Today is Saturday. It’s the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It’s the first Saturday after the second Thanksgiving I’ve spent alone since my divorce. Nothing about the holidays have been normal for me the past two years, and I’m learning there really is such a thing as a “new normal.”
This my friends, is survival mode thinking, and some of us find ourselves in moments of needing to just hang on for dear life this blessed time of year… or is it rein deer life? See what I just did there? This is merely one holiday season survival mechanism-corny, corny, cringe worthy Christmas humor.
You see, I’m trying to keep my sense of humor through these changes, and never are the changes more glaringly obvious than during the holiday season. It’s like a spotlight has just been turned on and aimed directly at you, and you feel frozen , unable to move, squinting helplessly into the blinding light. Things have changed, and Thanksgiving and Christmas have a way of really driving that point painfully home. If you felt like a lonely, pathetic, middle-aged, divorced loser already, there’s nothing like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve as a single to make you feel even better about yourself!
It’s holiday survival mode for the newly separated, divorced, or have recently broken up with someone, individuals. I happen to be the lucky, lucky winner of two of the aforementioned conditions, so I consider myself an expert on this topic. While I don’t pretend to know everything, I have learned a few things that I hope may help other people, even one, trying to white knuckle it through the holidays.
If you have one of these people in your life right now, I have two words for you- have mercy. Seriously. Cut them some slack this holiday season. Oh, I have two more words for you, chocolate and wine. Bring us those. We’ll need them once the Hallmark Channel kicks off it’s snowy, jingly, kissy faced, season of hell we’re trying to avoid. All this merry making, these Hallmark movies with their romantic, fireside cuddling scenes, the twinkling lights, the diamond jewelry commercials, the stupid mistletoe hanging around random doorways just taunting you, and the picture perfect family holiday cards flowing in at an alarming, unstoppable rate, are all reminders that things are not what you thought they would be. You never imagined how much you would want to face palm yourself every time you hear the jewelry store jingle, “Every kiss begins with Kay,” or find out, “He went to Jared’s!” You know what I want for Christmas? I want Kay and Jared to stop bragging and shut their freaking pie holes! Is that too much to ask?
Yep, the only man the kids might catch, “kissing mommy underneath the mistletoe,” would be the literal Santa Claus because the only men hanging around are your relatives, and that would just be weird. So, while these idealized, romantic notions of the holiday season are warming your happily coupled hearts, just remember they can also make the people who are already alone feel like throwing a freshly baked plate of warm, gingerbread cookies right at the TV screen. Take that Kay and Jared! Look out Candace Cameron and Tori Spelling! I’ve got slightly burned yet still edible holiday cookies coming in hot and headed right towards your Hallmark bliss. There might be a strong case of single, holiday depression and angst coming straight for your on- screen make out session. So, you’d better duck and cover.
On the bright side, I have to say that this year, I feel like I’m handling this whole alone scenario like a rock star compared to last year. Now, that sucked. I was a hot mess. I felt like I had been run over by a Mac truck emotionally. You might as well have stopped calling me by my real name and just started referring to me as, “Flat Stanley.” Where was “Flat Stanley” last Christmas season? Sitting on the sofa in running gear, crying into an industrial sized container of cheese balls, watching Diane Lane in “Under the Tuscan Sun” on Netflix. My heart was crushed. I was broken.
Last winter, my now ex-husband was spending his holidays with the “other woman” (to sum it up), and I was pretty much a puddle of pathetic devastation. He also introduced her to our six year old on Christmas, which I was super pumped about… It was bad last year. I am not going to even pretend it wasn’t.
My older sister, who has become one of my best champions through this mess, graciously included me in their Thanksgiving. I found myself making frequent trips to the bathroom to cry just a little every few hours. I also found myself crying in the bathroom intermittently all through Christmas as well. As you can see, I spent a lot of time in bathrooms last holiday season. I choked back tears the entire Christmas Eve service at church watching families sit together. I choked back tears while I watched my brother and his family take pictures together in front of the tree on Christmas day because I didn’t have my family the way I had known it anymore. Let’s just refer to it as the Christmas trail of tears.
Then this past year, I met a nice man when I was out dancing with my girlfriends one night, and he asked for my number. He was cute, smart, an Aggie just like me, a great dancer, and shared many of the same interests like theater, music, and running. He started calling me, and we started going on dinner dates. Things slowly progressed, and by the summer we were spending a lot of time together, traveling together, and he was even becoming a part of my kids’ lives after several months of dating and making sure this had potential to move forward. He was great to my kids. He took the time to talk to them beyond surface level conversations about their lives. He included them. He became my best friend, my person. You know your person, the one you call when you get in your car after work and talk to all the way home about your day and their day and all the minutia of the in between. I had that again.
