources you have available:
- What do you want to do that will make you happy this season?
- Who do you want to reach out to?
- What new traditions would you like to implement?
- What can you do now that you couldn’t before?
- What are you most grateful for each day?
So what am I saying here?
Yes, it is hard to adjust to life after divorce, especially around the Holidays when it seems that everyone else is having the best time with their happy families and you may be alone and life is very different.
Yes, it is perfectly fine to feel all the feelings that you have. For goodness sake, don’t stuff them down and pretend because we all know that will come back to bite you. As long as you don’t allow yourself to dwell on this only and end up drowning in these feelings. Honestly, that is so much easier than feeling them and then going on to looking at what you can do to pull yourself out of that space.
Life is always about things changing. There’s even a famous quote, “ Change is the only constant in life”. What Heraclitus didn’t add in his stodgy Ancient Greek philosopher way, is that it is entirely up to you how you deal with that change.
I have a long list of suggestions about things you can do this Season to help you focus on the now and make the most of you Holidays. I also have a cheatsheet to fill in to help prepare your mindset. I’m happy to share both for free if you would like. Just shoot me an email and I’ll get it to you. You do not have to figure this out all by yourself.