It is coming to that time of year again when we are deluged with commercials of happy families, laughing children, beaming smiles, shared times with friends spending happy Christmas Days together. There are however some of us who are newly divorced, separated and don't live with or near families.
Christmas can feel daunting, when are alone or trying to adjust to being single and alone. I know, I've done it. My car needed repairs and I couldn't make the trip to my family or see my children. Christmas loomed like a dark, impending cloud. It all felt very surreal as if I was an outsider looking in on a different world to mine. I thought about how lonely it was going to feel, it was depressing.
Then it suddenly hit me! Everyone was going to be involved with their own lives, so why shouldn't I be involved with mine? Why couldn't I be an active participant in my own Christmas? The idea started to evolve. I could do anything I wanted! A day of self-healing… For me. That would be a gift. What if this was to be the only Christmas Day I got to spend on my own? Or what if this is the start of my own new tradition?
The more I thought about it, the more excited I became. Just think of it, a rare chance to do your own Christmas! I started planning it. What did I want to eat? To forget having to accommodate friends and family and who can eat what or allergies that had to be taken into consideration. What did I want? After all, I didn't have to slave for hours in the kitchen cooking turkey, ham and all the sides. I could have sushi, a stir-fry, a curry, something completely different. Who was going to complain? No-one! I planned my simple meal with a desert and included snacks for the day. I bought some Christmas patterned paper napkins. They were going to be the tablecloth for my tray, yes my tray. I'd realized I didn't even have to eat at the table, no, my Christmas dinner was going to be on a tray, watching a movie of my choice.
I thought about decorations. Did I want to spend time decorating a tree? I didn't. I strung some Christmas lights across the chimney, above the fireplace. I turned them on, they glowed, sparkly in the dimly light room, promising a day of comfort, warmth and celebration on my own terms.
The next item on my list was a gift, the day of self-indulgence was a gift but it was going to be a day of self-discovery, of finding inner strength. I bought new bath salts, a book I had wanted to read for the longest time and a cheap guitar with The Dummies Guide to Playing the Guitar for Beginners. The guitar was something else I had been putting off learning. I couldn't when I was married, there had never been enough time with a demanding, abusive husband and work which had typically started at seven in the morning and finished at one am every day. I was a workaholic. Work had been an escape mechanism from my relationship. I was self-employed, home office and my ex would constantly be at my office door, asking me when I was going to make him wealthy.
I started to look forward to Christmas. There was going to good food, a movie, time to read, time to learn something new, time to soak in a warm, scented bath with cozy candles. As it approached, I started to get excited.
When Christmas Day dawned, I made fresh coffee, lounging, I watched the news and caught up on what was happening in the world. Later, I padded into the bathroom and was soon relaxing in the bath tub, any stress I'd had was slowly gone. I thought of friends and family, of how they would be running around trying to get everything prepared for the oven, none of them could have the time to wallow in pure self-indulgence.
I caught up with family and friends after on the phone, we all wished each other the best for the day. Later, I cooked my simple meal, which was delicious as I watched the movie, along with a glass of wine and dessert. It was bliss.
The guitar was fun, it felt strange doing something just for me, something new. I decided to go for a walk. It was quiet outside, everyone tucked up in their homes. It was quiet, peaceful and relaxing. I was amazed at how much I was enjoying my 'Me Day'.
Back at home, coffee in hand I snuggled down on the with leftovers from lunch, snacks and my new book.
That evening the silence was broken by my neighbors, shouting at each. Clothes were flying out of their bedroom window, into the night sky. He was stood in the cold night air, trying to catch them, as she screamed out to the world about his infidelities. It was sad. I felt guilty. I'd had the most relaxing, soothing day of ultimate self-care and healing, and this couple had argued all day.
I had panicked before Christmas, thinking of how lonely and desperate I would be, when in fact so many people surrounded by loved ones, families and friends had felt lonely and I hadn't.
So here are 7 tips for you on your holiday:
1. Plan it, seriously. This will be a day of "Me Time." Plan the food you want because you can go by your own rules!
2. Take a stroll. Just because we are on our own doesn't mean we can't go out. I took a stroll down the harbor. I sat on a bench, watched people hurriedly walk their dogs so they could get back to their families. They had, after all, been told to hurry. I sat on a bench, and watched the boats bob up and down in the water, hearing their masts clang, as the wind that tugged at my coat and hat, tugged at them too. It was peaceful, I hadn't seen the harbor so quiet, it felt like it was mine just for a short time.
3. Be self-indulgent! Before the day arrives, treat yourself to something purely for yourself and your senses.
4. Put some time aside to call, Skype, Hangout with those you want to wish a Happy Christmas too. Enjoy the family, friends you would like to be with but can't be. Connect simply and enjoy the moments.
5. Buy yourself a gift, because you deserve it!
6. Watch, the movie you have always wanted to watch but never had time, because of all the usual commitments our normal, daily lives hold for us.
7. Take time to enjoy the moments the day brings you, enjoy the first sip of fresh morning coffee, the stillness of the day. Let the calmness wash over you, find the inner you, stop and breathe. All stresses and worries can wait a day.
When we are busy all year, our minds active, it can be difficult to unwind, to let our minds drift. To stop and breathe, simply for just one day with no commitments but to ourselves. It gives us a chance to decide what we want in the new year ahead. We can make each moment count, for it to be a blessing and to be our authentic selves. To ourselves a gift of self-healing after abuse.
What do you plan this Christmas?
Do you have plans, even just moments for self-healing?
Some decadent self-indulgences?
Claire is an author, life coach, cognitive behavioral therapist, and advocate. Claire has been a speaker on Domestic Violence at various events: Barrier Free Living, Moving Beyond Shame, Shattering the Silence Tour in NYC. She has also appeared on various Blog Talk Radio shows including Freedom Talk Radio with Andy Peacher in the UK, also contributing posts to See the Triumph Organisation, etc. Her work has been endorsed by various professionals including Carol Senior of the American Screenwriters Guild, Audry Hardy of The Hope Healing House Foundation, Ohio. She is a certified Life Coach and Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, and holds diplomas in Psychology and Mental Health. You can learn more about Claire at http://www.clairecappetta.co.uk .