I had one of those shocking moments recently where I suddenly realized that it’s almost Thanksgiving and I’m living alone. And I had the requisite reaction to that for a few hours.
Oh, my god!
It’s almost Thanksgiving!
And I’m living alone!
Which means . . . I’m going to be alone on Thanksgiving!
Oh, NO . . .
The thought sat there in my gut for a few hours like some super-sized greasy hamburger and fries, making me mildly nauseated and regretful for having it. And then I started tip toeing around the feelings and thinking, “Hmmm . . . that’s interesting. Why is being alone on Thanksgiving such a terrible, terrible thing?”
In my original definition of The Hermit, I wrote:
This is a card of solitude and the individual is very much withdrawn from others around him. This isn’t a bad sort of solitude, however, this is a solitude that involves spiritual growth and contemplation.
The point being that there are times in our lives when it’s totally appropriate and healthy to be alone. In my case, my partner of 19 years died last year and this is a period of self-imposed solitude, meditation, and thought for me. The silence really is golden and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’d say that there are a bunch of us in the same boat, but we’re not in the same boat. We’re in our separate little boats drifting along on our own currents, but hopefully you take my meaning. Perhaps, like me, they’ve had a partner die or maybe they’ve gone through a divorce or they have a job that requires them to work on the holidays.
For many of them, they are alone the majority of the time and THAT’S ALL RIGHT the majority of the time.
So what is it about the holidays that makes us feel like it’s somehow NOT alright to be alone?
I think one of the keys lies in the word itself: alone. We assign a lot of negative connotations to that word. Alone is sad, pitiful, lost, desolate and, of course, lonely. We have to learn how to draw the venom out of the word and out of the concept.
Scott Cunningham wrote a lovely little light-weight book called, “Wicca For the Solitary Practitioner,” and I really dig that concept. I am not alone; I am a solitary practitioner. I make my own magic now.
Solitude does not equal loneliness. Solitude many times equals healing and immense spiritual and emotional growth. It’s something to be treasured, not dreaded. People who are, “alone,” are many times very, very happy, evolved beings.
Another key, of course, is societal expectations. Thanksgiving is a time to sit down with members of your family – no matter how much you may loathe some of them – and eat very large quantities of dead birds. We all know that and we’re programmed with that from the time we’re kids. You never saw a Norman Rockwell painting of Thanksgiving that featured one guy sitting by himself eating lasagna, right?
Just LOOK at those happy campers! It’s Thanksgiving and they’re not alone. And, boy, that dead bird looks just perfect! No lasagna on THAT table.
And that’s the point: it’s not being alone on the holidays that makes us feel bad, it’s the expectation that somehow we’re not supposed to be alone on the holidays and that if we are alone something is dreadfully wrong. In other words, if you’re okay with living alone 363 days of the year but it makes you feel terrible on Thanksgiving and Christmas, it ain’t being alone that’s bumming you out – it’s Christmas and Thanksgiving.
So what do we do about that? One solution that I see with some of my friends is to get very, very hostile toward Christmas and Thanksgiving. “They’re artificial holidays. They’re so commercialized and materialistic. They’ve lost the original meanings. Etc., etc. etc.”
You know – sort of the modern day, “Bah, humbug,” solution. If you don’t have at least one friend who’s a Bah Humbugger you must not spend much time on FaceBook.
But . . . somehow . . . that doesn’t feel quite right, either. With all of their glitz, tinsel, and artificiality, I’ve had some really wonderful holidays with family and friends in the past. I’m happy for my friends who are still in that groove and I don’t want to rain on anyone’s Macy’s Parade.
It’s just not me anymore.
It seems to me that there are really only a couple of rational responses to the holidays when you’re a Solitary Practitioner.
- You can pretend that they just aren’t happening and that it’s just like any other day of the year. That requires some Deeply Disciplined Denial, but you can pull it off if you live by yourself and insert ear plugs before you walk into a store.
- You can invent new rituals and traditions and OWN those days instead of letting them own you.
I’m not sure, yet, but I think I’m leaning toward the second solution.
Christian fundamentalists get in a royal snit when you say, “Happy Holidays,” instead of, “Merry Christmas.” They forget – or ignore – that the original pronunciation of the term was, “Happy Holy Days.”
The celebrations of the harvest and abundance – what we call Thanksgiving – and lighting bright lights and candles on the darkest day of the year – what we call Christmas – have been Holy Days from time immemorial. They’re built into our Souls and have nothing to do with Jesus, Pilgrims, America, or eating large,dead birds.
I can celebrate that as The Hermit as easily as I can in a crowd. I just need some good lasagna recipes.