Surviving (and Enjoying) the Holidays Without Your Village

This time of the year is a challenging one. Growing up in a big family, the holiday season for me has always meant weeks and weeks of activities during the months of November and December... like going to friends and family gatherings and baking cookies at grandma's. In my youth and throughout my adulthood, my mom also had her unique way of making Christmas time so warm and comfortable year after year... candles flickering, fireplace blazing, comfy Christmas pillows to snuggle up with on the couch, the same personalized stockings and ceramic Santa mugs brought out, and my dad singing in the background, his classic Christmas album playing on heavy rotation for days on end.

It was all so fun, so familiar, so comfortable... the family traditions I knew so well. Even when I met my husband and we began dating, our holiday traditions stayed pretty much the same, as he slipped into whatever my family already had in place and I alternately fit into his family's own traditions.

Family, parents, kids, lifelong friends... all the people I loved most in my life, gathering together year after year in the ways we always had to support and enjoy each other and celebrate the season and all our blessings.

That's the way it was. It wasn't perfect or magical, although it felt that way sometimes; but it was always special and unique to us. It was our way. It was home to me - my home base, my reality, my village. It just WAS.

Then, it wasn't.

What seems like almost overnight, but what actually took several years to creep into existence, those traditions have - and that particular togetherness has - slowly faded away. The gatherings of certain family members and friends that once were, are now no more than cherished memories.   

People have died, friends have moved on, and family members have aged or become complacent, or both... a mix of circumstances all culminating in the demise of the village of people I once knew. Of the village I relied upon. Of the village I didn't realize was disbanding until it was no longer there.

And now that it is gone, I miss it. I miss what it once was. I miss what I once was, and of what I once was a part. I miss the individuals not here that made up the whole.

When your heart fits with another, the void left by their absence is palpable. Whether it was someone I loved that has passed away or someone I love that is still here but out of my reach, the reality of going on without certain people is just hard. Finding the presence of those once so dominant in my life almost non-existent now has the potential to render me a shambles emotionally... if I let it.

I just won't let it. And you should not either.

As much as we seek comfort in the old, we must embrace the new. While remembering that which once was, we must discover what still can be. There are new traditions to be started and old ones to keep alive... new villages to build and old ones to revere... new relationships to cultivate and old ones to honor and cherish.

Enjoying the holiday season without your village may take some acceptance that life is not as it once was. It may take some mindfulness to cultivate gratitude for the good that is in your life now. It may take you momentarily feeling the sadness and the void of those not with you as they were before; but it also may take you finding the resolve and awareness to fully embrace and appreciate those that are with you in the present moment.

It may take what it takes... but it is possible. And it is definitely worth the effort. New lives, new traditions, new villages - they are started every day. Everywhere. All we have to do is recognize them, greet them, and be open to letting them into our hearts.