Christmastime is always a romantic time for me, starting with Thanksgiving onto New Years Eve. I was married in late December. Fourteen years ago, My hubs and I began dating in December, my birthday also being sort of romantic, as I remember him using my birthday to “show off” his interest in me - I got showered with presents that year I turned 19. Even back further, our first time sharing a meal was a college Thanksgiving lunch in the Student Center. I asked him flirtatiously if he would be saving me a seat. From then until now on, we would be planning the holidays together – juggling family (which side to visit when) and planning anniversary celebrations.
For other people, the Holidays are not so romantic.
They are lonely.
Loneliness is called an epidemic now, and rightfully so. One of the very things that continues society and used to be a tribal family effort – Motherhood – is more now often an isolating, lonely, experience. It’s the reason why so many people on social media got famous for doing ordinary things. The little screen serves as company for the mundane tasks. We watch each other raise our own families from a virtual distance, but don’t have opportunities otherwise to create real time friendships.
Distinctly though, motherhood during the holidays is full of distractions. But not everyone is in that season. Not everyone is surrounded by people during the holidays.
Its no fun to be lonely during a season that celebrates “togetherness”. Christmas lights are not a magical switch to turn on community; community has to be present all year long, otherwise come the holidays, a person can sit alone.
If you find that you are lonely and would like to change that especially during the holidays, there are some things you can try to improve your experiences this season. Everyone is different, so this list is a collection of ideas that may or not suit your current situation, beliefs, or personality, but they could serve as a starting pad for more ideas that better suit you. Practice them all year long, and the holidays wont sting so much.
1) Find ways to be around real people (outside of work) all year long.
Whether it is through joining a church, club, or organization that benefits a charity you love, get around people.
Even in my small town, we have Rotary, Pilot Club, and a church on about every corner. These groups have frequent meetings, food drives, benefit suppers, parties and more. They are a great place to find community, tribe, and fellowship outside of family bonds.
The Library is also an overlooked place to meet folks; our small library has a monthly event calendar full of different activities that are free to the public. Things like genealogy classes, classic movies, adult coloring, and meet and greets are currently on this month’s agenda at my Library. In fact, tonight, I am taking the boys to the Library’s monthly Lego fun night (tons of kids, tons of Legos). If you frequent these events that interest you often, you are sure to meet folks with similar personalities.
This one is a very alternative idea, but it may be for you. If you have a product that you love and use often, sign up to sell it. I have been a member of some MLM companies and met many people through them that otherwise I would not have. That doesn’t include your customers and Social Media contacts for professional growth as well. Reps from these companies meet often and even overnight out of town for shindigs and prep rally type gatherings. Do your research; it could be surprisingly fun as long as you make more money than you spend to maintain your business (that would just be stressful).
If you are a woman reading this and you like camping, junking, and the company of other women, check #sistersonthefly. This group is made up of women all over the United States that meet to camp, fish, stay in hotels for social gatherings within the groups, ect. There is a yearly membership fee, but upon payment, you will be in place to attend any gathering of these women that you would like within the USA. One day, I will join myself (when the kids are older).
2) Be honest with your loved ones if you are lonely.
If you have family that is nearby with whom you could visit during the holidays, call them. Say you want to be in their company. You don’t have to come up with a reason any “better” than just wanting to be around family for the holidays.
Just make sure that if you stay with someone else during a holiday, you don’t interfere with established menus, traditions, and routines. For example, if you stay with your son and his family, your daughter in law will fee annoyed if you keep the kids up after their bedtime, let them have more holiday snacks than she has approved, or if you mess with the Santa thing. She may not be comfortable extending an invitation for next year.
If you are honest with a family member that you need company, be a blessing while you are there, and not rely on other folks to make you entirely happy. Your happiness is your own responsibility; having the courage of openness and asking for company over the holidays is a great step in self-care, but you have to remember not to fall into self-absorption around others that causes a stress for the host that otherwise would not be there.
3) Take a trip.
If you cannot visit family or friends over the holidays, you can plan to take your days off somewhere else. You can go anywhere. You want to see the little mountain towns lit up at Christmas? Why not? Or even in another country. How cool!
I often find that just a change in location eases loneliness. I may be alone, but there is just too much new around me to explore and enjoy (and honestly even distract) me from feeling lonely. This maybe a horrible idea for some, but for folks who have a craving for adventure and meeting new people, this is a neat option.
4) Adopt a pet.
If you can’t get anywhere this holiday and stay home alone, a cute furry fellow with you can be a good snuggly partner on Christmas night. And puppies are so cute with Christmas collars on (reason enough).
5) Visit people who are also lonely.
Just about every community has a nursing home. These people need interaction, and often don’t care if you even talk much. Your presence is a gift, and often these folks feel overlooked and are just waiting for a chance to have their stories heard.
Call the home before hand and ask if you can be put on the schedule to do something that you love – for example before I had kids, I would sing at two nursing homes about five times a year. The people know me and want to chat. They look happy when I come in, still.
If you have a talent, or even since you can read, you have something to offer the people in the nursing home. I know that if I went to my local home to open a book and begin reading, a circle would gather. Afterwards folks would want to talk. You do this, or play an instrument, or sing; whatever you are good at can be turned into a scheduled activity (crafts, salon day, game night, exercise). Just be creative and ready to meet folks and uplift them by offering your time.
6) Take a part time seasonal job.
I know I said to make friends outside of work, but your seasonal part-time job should be just that – seasonal, and part time, based on what you enjoy. One of my most favorite jobs was working a cosmetics store in Savannah, GA. Around the holidays, women wanted makeovers for plays and holiday parties. I loved chatting about eye colors, and whatever the women wanted to let out (the makeup chair is also a listening therapists chair).
Most big brand stores need more help this time of year, whether it be a cashier or greeter. If you have a talent that is marketable, like prepping for holiday parties, catering, wrapping gifts, creating crafts for Christmas (wreaths, ornaments, handmade toys) or even being a Santa for schools, malls, parties (my Dad did this for the Savannah Mall) can all be ways to meet people and contribute to the festivities. Taking a second job is an opportunity to be around more people and give you more money for the holidays.
7) Reflect and Plan
Turn on the movies, the popcorn, the hot drinks, and enjoy the special senses of the holiday. As a Christian, I would like to think that when I am alone, I can always know that the presence of the Holy Spirit is with me; I can praise Him for His abiding in me, and tune into the joy of Jesus at Christmas. Think of the good in your life and think of what ways you can strengthen connections with other people, find a deeper purpose within your community, this coming year. I can’t think of a better New Year’s Resolution than to seek out ways to create meaningful bonds with other people.
However you choose to spend your holidays, feeling out of touch and lonely doesn’t have to be your only option.
I pray that you find fellowship, friendship, and peace this Christmas.
(originally published in the Live Love and Eat Magazine, 12/2018)