Featured, Inside My Head, Solo

Fragile – Handle With Care

10 Comments 25 December 2010

Christmas ornaments tree

Fragile Christmas

Sometimes I feel so fragile. Ready to break at any moment and last night was one of those nights. A night where I was confronted with my own solo culture, family culture, my religious culture, and my country culture. As I walked the streets of NYC on Christmas Eve my mind swam in confusion.

Solo Culture:

I chose this life because I’m damn well not going to wait around pining away for a significant other; but having said that…the solo life can be challenging at times.  Especially on major holidays. When I lived in Vietnam I told myself never again would I spend a Christmas alone again…it was torture for me.  Yet two years later I’m back, but it seems even a bit more pathetic because I’m in my home country, my old city…and I’m alone.  At least in Vietnam it was somewhat justifiable.  I take responsibility for my solo Christmas in NYC – not blaming anyone.  I chose this schedule since I was going to be leaving the country again right after Christmas and it made the most sense to do it out of NYC.  Plus – even though my family urged me to come back and spend the holidays in the Midwest, it didn’t make sense for my nomadic (don’t have a real job) budget.

Family Culture:

I'm the baby if you were wondering...

I realized tonight that I find it hard to be solo on Christmas due to my strong family culture around Christmas.  It floats back to my childhood mainly. Remembering Christmas celebrations with my family;  Christmas Eve meant church, singing silent night hold a flaming candle in my hands (always a stressful moment for a worrier like me), then we’d drive home counting Christmas trees in the windows, and enter the house with the smell of turkey wafting through the house. This smell meant a feast down by the fireplace were afterwords we’d watch the black and white version of a Christmas Carol on television and then try to go to sleep while overwhelmed with excitement.  This was our tradition and it is burned in my brain forever. Sometimes I wish it wasn’t so vivid; especially tonight.

This time of year reminds me of how much I long to be a kid again. It makes me yearn for youth and the traditions in my memory. Where I was never alone. It didnt matter if my brother and I fought that night because never once do I remember being unhappy.  When I was a kid I don’t ever think I thought about what my Christmases would be like as an adult. I certainly know I never imagined them like this. Vulnerable, questioning, fragile.

On a night like tonight, when memories float through my head and tug at my heartstrings, it’s hard not to question some of  my life decisions.  Even if they are fleeting questions that will disappear tomorrow when these holidays blues pass by me and I resume my normal life.

Religious Culture:

I’m not a super religious person.  And I hate saying this as it’s so overused…I’m spiritual rather than religious (ugh – felt like a dork even typing that).  Yet this time of year my old religion calls to me.  I think it’s more about the tradition and the family culture than it is about the message.  I went to a Christmas Eve service alone tonight and that’s when all of fragility confronted me.  Damn Church – maybe that’s why I don’t normally go!  I won’t lie…there were some tears shed.  I think they were shed for the memories of my childhood more than anything…and a few questioning moments about my life in general.   Silent Night is the trigger…it’s always the trigger…flaming candle in my hand or not.

Country Culture:

After the church service I walked up the 5th Ave. by myself with my camera, amazed at what Christmas Eve in New York City was really like.  At 10 PM people were eating at Burger King, people were still working, and the streets were still bustling with people.  The subways were crowded, yet everyone was in a cheerier mood than normal.  The one thing that you can’t help but notice is that most of the people out still working were foreigners. I wondered what this holiday means to them. I also wondered about their own culture and considered what holiday in their culture is comparable. Then I came across a Gap store at 10:15pm  that was still open and customers were going inside. It made me sad.  I just couldn’t stop thinking of my old Christmases past.  That’s when I decided to call it a night.  I had to get back to the warmth of the apartment I am staying in so that I could simply digest all of this and quite frankly end this torture I was putting my mind through.  I needed to sleep off the memories and emotions that were so tangible for me tonight.

My brother sister, and I on Christmas Eve

It was a tough night.  But it was just that…a night.  Woke up feeling much better.  I think at times we need to have those fragile moments.  My solo strength was tested…but it survived in tact.  It also led me to many other learnings.  This holiday more than any other is about family for me. Put religion and consumerism aside- it is about family and relationships. I realize that currently my family members are my strongest relationships I have; thanks to travel I have become much closer to my family.  So there ya go – this fragile package is now all tied up in a pretty bow…ready to proceed…to overseas – more resilient  than ever.

