Oh God, another holiday season alone.
I go from enjoying a cup of coffee, watching the beauty that is present even in death, to having my coffee with doubt as soon as November announces its release of the last leaves.
Whether it’s lighting candles, hanging ornaments or fasting and prayer, the power of annual celebration and ritual comes in a way that brings us right back to who and where we were a year ago—and even deeper into the past.
My first solo Christmas four years ago was awful. I had impossible expectations of myself as a strong, confident and always-together single woman.
Being with myself that holiday hit me hard. I had no previous experience to draw from in my adult life. I felt awkward and left out of many traditions. Even if being included wasn’t always so great, I’d spent many years believing it was better than being excluded.
Something bigger was going on for me. I struggled to believe that I was worthy of love. I was unsure that I would succeed at anything, especially the things that were most important to me.
I found a loyal friend in doubt. Though it brought me comfort through familiarity, doubt kept dragging me into depression.
That first Christmas, I experienced a miracle.
I was able to climb out of that moment of darkness by having a conversation with myself on paper. I wrote letters to myself and a cherished family member. I challenged myself to express why I believed I would fail this person and myself. I purged all of the fear and the self-loathing I felt that night. I cried myself to sleep.
When the sun fell across my face to wake me the next morning, I was filled with gratitude and joy.
The second Christmas was a bit easier, thank God. It was easier because of a diversion that no life coach would recommend.
I’d found motivation to love myself in being the best role model I could be for a cherished family member. But one of the first stages of self-love opened up a weird new space for me. I thought I might be worthy of things just for me. In trying to navigate that new space, I looked around and felt lack, so I focused on the goal of feeling lovable to get to that place where I’d be ready to share my love.
I faced my now, how and when I could. In my journey, I had to dolphin. I felt an ever-present pull of deep loneliness.
Dreaming of my twin flame kept me going through the unexpected weight of my path. But it also kept me from looking at why loneliness brought such fear.
I didn’t feel peaceful being alone until my third Christmas. I chose to dismiss the belief that the only way to my happiest life is through eventually finding my twin flame. I started to relax with the simple truth that my now is enough.
This is when self-love became real. It’s not something I can see or touch, but it’s real in the way it affects me.
I started to measure love by my perception of the world. As I grew into love, my perception shifted with how I felt about myself. On bad days, the world around me looked ugly. When I felt good about myself, the word felt tender and snugly.
During this year I came to a point of no return. I loved myself enough that I knew there was no going back to my old ways of believing I was unworthy. When I reached that milestone, I still held onto the wish that my future husband would be at my finish line with a cup of water and a big hug.
I look back now and laugh, but at the time I felt devastated that my work to love myself had not opened up a space powerful enough to pull him to me that very minute.
This shock could have sent me back into a place of fear. But I was held by my experience with self-love. I felt my disappointment and then I asked myself what I was missing.
That third Christmas I realized that my twin flame probably has a life. You know, his own journey, his own lessons, his own personal sh*t to work through. In order for me to see this after I’d placed so much importance on getting to a “we” in my self-love journey, I had to see myself with compassion.
It was another level of self-love, this letting go. I took the path of little steps. I call faith “walked hope,” because for me it began with surrendering to little hopes again and again, until making the choice to believe wasn’t as scary.
I created spaces through the fear with those steps. In the spaces, I felt love. I learned that the physics of love are so different from the physics of fear.
This holiday season, as I enjoy coffee with the gentle November wind, I’ve decided to be as fearless in my rejection of that which does not serve me as I am fierce in my faith that love is more powerful than fear.
I will find joy in tiny birds as they learn to fly from bare branches. I will hold in my mind images of warrior poses on a beach as I trudge through the sleet and the snow.
I know there will be a miss, a loneliness this year. It never leaves me. But the ache doesn’t swallow me anymore. I have come to know its impermanence.
If you’re feeling lonely this holiday season, you’re not alone. When I need to feel connected, I imagine all the solo people seeking solace in moments of loneliness as we walk over sand, cement and forest floors.
I’ll be over here in my warm winter jacket, witnessing love in the contrast of near-black branches against the bright grey sky.
Author: Jenn McKay
Assistant Editor: Hilda Carroll / Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Asdrubal luna/Unsplash