November 26, 2012

What a relief. After a dozen post-divorce years of figuring out how to deal with the holidays, I actually had a very happy, stress-free Thanksgiving. Now I’m sailing into the Christmas season feeling very serene. And grasshoppers, there is no turning back.

This relaxed positivity is totally new. The initial phase as  a single mom was quite frantic. It seemed both un-American AND anti-Asian/anti-family to spend the holidays on our own. Even with my little girl in tow, it still felt “alone” back then because it was only the two of us. We did a lot of hopping around, landing with either family or friends. After nearly a decade, this got pretty exhausting. It was time to reorganize….

So right before Thanksgiving 2009, I told my daughter that we were going to start a new tradition of trying something different every year. We would experiment and see what we liked. That particular November, we went to New York City and helped to feed the homeless. Afterwards, we grabbed a bite at Buddha Bodai, a vegetarian restaurant in Chinatown.

Then in 2010, we went to a Thanksgiving night Nicki Minaj concert in midtown Manhattan. It was the first time either of us had been to a hip hop concert! Right before the show, we were back at Buddha Bodai for a quick bite. As for 2011, we had our first traditional turkey dinner in Manhattan, at the lovely home of a friend. That was memorable too.

And this year? Well, our new adventure was to plan NOTHING. But on Nov. 22, we decided, hey, let’s go back to Buddha Bodai. So we drove down and it was so interesting. The restaurant was busier than in Thanksgivings past. There were also more non-Asians than ever before — mostly white folks. Could it be that other people are breaking away from the traditional turkey day routine too?

We ordered a lot had took home a bunch of doggie bags:

I don’t know if we’ll be back at Buddha Bodai in 2013. The point is, ho hum, who cares? Anything goes. Some people have the joys of a big family tradition filled with lots of people and food. For us, there is the freedom to do whatever we want.

It’s been a long haul to get to this contented state. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way:

Tip #1: It’s okay to feel lonely. The first few post-divorce years were tough, like going through holiday de-tox. Looking back, I can see this was normal and necessary. It was important to let go.

Tip #2: Experimentation leads to new options. It takes real effort to try different things during a period that celebrates tradition. But getting out and about was the only way to figure out what else might be fun.

Tip #3: There is no such thing as the perfect holiday or perfect family. In the past, I attached so much symbolism to the season and basically set myself up to feel pathetic. But the truth is, nobody has everything. The goal is to fully appreciate what I have.

Going forward, there will be new challenges. I see a future where the holidays will have me more and more on my own. The kid already spends alternating Christmases with her daddy. But even more important, she is growing up and will soon have her own life and plans — depending on where she ends up in this world, some years, the holidays might not include her parents at all.

In other words, this is just the beginning of me getting a life. Well, bring it on!


And here are two earlier related posts that you might like:

Holiday Season and Divorce: 10 Survival Skills (Nov. 25, 2010)

Chinese vegetarian at Buddha Bodai (Oct. 18, 2009)

Also worth reading…a fabulous, info-packed New York Time travel story:

Single for the Holidays (Nov. 2, 2012)