View photos of NYC on my Christmas Eve late night walk home:

Your Comments

10 Comments so far

  1. Donna Hull says:

    Sherry, you don’t have to be a solo traveler to experience the lonely Christmas feelings that you just wrote about. Those precious family traditions change over time as families grow and evolve. I’ve heard many of those same feelings expressed from my boomer and senior friends who are alone this Christmas because their children are thousands of miles away starting their own family traditions. Christmas is a wonderful time of the year but it does have its down side. You made the best of it. Good for you.

    • admin says:

      Thanks Donna – I totally agree with you – it is really about the fact that as we grow older our traditions change and evolve…sometimes to a better place and sometimes to a…well…different place. Happy Holidays to you and thanks for all of the support!

  2. Sigh. I shed tears with you in this post. I have felt these same feelings…not under all the same circumstances of course, but I know that exact feeling of being alone in your head while traveling or even in your own town.

    Ultimately, I think it is so good for us to have these introspective moments that some people never get to ‘stop’ and have.

    I knew you were staying with a friend, didn’t know you would be alone. I would have invited you over to NJ for some Chinese dinner with my wacky family! Some new traditions for next year if you are around! :) xx

    • admin says:

      It was an evening that had to happen…sometimes your mind and body just need to purge and a moment like Christmas Eve was a perfect time to trigger that purge. I feel much better now! Thanks for the invite next year – but we will be in France…remember?!

      Hope you are enjoying the blizzard…I am/was supposed to leave tomorrow out of Newark…but it’s looking a bit questionable!

  3. Laura says:

    I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not sure I could handle the holidays alone- which is why I made it home 3 days before Thanksgiving! However, I have a friend who spent it without her family and I listened to her as she shed tears over the phone with me on Christmas Day. Holidays are thought of as happy and jolly but really tough to swallow alone. I’m sure your days are looking much brighter though with your upcoming trip to Italy with a friend :)

    • admin says:

      Sadly I think I”m getting used to holidays alone! Actually it wasn’t too terrible…I felt much better the next day. I just needed to be in a funk on Christmas Eve…it was apparently what my mind and body were craving.
      Hope you are settling back in – what’s next?!

  4. Ack – should have read this post first. I completely understand and my heart goes out to you. I’ll tell you a secret. I have a very small family and a father who will soon be 85. I ALWAYS go home for Christmas, but I thought this year it would be OK to be away. I had every intention of spending Christmas in Nepal but as the big day approached I started to struggle over my decision. What if I didn’t go home and then something happened to my Dad before I saw him again. I would never have forgiven myself. So, I hopped a plane and came home. But even that has been difficult. I’ve come back from Asia, where family values are so much healthier, into a wasteful consumer society, and I am SO uncomfortable in my skin, which I know you can understand. Thankfully, I’m headed right back to Asia. Glad to hear that things looked better the next morning; they usually do. Much love to you, and have a great time in Italy!

    • admin says:

      Oh my gosh Barbara – what a wonderful thing to do for your dad. Thanks for sharing as it makes me feel like less of a wuss for sitting around on Christmas Eve crying and feeling sorry for myself. I just can’t believe that you flew there and back so quickly. Good thing you got out of the US again as I’m stuck here right now. I was supposed to leave for Italy today – but the Blizzard shut everything down!
      I totally know what you mean about Asia and family values – it’s one of my favorite things about it there. I’m really excited to see if it’s the same in the Middle East this winter. Maybe it’s really only the Americans who have it all wrong!

  5. Gray says:

    I can totally relate to this. In my case, I could always spend Christmas with family if I wanted to, but I prefer to travel if I can. I find it more difficult being surrounded by couples in my family, reminded that I’m the one who’s “not like the others.” Christmas is torturous for singles. We all have this image in our heads of the ideal Christmas, but reality is rarely like that. To me, Christmas has become something I just need to get through every year, one way or another.

  6. Mark H says:

    I’ve spent several Christmas’s away over the years – some living overseas, some on holidays and a couple due to work pressures. It is the saddest time to spend alone – maybe my upbringing trained me that Christmas was a family time. I feel for you through this time.

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Sherry traveling the world

I'm Sherry, a corporate cube dweller turned nomadic traveler. I travel to off-the-beaten-path destinations to bring you unique travel experiences and photography. But it's not just about travel, it's also about life experiences of a middle age wanderer.
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Minnesota/Wisconsin -> Nebraska

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