By Lupita Franco Peimbert.
As a long-time single person and having my siblings and relatives in another country, I’ve experienced all kinds of Thanksgiving gatherings –and all kinds of feelings.
This year, I spent Thanksgiving first at a sunrise ceremony, then at a casino in Redding. Last year and the years prior, as a single person I have had dinner by myself and loved it, had dinner by myself and disliked it, had volunteered at a homeless center helping with Thanksgiving dinner, had traveled on that day, had been a guest at someone’s home, had met with single women friends and had our Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant in Stinson Beach, had spent most of the day at a church in San Francisco, had attended a Thanksgiving-Orphan dinner in Berkeley (for those who have not family in town), and more.
Although the Holidays are supposed to be about family and coziness and being with others, a good number of people in the United States will most likely spend the Holidays alone, by circumstance or choice. And that doesn’t have to be a sad, lonely circumstance or choice by default. Check this fact for some context: 35.4 million people lived alone in 2016, comprising 28.1% of the total population, according to the US Census. That doesn’t mean that they will be alone during the Holidays; what that tells us is that singlehood as well as being alone or in one’s own is part of our society, although still stigmatized at times. It is generally perceived but those who hold traditional values as not the best situation to be part of. Interesting enough, that stigma not only makes things worse but often contributes to a person feeling less than or inadequate.
Thanksgiving is a beautiful Holiday, and although many concur with those who feel that the origins of this celebration actually is a disgrace (to say the least) to native Americans, most people agree it is a wonderful opportunity to gather, share, and love. Personally, it is my favorite Holiday and I have fond memories of sweet Thanksgivings. But as a single person who lives alone, it has not been part of my life in the traditional sense for a long time.
Every year for the past 15+ years I have had no plans for Thanksgiving. I do struggle, wondering what I would do on that precious day and weekend. I usually end up making last-minute decisions, some years ending up alone at home just because I didn’t make a decision with just enough time to make arrangements.
I have experienced a wide array of feelings during Thanksgiving, from contentment to sadness to peace to happiness and to excitement, and when I have felt lonely my forceful and optimist tendencies usually won. I enjoy life in whatever form it appears or I change my attitude to see and feel what I chose to –usually in the positive end. And I remember something extremely important, something I have known for years and deeply experienced it: Loneliness is an emotion that can be felt whether you are alone or in the presence of others. It is a voice deep from your soul that calls for a deeper connection and a profound understanding of yourself at where you are in your life now –not who you were in the past, and sometimes the past truly means last week.
I know I am not the only one who feels this way. Single, coupled or married, alone or in the company of loved ones, the important question is how connected –or disconnected we are from others, and perhaps more importantly from ourselves, our true voices and deep aims, our important desires, our unfulfilled dreams or forgotten purposes, the battles we won, our personal victories, and the energetic link to the source of life –whether you call it God, his son, the holy spirit or the universe.
It is time we stop feeling sorry or stigmatizing those who are alone during the Holidays. And for those of us who are alone this time of the year, it is time to own it and to stop justifying or explaining our civil status. I do not worry when I feel lonely, I worry when I feel disconnected. And when that happens, the first and foremost person I seek to connect or reconnect with is myself, for I cannot be with others if I cannot truly be with me, in my own skin.