This is my first holiday season post divorce. It’s been challenging in a good way, but it hasn’t been easy. With so many changes and opportunities, I feel like Stretch Armstrong (the gel-filled action figure from the 70s) spread thin and pulled in multiple directions. Hey, I am experiencing a new chapter and an entirely fresh way to celebrate life and experience the holidays.

Luckily for me, I view challenges and change as learning opportunities that help me to grow stronger and love myself more deeply. What keeps me aloft and enables me to remain joyful is becoming rather than bemoaning. Rather than dwelling on the past, I focus on the future, stay present and appreciate now.

My divorce was finalized in September, and while I am happy with my new marital status as the holidays approached I was scared. For my entire life the holidays, especially Thanksgiving, have been a family affair. First it was Mom, Dad and my two siblings and then my ex and my own kids. This year it’s my Beau, Athena (our rescue cat who loves any holiday centered on poultry) and I.

What was I afraid of? The difficult emotions that I knew would bubbled up as Thanksgiving loomed. The thought of turkey with stuffing without my kids was depressing. I felt naked, raw, lonely and experienced intense longing tinged with regret. Choked up and bogged down, drowning in old memories – watching the Macy’s Parade and The National Dog Show as the turkey cooked, playing Monopoly, setting up the Christmas tree…I lost it on several occasions.

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving Beau and I were in the supermarket shopping for our first Thanksgiving together. I had a major meltdown and started crying in the checkout line. Tight, tense, claustrophobic and completely overwhelmed I needed air. I left Beau with the turkey, apples and piecrust and dashed outside. He didn’t know what to do, and at the moment I was clueless myself. Where the *&^% was the confident, joyful woman who empowers other women at midlife?

How did I get centered and reconnect with my joy despite the pain? I let go of the past, focused on the future and used my mindfulness superpowers to enjoy the present.

I started by creating new traditions. Rather than staying home and fixing a meal, Beau and I volunteered at the Turning Point Center, which is a safe, supportive place for people in recovery. Okay I know it doesn’t sound romantic, but it’s where we met and fell in love. We’re both healers who volunteer there.

Together we spread our love, creating a feast for the guests many of whom were struggling with substance abuse, unemployment and relationship issues. I cooked a gorgeous 14-pound turkey and Beau made two luscious apple pies form scratch. Others brought potatoes, stuffing and veggies. We were a family of sorts gratefully enjoying a meal and friendship by the light of the Yule log burning on the 50-inch color TV. For dessert Beau and I served up healing, offering Reiki and acudetox. I left the center lighter on Thanksgiving than I had been in years. I was fulfilled rather than stuffed.

My heart goes out to any and everyone who is struggling with the holidays. Maybe like me you’re going through divorce or separation, perhaps a loved one has died, the kids aren’t coming home this year or you or someone close to you is struggling with illness.

Whatever you are experiencing, it’s all good! Feeling merry and bright, it’s all good! Struggling, it’s okay. When the world feels heavy you can turn it all around if you want. Wherever you are this holiday season here are some tips to help you on your JOrneY.

Be easy with yourself

Just like every other human being you deserve love and compassion. Forgive yourself and show yourself kindness rather than self-criticism. Practice self-compassion when you are stressed or suffering by treating yourself the way you would a good friend.

Slow down

It’s easy to get overwhelmed during the holidays, running around like a headless turkey buying and doing for everyone else. Breathe. Connect with the wonder of the season – the darkness, the light, the refreshing cold, snow, holiday music, food, festivities…

Focus on others

Volunteer and find a way to help someone who is struggling. Trust me you’ll forget your sorrows and feel better. If you’re already doing well you’ll feel great.

Let happiness happen

Embrace the new way the holidays are happening for you. Happiness is an inside job. Along with joy, happiness bubbles up when you connect with the calm, peaceful place inside of you. Go there, often!

Create new traditions

Regardless of your religious background, reinvent the holidays and celebrate in a way that feels right for you.

Accept what is

Feel good about who you are and what your life looks like now. Keep telling your self IT’S ALL GOOD and post the affirmation everywhere – on your mirror, dashboard, computer and phone. You are a perfectly imperfect and you are a divine being who is deeply loved.

Shift your perspective

In the words of Wayne Dyer, “If you change the way you look at things the things you look at change.” My favorite way to do this is remembering that I am a soul having a human experience. Everything I am experiencing is happening to help me grow and glow.

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