When it comes to spending Christmas alone, I’ve discovered that there is a stigma surrounding those that opt to do so and it didn’t occur to me till I felt it last week.Whether it was a friend or relative when they would ask me my plans for Christmas, I would say I’m spending it alone. I felt some awkwardness and got the sense that people felt uncomfortable with this response, so often they would turn around and invite me to their Christmas. I respectfully declined and even then I would get calls on Christmas Eve with re-invitations and statements like, “We’d love to have you!” Or, “It’s going to be a lot of fun!” Although I appreciated the gesture, it’s not always fun. Sometimes it’s easier to take a step back and be with yourself. At one point I even received a phone call from a family friend that flat out said, “I’m picking you up at 4 pm so meet me downstairs and we’ll go to so-and-so for Christmas.” The pressure was seeping in. I again respectfully declined and when I hung up I started to feel stressed and even worse – guilt. I found myself thinking am I going to spend my quiet Christmas feeling like I let people down? Or making them think I am depressed or something? That’s another type of stigma to add to the mix. When people know you have a history of depression you can experience another layered of response, and the weight of the pressure to go along with “the plan” can be even worse.
Then at some point I just started lying to people. Not to my friends and relatives cause what if they find out, but when random people like people from my gym asked me how I was spending my Christmas I’d make up some story of my “plans” for Christmas.
So here I am with plans to get Christmas food at the Whole Foods hot bar, and watch my Real Housewives, and felt sick to my stomach and somewhat angry that I had all these people making me worry about my decision. Was I could to spend my Christmas in a panic and a state of deep seated guilt cause people are persistent on getting me to concede?
No. Now, I am certainly not complaining that I have invitations and I am truly grateful that I have such opportunities but sometimes you need to do what’s best for you and people need to be okay with it. You need to be okay with it. We all have reasons we decide to spend the Holidays alone, and we should respect those feelings and stick to them.
Yesterday, I went to my local pharmacy to pick up some things and I asked the check out girl if she had a good Christmas and she nodded. Then I asked her what she did and she replied, “I spent it with Sherman.” I responded, “Oh, is that your son?” She said, “No, it’s my dog.” When she said it I sensed the same feeling I had when I initially told people I was spending it alone. I wondered if she had experienced the same stigma and just confidently chose to ignore it. Or, maybe spending Christmas with your pet is the furthest thing from spending it alone. I swiped my card and smiled and said, “I spent it with my cat, The Fat Man.” She collected my purchases in a bag and I couldn’t help but say, “You know more people should spend the Holidays with their pets. It’s a great idea. They don’t bitch and moan or make you feel bad or fight or cause havoc. They just sit there and love you.”
She smiled and I walked off wishing her a Happy New Year and, “Give my best to Sherman!”