I have never been afraid of being alone. Maybe because I come from a large family, where I struggled for my voice to be heard or always shared a room or lived in a house filled with relatives who stayed for an indefinite amount of time. Alone was something I needed to hunt for as a child. As an adult, I’ve taken advantage of my singleness and aloneness, unafraid to go to a movie, event, or even travel by myself.
So in March 2020, when my manager called to tell me I would begin working remotely…I wasn’t at all mad about it. That’s an understatement really.
I was overwhelmed with gratitude that I would be able to work from home…by myself. In all honesty, while others have struggled during this pandemic to be isolated, I have mostly thrived.
I have more time to prepare healthy meals, take care of my health, cultivate relationships, develop new hobbies, and enjoy some quiet. I have created online prayer and writing groups to stay connected with my community. I even bought a trampoline to have a little dancing-jumping fun in place of the gym.
But the holidays are a little different, aren’t they?
Coming from a big family, with big traditions, always meant days of preparation, cooking, and activities for the kids. I never found myself bored on a holiday, that’s for sure. But this year leading up to Thanksgiving I ended up sick for several weeks. Although my COVID tests came back negative, I didn’t feel like I had enough strength to travel, nor did I want to put anyone at risk in case I unknowingly caught the virus. Thinking to myself ‘I’m okay being alone’, I decided to just stay home. I didn’t plan anything. I didn't have anywhere to go. I figured it would be a nice day for rest and quiet.
That all sounded good in theory, but again, I am a girl that comes from big family traditions. So when I woke up on Thanksgiving day with an urge to cook, I knew I couldn’t ignore it. Only problem was, I had nothing to prepare. And since I jumped on the holiday train a little late, I was left with only one store open.
Not to be discouraged, I took on the challenge and looked for my holiday meal preparations. I was able to purchase a small turkey breast (rather than the whole one) and simple side dishes, like sweet potatoes and green beans. I knew I wanted to cook, but I stuck with simple options rather than traditional dishes my family would prepare.
That decision turned out to be the right one because I later discovered I only had one small pan to cook with. That’s right folks, one pan for a thanksgiving feast (feast-ish).
Determined to not sit alone on Thanksgiving without a meal, I did what any creative person would do…I improvised.
A few calls to my sisters and mom and together we determined I could cook my small feast, in my small pan. It would only take some perseverance on my part. A couple hours passed and I proudly announced to my family, with pictures included, that “I did it!” They were equally relieved to know I would not go hungry on this holiday.
As I sat to enjoy my creatively prepared meal, it hit me, “I’m alone”.
Again, this has never bothered me before…but something about the holidays makes you want to be around the people you love. But here I was, in a brand new place, with no friends or family.
Just me. Alone.
This is not how I envisioned my day or season. This is not what I expected. And I wasn't a fan.
As I cried to the Lord about how hard this moment was, I heard Him say “what traditions can you start?”
I knew He was telling me “Rosie, you are here. Not alone. Just here. What can you do to enjoy this holiday instead of being sad?” And at that moment I thought “Christmas decorations!”
I got in my car and drove to see the Christmas lights and trees my new city had to offer. There were so many other people around, I no longer felt alone….and Christmas lights never fail to brighten my day. Since I was in a tourist destination, there were plenty of stores open and I decided to buy a Christmas ornament to kick off the season. "A new tradition!" I thought.
My sadness didn’t completely disappear, though it was eased. And I still wish I had planned in advance to cook a better meal, but my day was not wasted or lost and I still had my traditions, even if a little different.
I know this year many of us will find ourselves with things looking a little differently. I don’t have a magical formula for spending the holidays alone or overcoming the grief that many are facing these days. But what I can say is, “What can you do?”
What can you do that will bring you joy?
Do something that will brighten your day. It might not be what it has been in the past, but it might end up being the start of a new tradition that will last for decades to come.
*Repost from Nov 2020