November 26, 2009

When I first got divorced, the holidays were about fighting my fear of loneliness. Fast forward 10 years later to this Christmas. Now, I’m facing a tougher battle: Fighting my fear of — connecting.

And I didn’t see this one coming.

After all, I’ve been so focused on being Miss Independent. The role doesn’t come naturally, you know. My college sweetheart and I were together more than two decades. Which is to say that I’m really a very old-fashioned girl…

So yes, it still feels odd that The Princess, 14, always  alternates holidays between me and Daddy. This year she’s with him, her stepmom and two cute little sisters from their marriage.

I figured this would be the Christmas where I would prove that I could enjoy being by myself. Then Princess got on my case: “You can’t spend Christmas alone!”

Hey, I’m in charge here. I changed your diapers, kid. Don’t tell me what to do.

I had the same message for my friends. The way everyone worries about me is embarrassing. I hate seeming pathetic. It never struck me that my friends might actually enjoy my company.

But whatever. With The Princess insisting, I tried to get social. Unfortunately, it didn’t go too well…

On Christmas Eve, I was supposed to watch my 5-year-old goddaughter play an angel in the local church pageant. Somehow, I managed to show up 15 minutes late. Standing in the back of the crowded chapel, I couldn’t see her!

Afterwards, I was supposed to go to dinner at a friend’s house in New Jersey, with her hubby and three kids, mom and sisters. But I spaced out and  mixed up the date, thinking that we were on for dining Christmas Day. At 8:30 p.m. on Christmas Eve, my friend called looking for me. Her dinner had started at 7. She was scared that I was in car accident; I was home.

Oh, no! Sorry!

When I told my daughter about what happened, she was horrified.

“Are you serious?!” The Princess asked. “How could you do that?”

I didn’t have a good answer.

That’s when I realized that I’m being defensive over nothing. Of course I’m handling things.

There’s nothing to prove here. Can’t I just relax and enjoy?!

Apparently not.

The good news? Christmas Day was better. I called Princess and promised her that I won’t try to upstage the holidays again. I’ll go with the flow and hang with friends.  Didn’t realize I was drawing attention to myself by acting like a martyr. Ugh, I remind myself of my manipulative mother.

“You don’t want to be, like, a loner,”  The Princess said kindly.

I also made a call to a neighbor who is single. Told her I was going to the movies and invited her to come along. And we had fun. If you’re divorced or thinking of doing it, see “It’s Complicated.” So comforting to laugh and laugh. Loved Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin! Great insights here on the new, post-divorce normal.

My, my. Back in college, I hoped for a perfect family, a perfect life. Well honey, this ain’t it. But we still have solid moments. I think my ex- and I are doing a decent job of making sure our Princess knows that she is truly loved.

So now it’s time to deal with my own issues. Hmm.

The fact that I botched the church pageant and my friend’s dinner tells me that I’ve forgotten how to feel communal. Oh man, I’m out of practice. Can’t believe I’m being so passive-aggressive in dealing with those who care about me.

Well, New Year’s is coming up soon. I’ll do my best to practice getting out there.