It’s been a rocky, post-divorce decade of searching for new holiday traditions. But this morning, I actually woke up feeling HAPPY about Thanksgiving. Is this really me???!
Up until now, I’ve dreaded the seasonal festivities. After all, we’re entering The Worst Time of The Year for a Single Person. For me, this high-stress period officially runs from now until Feb. 14.
New Year’s Eve.
The early post-divorce years left me freaking. The prospect of my daughter and I celebrating anything as just-the-two-of-us seemed pathetic. Plus, with shared custody, she spent some holidays with her dad. Facing an empty house used to throw me into a panic. Sometimes, I’d run to the homes of understanding friends. Other times, I’d hide out in a punishing attempt to ignore everything.
In recent years, I’ve become more emotionally steady. Practice makes perfect, right? It also helps that my priorities have changed. Fearing the holidays became much too exhausting. Calming down and figuring out how to enjoy myself made more sense.
I’m finally learning to be alone.
Here are 10 ways that I built my self-confidence and continue to nurture myself:
Joy #1: I gutted and renovated my house. Growing up in Chinatown with my parents was awful. Their constant fighting left me longing for a real, cozy home. So after the divorce, I bought a house. Alone. Not only that, I hired an architect and contractor to do a full-scale renovation based on my design. I feel safe now.
Joy #2: I learned to trust my own judgement on money matters. I was the kind of wife who let my husband handle the bills. Which meant divorce was paralyzing. But I hired a patient, terrific financial adviser. It took a while to speak my mind and make suggestions. He listens, though. Working together, I survived the recession with assets intact. Phew.
Joy #3: I starting buying flowers for myself. Even though I believe dating is important, meeting guys can be a horror show. Why did they always seem to be either broke, boring, alcoholic or clueless in the romance department? I got tired of waiting for yet another loser to let me down. It was much easier to buy my own flowers.
Joy #4: I fled the PC world and bought a Mac. That was in 2006. My MacBook became my first completely satisfying romance. The Mac is sleek, smart and has a great memory. It has always loved me back. And it was brilliant of me to also purchase the $99 One-to-One membership. It entitled me to a weekly, 50-minute training lesson at my local Apple Store. With help, I quickly discovered my new love’s many delightful features.
Joy #5: Learning to use gadgets was a game changer. When my daughter was little, I bought a videocamera. Reading the instruction manual was confusing. So it sat on a shelf. Regrettably, we have no video of her first steps, her first words or her three-year-old ballet recital. My point-and-shoot camera was scary too. But look at me now! (Btw, those One-to-One lessons also provide help with some electronic toys. The rationale is that even though they’re not Mac products, they’re used for the Mac’s iPhoto and iMovie apps.)
Joy #6: Blogging introduced me to an exciting new community. Two Thanksgivings ago, I launched my blog. The experiment became a lifeline for self-expression. When there was no one else to talk to, I could reach over for my Mac, begin typing, and find you. Never did I imagine that blogging would carry me into more worlds. Facebook.Twitter. Yelp.com. LinkedIn. FourSquare. Tumblr. Oh, my goodness.
Joy #8: I found a new career — teaching. After the divorce, I needed flexibility to handle my additional single mom responsibilities. Going back into a newsroom full-time seemed like too much. I started thinking about my childhood dream to be a teacher. Now I’m in college classrooms doing my thing with writers and journalism students. Love it.
Joy #9: I’ve become a painter. How did I live without this piece of me?! Last fall, I signed up for Friday painting lessons at the Art Students League. The brush and canvas have me in a totally new emotional zone. Painting helped me to forget about being lonely.
Joy #10: I’ve gotten use to being outside of the box. The first few post-divorce years of sorrow and whining wore me out — until I had to stop being sad. Yes, I still feel guilty that my daughter doesn’t have a nuclear family. But to quote my students, wtf.
So last year, my daughter and I bailed from the idea of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Instead we went down to the city and fed the homeless at the Bowery Mission.
Today, we’ll be back in the city for something different. First up, a vegetarian dinner in Chinatown. Then off to Hammerstein Ballroom for a Nicki Minaj concert. I hope to take some pictures of both our meal and the bodacious hip hop diva. Look for them tomorrow on my Facebook page. You can view them by clicking HERE.
P.S. — Now that I’m happy being alone, something totally unexpected…In September, I met a great man. We are officially an item. Yes, he buys me flowers! (But I still get my own, too.) And no, we’re not spending Thanksgiving together. (He’s also a single parent; scheduling was complicated.) Just goes to show that meeting Someone Special doesn’t necessarily solve The Holiday Togetherness Issues. If you want to read more, let me know. :-)