The Holidays. The warmth of family and friends. The festive meals and parties. The closeness of community. Or not.
For many people, the holidays - and then the New Year - are a big fat let down. They shine a glaring spotlight on our lack of true connection, our loneliness, or our deep-down-to-the-bone desire for something unnamable that is missing in our lives.
Starting the New Year in Transition
For people going through separation and divorce during this time, that loneliness is the backdrop against which we navigate NOT being together as a family for the first time. While it feels like the rest of the world is nesting and starting a-new, we’re un-nesting and feeling lost.
We find ourselves suddenly negotiating how to split our children’s time in a new environment, so that they can have dinner with Dad’s family, and still have fun at Mom’s home the next morning. Or, we’re heading into the New Year spending time alone when it seems as though everyone else is ticking of resolutions and starting a-fresh with the people they love.
The simple traditions that we enjoyed (or not) in past holidays and New Years become stilted with tension and false good cheer. As one recent client begrudgingly said to her former partner, “I guess I can get my hoo-ha up and have you over for Christmas morning." In fact, many of us are running around, shopping, baking, cleaning, sticking to our New Year promises, and trying to get our "hoo-ha" up, all while attempting to hold at bay the sense that we’re terribly lonely.
At the core of this malaise is the distance between what we have and what we think we’re supposed to have. The holidays and the New Year are the ground zero of cultural want.
We’re supposed to have a turkey, a tree, cookies, and the smell of cinnamon wafting in the air. We are supposed to have an intact family, relatives and friends that we enjoy spending time with, and plenty of money to give creative and meaningful gifts to all. We're supposed to go into the New Year revived, fresh, and ready to celebrate another positive and fun-filled year.
It turns out, Santa isn't the only myth of the holidays we’re taught to believe.
Imagine how uncomfortable it would be if you tried to continue believing in Santa into adulthood, even when he no longer brings you presents. When we hold onto the belief that we’re entitled to some sort of holiday bliss, it’s at attachment to a different type of myth. The myth that we can be happy all of the time and not experience loneliness, loss or sadness. All very normal human feelings.
Letting Go of Expectations
Once we decide to let go of our expectations about what we’re supposed to be feeling or doing around the holidays, we can enjoy the little moments in between. Here are some things you can let go of to make your holidays easier:
- Let go of comparisons with other people
- Let go of the need to be with your children throughout all of the holidays
- Let go of perfectionism
- Let go of anger at your former partner for making this happen
- Let go of the idea that you shouldn’t spend time alone during the holidays
- Let go of Martha Stewart
- Let go of the notion that your supposed to be happy during the holidays
In fact, I’m pretty sure that letting go of our expectations of what is supposed to be is at the core to all happiness. The New Year provides an excellent opportunity to practice.
Need a few more direct pointers? Check out 25 New Year's Resolutions for Co-Parents.