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Surviving Christmas On Your Own

This Christmas marriages will break up, old lovers will commit to one another, new lovers will find each other, families will argue, children will hate their presents, vegetarian guests will stick to spuds and sprouts, and granny will overdose on sherry. These people will all have something in common: each other. There is another side to Christmas that is overlooked: those who are alone. The elderly who have passed their use-by date, the divorced singletons who are persona non grata by virtue of being solo, the homeless, and those too impoverished to celebrate Christmas at all. Each of these people will feel desolate and unhappy on Christmas Day - please think of them.

For those who are alone on Christmas Day here's my advice:

Volunteer: Get in touch with a local charity and offer your services over Christmas. This is easier said than done from personal experience as you will have to pass a CRB check and this can take up to two weeks to process. But there's still time if you make contact asap.

Go for a walk: London is eerily silent and deserted on Christmas Day as everyone is indoors or away so why not grab a map and head off at your own pace? You may discover a few new things and perhaps even something about yourself. Walking has always provided me with a period of meditation which in turn lifts my spirits. My preference is the countryside with my beloved hound but if muddy wellies and wet dogs are not your thing, any leisurely stroll in the fresh air is better than none.

Go to church: attending church is free and even if you're not a believer, you might find the experience of reverence inspiring and comforting. Both Church of England vicars and Catholic priests will allow non-believers to take communion and receive a blessing on Christmas Day. My advice is to go to the morning service in order to avoid screaming toddlers. Your day will also be more structured if you get up early and go to church rather than lying around in your pyjamas feeling sorry for yourself. You'll see other people too- some worse off than you and you might start feeling more positive about life. No matter how bad things may seem, remember, there is always darkness before dawn.

Unclutter: Use the opportunity to sift through clutter or to create order in your living environment. It is amazing how much we accumulate in life and how little we actually need. If you haven't used an item in the last twelve months why not box it up to donate to charity, flog it on ebay/amazon or bin it? I have done this three times in the last five years and the effect has been a strangely cathartic. Don't wallow in nostalgia on Christmas Day- be ruthless! Old lovers are not exactly spending Christmas with you so make a bonfire and burn all their silly love letters! Holding onto 'stuff' is refusing to let go of the past and is also stopping the future from finding you.

Someone recently described me as the 'cleanest person they ever met'. I just can't think, relax or feel happy in a messy, chaotic, filthy home. Christmas Day is a good opportunity to take stock, clean up your living environment and also your head. A clean and tidy home will allow you to structure your thoughts and your life and prepare to welcome the New Year.

Read a very old book: make a plan to spend Christmas Day reading something interesting, erudite and thought-provoking. Find an antique book store and start browsing now (your intuition will lead you to the book you need). My favourite antique book store is at the very end of the Kings Road in London. I bought a book on Roman thinkers (£4.99) there that literally transformed my life. I found it uplifting to discover that all the same problems we encounter today were being mulled over by Seneca, Horace, Ovid and the likes more than two thousand years ago and even before Christ! Old books teach us that life is temporary as are our 'problems'.

And finally: we live in an age that is facile, precarious and uncertain. What we see on television is not reflected in our own lives- we can't all be rich, attractive, successful and living a perfect existence. I despair at the frivolity and stupidity that constitutes the mainstream and which we are meant to aspire to. Please consider this: don't buy into an unreality or a fantasy that will never happen because if you really think about it, you probably have that single thing you truly need: the chance to create your own happiness.

May I wish you a Peaceful Christmas.

With my good friend, Barbara, at the opening of Painters Painters, The Saatchi Gallery, 29th November 2016.


© Words and photos copyright Samantha van Dalen

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