He would buy groceries, show up at my house, and cook dinner for us, or if I cooked he would do all of the dishes. When I had two places to be at the same time to pick my teenagers up from after school activities, he was happy to help pick one of them up since he worked from home and had a flexible schedule. He even did laundry when he came over. Read that again, people. Laundry. He held hands at the dinner table and lead us in prayer before meals. He went to church with me on Sundays. He talked to my kids about their plans for the future, their goals, their dreams. He played board games with my youngest in the living room while I was grading papers. I thought he was a keeper.
He had even passed the parent approval rating, no easy feat. I had met his son who lived out of the country with his mother and stepdad. I had met his mother his father, his stepmother, friends he used to work with, attended his sister’s wedding in the spring and his family reunion in September.
I was able to trust again, which I didn’t think would be possible.
I thought this season of loss had all turned around. I thought I had managed to find a good man who would be sitting next to me in church this Christmas Eve and watching the Hallmark movies with me. There would be no throwing of cookies, and maybe I wouldn’t even mind Kay and Jared too much this year.
This year, I had really been looking forward to the holidays. We had already planned out Thanksgiving and Christmas. So even though last year the holidays were really lonely and difficult, I had been thinking how happy I was and how much things can turn around in a year’s time. There would be no holiday blues this season.
“Not this year!” I thought to myself, mentally clenching my triumphant fist high into the wintery air with the conviction matched only by the likes of William Wallace before he charged the English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. “This year there will be happiness at the holidays!”
Insert “WRONG answer” buzzer sound effect.
Did you hear it? That was the sound of my hopes of seasonal bliss being “wrong answer” buzzed into oblivion.
Funny how everything can go to hell in a hand basket with one little click of the old mouse. At the beginning of October I was at my sister’s house grading papers, and before I shut down my lap top, I decided it would be a good idea to check my email one last time. Do you remember the opening scene in, “You’ve Got Mail,” when Meg Ryan talks about that excited feeling, that anticipation you get when you open your email and hear, “You’ve Got Mail!” Oh, I had mail all right, but this was not mail to get excited about. It was mail from hell.
By the time I opened my email and read all the way to the end, there was no question the sound track for my Christmas this year would be less Burl Ives, “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” and more Dolly Parton, “Hard Candy Christmas.”
It turned out that my perfect boyfriend had another girlfriend he started dating after me that he accidentally forgot to mention. According to her, a very successful, not easily bamboozled litigation attorney, there were apparently other women he was somehow managing to find the time to date in between seeing us! Insert gasp and look of sheer horror. She figured it out when she kept seeing my name appear on his caller ID and rifled through his phone. Thank God she did, or I might still be dating Sir Lies a Lot.
After several days of complete freaking out which floated all over the map of emotions from shock and disbelief to sadness and anger, I thought to myself, “Hmmm… There appears to be a pattern here.” These men keep forgetting about these other women they have scattered about to and fro. It must be taxing on the old memory. Maybe they need some Ginkgo Biloba. Maybe, as my sister suggested, we need an all points bulletin, “International Douchebag Alert” system. All I know is I could barely keep up with one boyfriend, much less two! I mean, where did he find the time, and how is he not an academy award winning actor being able to master the craft of being so believable yet so full of complete crap?
The seemingly wonderful, attentive, very successful man I thought I was in an exclusive, progressing relationship with was a big, fat as Santa’s bowl full of jelly belly, liar. The tangled web lying liar pants had been weaving all came unraveled just in time for the holiday season.
Here’s the happy ending. I survived, and you will too. Not only did I survive, I managed to find an incredible amount of joy, peace, and reconnection to God in the year and a half since my separation and divorce, and I still have that same peace and joy in the wake of yet another betrayal. This time, while the sting is still painful, it hasn’t flattened me. This time, I knew better than to give my power away to an infallible human being when the only being who deserves that kind of complete control and power is my creator.
The first betrayal taught me where and with whom my heart was completely, 100% safe. I also managed to find myself and remember who I was, what I like, what I’m passionate about, and what my dreams are. I made it my mission to find healing from what I can only sum up as trauma, and I pursued that healing with focused determination like my life depended on it… because it did.
What I’ll remember this Christmas and New Year is that Jesus came down to this crazy world, to a messy, dirty, stable that night in Bethlehem to give us abundant life, and I am not about to settle for a broken life when I know He is the one who is able to make the broken mess something beautiful again. I’m so glad the King of Kings doesn’t mind messes.
Now in addition to that wonderful news, here are a few more positive aspects about being single during Christmas. Let’s look at the bright side together, shall we?
#1 It is much better to be alone at the holidays (or any time) than with the wrong person.
#2 You have one less present to buy. Cha-ching!
#3 You can stay in your pajamas all day, not wear any make up, eat straight out of the ice cream container, and have complete control of the remote on your holiday vacation after the kids are all in bed, and there is no one there to judge you. Can you say, awesome?
#4 You can decorate your white Christmas tree you picked out yourself with hot pink beads and hot pink ornaments, and there’s no one there to stop you! I would know.
#5 You don’t have to share any of the left over advent calendar chocolate the kids didn’t want with anyone else. It’s all yours. Score!
You see, there is always a silver bells lining, even if you have to squint really hard to see it.