It was around Christmas time last year when I finally grew the cojones to stand up for myself in the context of an extremely rocky juncture of my marriage.
Needless to say, it did not go over well, and it marked the beginning of the end of that relationship. I remember feeling very anxious and unhappy during the Christmas season, not to mention resentful of my husband for casting such a pall on my favorite holiday.
This year, I am in a much better place on nearly every level, so I have been looking forward to Christmas for months. I decorated my house the day after Thanksgiving, I've been blaring Christmas music in my car every day since then, and –- as evidenced by my Facebook posts -- I went into a baking frenzy a couple weeks back. This year, the spirit grabbed me by the waist and vigorously spun me around on the evergreen-adorned dance floor, and I let it.
Yes, all was sugar and spice until Christmas Day. It was not quite the joyous occasion I had hoped for.
I let my son, Ethan, open his presents on Christmas Eve, going against our usual tradition of getting up bright and early on Christmas morning. He’s 17, and quite frankly, I couldn’t think of a reason to wait. Santa quit coming to our house about eight years ago.
Anyhoo, he opened his gifts, offered his sincere thanks to me, then made plans to go out with his friends. That was OK with me. He let me know later he was going to spend the night out. At first, I was fine with that, too. After all, he had already opened his presents, and I knew we had planned to go to my mom’s for an early dinner to celebrate on Christmas Day, like we always do. He hadn’t abandoned me, or anything quite so melodramatic. I mean, it wasn’t as if I would be all alone on Dec. 25, right?
Well, I felt pretty damn alone when I woke up to an empty house. It was quite the reality check. I got an intimate look at what being single and childless feels like. Turns out I’m not a huge fan.
I much prefer being single to sleepwalking through a miserable marriage. And I am SO looking forward to living alone once my son moves out sometime in the next year. But I did NOT like spending the majority of a major holiday all by myself.
Now granted, I was only alone until about 4 p.m. when I went to my mom’s for dinner (my son joined me there). And there are tons of friends I could have called or visited earlier in the day if I had just picked up the phone. The logical part of my brain reminds me that I am very well loved. Yes, logically I know this.
But emotionally, those hours of solitude with just my two dogs as company were startling. Me no likey. At all. Yep, there were even a few crocodile tears. Of course, it did NOT help that “Beaches” was on cable. That tearjerker would bring even a hardcore Pollyanna down.
Bottom line, I had a rough day. It was 1,000 times better than Christmas last year in many ways, but it certainly wasn’t all eggnog and good cheer. Since my attitude toward life these days is to find the lessons and blessings in everything, that’s what I choose to do today instead of wallowing in what was not, or what should have been.
As a single woman with a (nearly) grown son, I can’t have the same expectations for the holidays that I had when I was married with a young child. It’s different now, and I just need to plan accordingly. I am not soured on Christmas by any stretch, but I don’t ever want to feel that emptiness again. And I know I don’t have to.
I love Christmas, but I have to admit, I’m glad the 2012 event is over. For Dec. 25, 2013, I’m going to make sure I’m surrounded by friendly faces (not just furry ones). This will be especially important because I plan to be a full-time entrepreneur, working from home long before next Christmas. This year's solitary holiday showed me that isolation is really not healthy for me. I need to get out more and become a part of the world.
Hmm, it sounds like I’ve already got the first item nailed down on my list of New Year’s resolutions, doesn’t it?
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.