If you’ve lived them which is probably why you are reading this, you know what I’m talking about…and it’s not what Hallmark brainwashes us with. For those of us living divorce, it’s those excruciating times of year - Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s - when the pain of loneliness and the issues of dealing with kids and family members often leads to way too many sweets, overimbibing and general mental distress. After too many unwanted pounds, hangovers and sad children, I’ve decided to ditch the self pity and Hallmark’s indoctrination of holiday perfection and get mad as hell and not take it anymore. Easier said than done but no one ever said marriage, divorce or parenting were easy. No, my life is not Ozzie and Harriet Hallmark perfect but my life isn’t over come the hellidays, it’s just different.
With unrealistic expectations of holidays already running rampant, divorced or not, shifting my attitude to accepting my situation, losing some selfishness and animosity and taking control of my emotions has helped and has made those around me much happier too. I no longer let Hallmark or my relationship status turn my holidays into hellidays. Rather, I use the time to reflect on the past and get excited about the future. When it comes to Christmas, I now try to give my son the best gift I can and that is one of a season without conflict or arguing. My new and improved way of thinking is to take control of my choices and start new traditions from binging on Netflix all night to giving up time with my son so he can hang out with his friends. This Modern way of thinking is actually very empowering and liberating at the same time.
I admit it, the first hellidays I was lost navigating through the legal and financial stuff, worrying about my son, mending my broken heart and general fear of the unknown. I wish I had had the new me to change my antiquated thinking. So, looking back, here is what I wish I had known and am glad I know now.
1. FORM A GROUP - pull together others in the same throes of helliday hatred and make some new friends. Broaden your social circle and turn that sense of survival into one of thriving.
2. FAILURE, NO WAY - think of yourself as courageous and fearless in moving to this next stage of your life. Look forward to the unknown and all the adventures waiting for you.
3. GUILT, GET OVER IT - do the best you can with your kids, feel sorry for your ex-partner’s new flame, treat yourself when you need to and take up yoga…it helped me.
4. IT’S OK TO SOB SOMETIMES - just don’t make a habit of it. Reach out to others. Then dry up those tears and realize you have a whole world out there waiting for you to conquer.
5. BE SELFLESS - feed the hungry on Thanksgiving, save a pet on Christmas and bake brownies for an assisted living facility on Valentine’s.
6. ASK FOR HELP - reach out to others and not just your comrades. Seek the help of a professional if you need to. Take advantage of the skills and experience of such experts.
7. JUST DO YOUR BEST - be the best parent you can be, embrace this new life of yours and the unexpected and be good to yourself.
8. BE AWARE - keep a check on reality and the world around you. You are not the center of the universe. Focus on your friends, your family and those out there way less fortunate.
9. LIMIT THE EGGNOG & FRUITCAKE - instead take a brisk walk, write in a journal, call a friend, buy yourself a present and I promise you’ll feel better in the morning.
10. HELP OTHERS - please, please, please add to this list with suggestions of your own…we can all use a little help from our friends!