For the first time in my almost 32 years of existence, I find myself alone on Christmas.
And no, I’m not Jewish. I grew up with big Christmases filled with presents, cookies, family, lots of food (my Italian grandma’s famous meatballs and ziti), pretty Christmas dresses that we changed out of as soon as we got to my grandma’s and lots of love and joy. You know, the “normal” holiday feeling.
I remember it being such a magical time.
Since I’ve been an adult, Christmas has of course evolved, but I have always had either mine or someone else’s big family to spend the day with, or last year, my own family of friends here in Los Angeles.
All of my friends are either traveling or home with their families. I don’t have a family of my own or a significant other, and since I stayed in Los Angeles and didn’t go back to New York where my family is, I am not with my dad, step-mom or little sister either.
And you know what? I’m okay with this.
It’s funny, because when my new therapist asked me what I was doing for Christmas, I must admit, I was a little embarrassed to tell her it wasn’t looking like much. I felt kind of like a loser. Especially since I’m seeing her because I want to heal my issues around intimate relationships. I was sure she was looking at me like, damn, this girl is a mess! (She clearly wasn’t.)
Anyway, when I told her how I was feeling, like a true therapist does, she started a discussion about my judgments on being alone and what I thought it meant. As I sat and thought about it for a second, I realized I was just making up stuff about what it means to be “alone” on a holiday—stuff that isn’t true.
Like if I’m alone on Christmas, it means that no one cares about me. I’m “alone” in life, I’m pathetic, etc. Crap that isn’t true at all.
Christmas is just another day, and how we spend it doesn’t determine who we are or the kind of relationships we have.
In fact, I think an unconscious part of me wanted to be by myself today. Somewhere deep down, I wanted to learn that I can be alone on Christmas, not have a big family or party to go to, and in spite of all of that, not feel alone.
Because I don’t actually feel alone.
I woke up to a bunch of text messages and phone calls from my family and friends, all wishing me a Merry Christmas, and saying they miss me and love me. All of my extended family, some girl friends, some guy friends and even some guy friends who wish they were more than friends, but no matter who the messages were from, they were all filled with true love, caring and acceptance of me.
I had the thought, as I was laying in bed reading these, that even though I’m physically alone for most of the day today, in my heart I don’t feel alone at all. I feel so loved by so many people in my life.
And I think that’s what matters.
Being “alone” isn’t a physical state, but a mental and emotional one. And I am blessed to have so many people love me, even if they aren’t physically here with me on this day. I am so grateful for the wonderful people I have in my life who love me just for being me. And yeah, it would be awesome to have them all in the same room with me today, but feeling them across town, or across the country, is beautiful too.
I would be lying if I didn’t say there were a few tears. There were.
Of course I wish I had someone special to spend this day with—cuddling up on the couch, or cooking dinner, or walking on the beach (this is Los Angeles, remember, it’s 75 degrees out), or skipping Xmas and spending the day in bed, whatever.
Yes, I wish that were my reality. But it’s not, and I can accept that.
I think you can be alone but not lonely. And I think you can be lonely even when surrounded by people. I am learning that the key is to have people in your life who truly see you, and accept you as you are, and also celebrate who you are.
I’ve been in situations where I’ve been grasping for someone, thinking that it was love, but feeling crappy about myself all the while with them. That’s not love, and I would rather be physically alone with the heart connection of my true loved ones, than physically with someone who doesn’t truly love me. Because the former is soul crushing.
And it actually makes me feel more alone than spending a day that happens to be Christmas with just me.
Today, I’m excited to go hiking, get Chinese food, watch a movie and take a walk by the ocean. (It’s only fitting to participate in the cliché non Christmas traditions!) I’m being with myself, and knowing how much love exists between me and all of the people who I am not with on this day.
I might be physically alone today, but I sure don’t feel lonely.
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Editor: Cat Beekmans
Photo: Robert Couse-Baker/Flickr