I’ve been cleaning out old financial records, shredding old receipts, tossing old files. In the process I came across a calendar from 12 years ago. I took a break from sorting to flip through the pages and remember weddings, first projects with now-cherished clients, and play dates with friends who have since passed.
It is so interesting—sometimes inspiring, sometimes heartbreaking—to look back at who I was, then catch my breath and acknowledge who I’ve become in the past decade. This hit home when I flipped to December 24th, Christmas Eve, and read the only two items on my to do list for that day:
- Shop for dinner
I felt like that woman stepped out of the storage box and punched me in the arm. I knew her so well, for some of her still lingered inside me. She was so self-protective, so determined to not be hurt again. By staying home (alone) for the holidays, she told herself, she was saving money for more important things, with no clear idea of what those things might be. She was avoiding the hassles of travel. She was dodging all possibilities of feeling the sting of being an outsider as “family” gathered to celebrate the holiday.
She was mostly successful.
The painful truth was that she would have felt lonely no matter where she was or whether she was solo or surrounded by other people.
If I could reach back in time to offer advice, would I tell her to do things differently? Probably not. That was such a tender time, when each slight felt more like a stab, when each off-hand comment felt like an insult. She needed that time to tend to her wounds, to build up her shields, and to be able to pull herself out of that all-consuming malaise.
Eventually she did heal, and I did reach the point where I could again be in mixed company for the holidays. Sometimes I’ve been able to join in the fun with other people’s little people, other times I’ve relished a quiet day of rest (and an excuse to spend a few hours reading) with just my family of two + dog. This past December, I joyfully participated in a large festive gathering with extended family members. “Joyfully.” Wow. Twelve years ago I couldn’t have imagined saying, let alone, feeling that word.
I share this with you now because we are coming up on a holiday this weekend, and the Big Holidays are close on its heals. This is going to be a difficult time for many of you, and I am sorry about that. I wish I could make it easier, but I know from experience that you need to go through the hurting and the grieving. My hope for you is that you come out on the other side less than 12 years from now.
If this is your year of celebrating Holidays for One, please be gentle with yourself. If this is your first year diving back into the family mix of things, be brave, and be gentle with yourself. Know that you are not alone and we are here at Life Without Baby if you need a place to vent, rage, and be supported.