Going Solo

Pam Chambers is a single woman who designs the holiday she wants every season. This year, her grown sons informed her they would spend Christmas with their father and his girlfriend in Hilo. The news filled her eyes with tears. Briefly. "I spent about 20 seconds being disappointed," says Chambers, a presentation coach in Honolulu. Her solution? She asked if she could join them at her ex-husband’s house on Christmas day. Her flexibility thrilled everyone.

Loneliness and self-pity usually arise from the unrealistic expectations that burden nearly everyone during the holidays.

Notes Chambers: "You can either wallow in self-pity–and some people like that–or you can say, "What can I create for myself that would be fun?’"

Loneliness and self-pity usually arise from the unrealistic expectations that burden nearly everyone during the holidays, but often hit singles the hardest. Young singles who have never been coupled miss home and carry exaggerated memories of holiday bliss from childhood, according to Eugene Landy, a clinical psychologist in Honolulu. Those who have been coupled or married sometimes suffer guilt about a broken family.

"There’s a tremendous mythology that has been created around the holidays, primarily through relentless marketing," adds clinical psychologist Robert Davé. "For most people it’s a gigantic fiction. But the marketing is very powerful. If you give in to it, you can be made to feel very badly about your circumstances."

Unlike the iconic holiday film It’s a Wonderful Life, "It doesn’t end happily in real life," Landy says. "It ends differently. And that is perceived as unhappy."

So what can singles do in Honolulu around the holidays to shun the blues?

    Read more and shun television. "That’s very grounding," says Landy, and helps you avoid the manufactured images of idyllic families and harmonious social gatherings.

    Drink less alcohol and control your diet. Stuffing your face and laughing louder than everyone else is sure to be gratification of the temporary kind.

    Exercise more. Many gyms offer entertaining evening activities, such as salsa dance classes, and working out is a good way to meet people.

    Stop whining about how others didn’t remember to purchase the perfect gift, and buy it for yourself. Treat yourself to a massage or a pedicure as well.

    Share yourself and your talents. Bake brownies for friends. Write cards. Invite someone to lunch. Help a neighbor move. Find the perfect book for a relative. Volunteer at a women’s shelter.

    Ask for assistance. You can use your loneliness to feed your role as victim, or create an opportunity, says Davé. Most insurance programs make it relatively inexpensive to seek professional counseling. Reach out, let your friends know you’d like an invitation to their parties. Bring a bottle of wine or a dessert, and make an effort to introduce yourself to new people.

    • Most of all, enjoy your freedom. Do whatever you want with whomever you like. The most authentic families are the ones you create when you invite people into your life.

And always remember, the holidays aren’t perfect for the married folks either.