by Traci Porterfield
I love the holidays . . . all the decorations and glitter and holiday music, the delicious, seasonal pumpkin spice lattes, getting letters and cards from special people I wish I saw more often, and what I cherish most ― the excitement and sparkle in my son’s blue eyes as he counts down the days until Santa comes down the chimney.
I treasure the holiday time with family and friends, as well as the blessed respite from the daily routine. However, this is not a universal perception. For many people, the holidays are far from the most wonderful time of the year. They may be grieving the loss of a family member or might have experienced a difficult break-up earlier in the year, leaving them newly single in a season that celebrates togetherness and romance.
As a professional relationship coach, I’ve worked with many clients who dread the holidays because they feel uncomfortable with their single status. I remember working with a client I’ll call Carol, an attractive, newly divorced woman in her forties. She told me about going to a neighborhood Christmas party where her elderly neighbor introduced her as “the single girl next door.” A little while later, she was talking with a couple who asked her, “Who did you come to the party with?”
Carol told me that when she answered, “I came alone,” an uncomfortable silence followed and she swore that they were looking at her with pity. She said she felt like she was on display at a petting zoo, as if she were a member of a rare and endangered species that only came out between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Carol said that at any moment she expected the other party goers to take up a collection to save the species and motivate them to breed and repopulate.
I laughed but I also shook my head at her negative exaggeration. As David Simon has often said, “Reality is a selective act of perception.” Carol perceived the party through a lens that was heavily shaded with fear and insecurity. She could have just as easily focused on the friendliness of her neighbors, the opportunity to meet new friends, and gratitude for the delicious food and warm setting. The truth is that she was the one harshly judging herself. The couple she met may have been envying her apparent freedom, while the older neighbor may have wished he could be her age again.
Cultivate a Loving Internal Dialogue
If, like Carol, your internal dialogue about being single is filled with thoughts such as “What’s wrong with me? Why am I alone again? Why can’t I find a compatible partner? Everyone must think I’m a real loser . . . ” ― I would strongly encourage you to shift your perception and to remember that your essential nature is infinite spirit. While most of us were taught to seek love and happiness from external sources, both of these qualities are innately ours. When you feel lonely or isolated, it’s because fear has clouded your perception, keeping you from experiencing the love and wholeness of your true Self. There is a beautiful quote from Deepak Chopra that expresses this idea in just a few words, “That which you are seeking is seeking you.”
Whenever you find yourself caught in a negative internal dialogue about being single (or about anything else), remind yourself that the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. Ask yourself, “How can I be more loving to myself in this moment? What is the kindest thing I could do for myself right now?”
Be Open to All Expressions of Love
When I hear clients bemoan their “alone” status, and I remember the wonderful parents, siblings or children of whom they so fondly speak, I have to stop and remind them that though they do not necessarily have the specific form of love they so passionately seek, love is in abundance if they take a moment to recognize it.
Christmas shopping with their mom or sister, lighting candles with family at Hanukkah, playing with young nieces or nephews, holiday parties or outings with friends, all of these times resonate with joy and togetherness. If you put your attention on cherishing these moments and truly being present, feelings of loneliness will dissipate.
Cherish the relationships that you have with your family, friends, and co-workers. Even though they aren’t the “eros” love connection you may desire, they offer invaluable gifts of connection, comfort, and cheer during this holiday season.
Focus on Giving
As a single guy or gal, you have a rare and wonderful opportunity to help others who don’t have your freedom and flexibility. Why not offer to babysit for the couple with the new baby who have not had a night out alone in months. Invite your sister’s kids over for an afternoon so that she can finish some last-minute gift shopping. Volunteer at a soup kitchen on Christmas day because you want to help, and you CAN!
You can also enjoy the ritual of giving to yourself. Treat yourself to a massage, a new pair of shoes, or a meditation retreat. Do you want to plan a last-minute trip for New Year’s Eve? Go for it! You don’t have obligations to tie you down. The ability to be spontaneous, creative, and exuberant is a wonderful benefit to being single at this time of year! The important thing is to appreciate and take advantage of your single status in whatever way you choose, whether doing for others or nurturing yourself.
Make plans you’ll enjoy
There are a wide variety of holiday events you can enjoy by yourself or with friends. Be adventurous and try something new this year. Even if you don’t consider yourself a good singer, attend a sing-it-yourself Messiah and experience the spiritual communion of hundreds of voices soaring in unison. Even if you don’t normally attend church or temple, go for a candlelight service or concert. See a play at your local community theater or spend an afternoon curled up with a good book in front of the fire.
Appreciating where you are in life is truly one of the keys to happiness. Enjoy this portion of your journey . . . the lights, the music, and festivities – and the peace, stillness, and joy of the season. Cherish the deep connections you already have in your life, and be open to possibilities for new friends and relationships. And if you feel inclined to tell the Santa at the mall that the most important thing on your list is a wonderful person to LOVE and share your life with, then do it! Put your intentions out into the universe and know that you are infinitely lovable.
Traci Porterfield is a human resources consultant for the Chopra Center as well as the founder of Love by Design, a relationship coaching company based in Carlsbad, California.