Holiday stress is not caused by being single. Holiday stress is caused when we force ourselves to honor others and their needs above our own. Holiday stress is about obligation to our families and friends. It is about duty to participate in the version of holidays they envisioned for themselves, and feeling the pressure to participate in it on their terms.
I never liked the holidays. And it is not because I am single. I didn’t like the holidays when I was married, partnered, or deeply in love. What I don’t like about the holidays is the pressure for me to show up and be how other people want me to be.
For years mom and dad wanted to be surrounded by the warmth of their family. For a while, and at different periods in time, we were a warm family. But when the children married, holidays became complicated. Now it was about the painful decision of whose family to spend the holidays with. It became about screaming children. It became about interpersonal dramas, it became about tolerating intolerable spouses just so others would feel like they have the version of Christmas that they wished for themselves. I felt obligated to provide my aging parents a postcard perfect Christmas, that was not so idyllic for me. I felt pressured to ease my sister’s marriage stress by tolerating much more from her husband than I should. I felt drained by the lack of space and personal privacy in my family home during the hectic days, and I became drained by her unruly toddler who somehow became everyone’s top priority,. Sorry sis, I love him, but I do not bow down to your kid.
Once again, the media depicts the holidays for single people as pathetic spinsterhood. I assure you I am a happy, healthy, sexually actively Singleton, almost a hedonist. There is nothing for me to be miserable about. I have built the life that I always wanted for myself. The reason I don’t like the holidays is because they force me to step out of my haven, and deal with family on their terms, not mine.
What would I rather do? Since holidays are meant to be special occasions, celebrations of life, how would I celebrate myself if I had it my way? I started to consider that more in the last few years, and started to steal away from family obligations a.k.a. drudgery to honor myself. A few years ago, I booked a beach vacation with a total hunk. That’s how I honored myself that Thanksgiving . It was a marvelous experience where I showed myself gratitude, bliss and pleasure.
I had to lie to my family to do it, and the lying didn’t feel so good. I wanted to tell them, “No mom and dad, spending Thanksgiving in your home, stuffing myself with carbs and lard and sugar, would not be a pleasure. No, sis, I don’t feel like tolerating your manipulative husband this year, and no I don’t feel like dealing with your stress, just because you have a baby”. But I didn’t.
I did not feel guilty treating myself to a beautiful holiday. I felt bad that I wasn’t speaking my truth. Sugarcoating my unavailability so they could feel okay about my absence felt like I wasn’t honoring myself. And honor thyself is one of the most important Goddess principles. Never one to beat myself up over a human error, I decided to practice honoring myself for the holidays, and accept that I must go through a learning curve, until I get the holidays just right. When I feel awesome about spending the holidays exactly how I want to experience them, I will have achieved a complete and unapologetic celebration of myself.
I resolved to do the holidays better the following year. Once again I told my family that I am taking a break and experiencing Thanksgiving with friends instead of them. I tuned out their complaints, guilt trips, and anger. I told them each the truth. Spending Thanksgiving dinner with friends will be much more fun and pleasurable than driving four hours to be with you, stuff myself like a pig, then pretend I am interested in your personal woes. It was a better holiday. Dinner with friends for two hours is much easier on the waistline, my digestive system and my nervous system than a long weekend with my family. It was definitely more pleasure to go home alone, treat myself to a warm bath, drink that special wine I splurged on all for myself, and then hang out with my friend with benefits the following night.
Where is this pressure to be with our families, and participate in their version of the holidays, and make effort to make them feel good about themselves coming from? Why do single people feel awkward during big celebrations?
Once again, I blame it on media, culture and society. They tell us that if we are single we must be lonely and miserable. None of those things are true for me. They tell us that friends, family and traditions are to be honored. But if we do that, we place the honor on something outside ourselves. If you are single, have you The Singleton ever asked them to honor you?
I firmly believe that the reason most single people are stressed out by the holidays is because they allow themselves to succumb to the pressure of others, rather than honoring themselves. We buy into the idea that not participating in obligatory family functions is bad, and any alternative to being included in something spells doom, loneliness, rejection.
Honestly, the best Thanksgiving I ever had was on that island with that hunk. That was not a shallow experience, in fact it was a very rich experience. I treated myself to an experience designed to my personal tastes, and spent the time in the best way that I knew how. I splurged on an upgraded plane ticket. We split the cost of a luxury hotel room. I bought myself little presents to commemorate my celebration of myself, I came home completely satisfied with the glorious sunshine, amazing sex, and a huge smile on myself. On that island I had an epiphany.
Years ago, when I was married, my holidays were absolutely pathetic. I had to honor my abusive, toxic in-laws, listen to my slimy father-in-law’s critiques of anyone who did not blow smoke up his narcissitic ass, and my histrionic mother-in-law’s desperate attempts to drain energy out of as many family members as possible. When I was married holidays were a series of demeaning experiences that pushed my emotional buttons and drained me. In that moment I gave a genuine expression of gratitude to the universe for providing me with a Thanksgiving of pure joy, ecstasy and bliss. I finally honored myself.
Since I started to practice my own best version of the holidays, I noticed that my family has made a greater effort to honor me. Mom knows I hate giant meals and her heavy Eastern European dishes, so she makes me a few leaner dishes. Sis knows she won’t be seeing much of me If her husband is around, so she sends him to be with his own family. That’s much easier on all of us. And the tiny tot, whom I adore, knows that a scream does not get him my attention. Instead of four days with family, I give them 24 hours, and the rest is for me.
This year, I might enjoy a few holiday parties, perhaps I’ll host one myself. Work doesn’t allow any pleasure trips, so my biggest splurge this year will be on myself- something gold and sparkly.
If you would like to have more pleasant holidays, I urge you to invest some time in yourself. What would be the ideal way for you to honor yourself this year? How would Thanksgiving and Christmas be on your terms? Would you make the holidays about other people, or would you find a way to honor yourself? The key is to have an action plan, and a statement of your own truth so that you can inform others and lay your own ground rules.