This year I made a conscious decision to not fly to the midwest to visit my family. This decision wasn't out of spite or animosity toward them. No, it was a decision based on the fact that my school semester didn't end until the 23rd this year and the fact that I'm on sabbatical next term, so I'll have a chance to see them that doesn't involve flying through Chicago O'Hare
during a blizzard.
I've always been quite content with this decision, and as the countdown to Christmas began, I became more and more content. I bought a little tree, hung my stocking, stocked up on Blueberry Stoli, and struggled over which movie to go see Christmas Day.
But while I was sitting around my drafty condo in state of alternative-holiday bliss, my family was worried.
You're going to the movies, alone???
my mother said to me on the phone Christmas Eve.
I thought you were going to C's for dinner...
my brother said.No, I said. I'm not going to C's for dinner.
Well, maybe you could go volunteer somewhere. Or go to K's...my mother said, worried. Didn't she invite you?
I had thought about volunteering, but the slots for that filled pretty early. And it was true that K had invited me to dinner, but I just didn't feel like going. I was choosing to spend the holidays alone, and I was happy with that. My family, however, just couldn't comprehend this fact.
The holidays are a time to spend with others, my mother pleaded, her voice rising through the receiver.
I suppose this is true, and to ease her anxiety and get her to hang up, I told her that my friends M and B were probably coming to breakfast (which wasn't even a lie).
The simple truth is that I feel like simplicity this holiday day. I don't feel like being with a big group of people I barely know, don't feel like braving holiday travel. As I sit at my dining room table, mug of coffee steaming beside me, Christmas music playing, lights twinkling, dog knawing his Christmas rawhide, I am happy. I'm not rejecting human companionship. I've spent the weeks leading up to the "big day" with friends and coworkers, raising our glasses in good cheer. And the thing that my family doesn't understand (the thing that many people probably don't understand) is that this isn't a sign of despair or depression on my part.
For me, choosing to be alone on the holidays isn't a negative thing unless I choose to make it negative. Being home alone for the holidays is far less distressful than flying alone (again) for the holidays two weeks after (yet another) breakup. And being home alone for the holidays is far less challenging than being home alone the other 364 days of the year I am home alone. It's far less challenging that being home alone after a difficult day at work. It's far less challenging than being home alone the day the sewer main line backed up. Or the day the car broke down. The day the bird got sick. It's far less challenging than being home alone the day my father died.
Because everyone is happy on the holidays. Joy really does fill the air. If I decide to go to the movies (or out for Chinese food) I will be greeted with a smile and a "Merry Christmas." There will be ample parking, and I won't have to stuff coins in a meter. I have a stack of DVDs I can watch, a pile of unread novels. I have food in the cupboard, vodka in the freezer, and a dog who can never get enough pets.
So if you've found yourself alone on the holidays, I wish you well. Not just on this day but on every day of the year.