In the shuffle of holiday visitation, family gatherings and big hoorahs that may or may not include a significant other, relatives, close friends and your kids, it can be tough to muster up the feelings of empowerment and excitement to celebrate.
But days like today can also be an opportunity to go your own way, to choose to see the fireworks when a dark sky is bending over you.
Here are five ways to feel the surge of independence today, no matter what you are doing, who is there and what your circumstances are.
1. Rebel against the holiday shoulds.
You may think you absolutely must adhere to the ideals of Fourth of July - grilling out, watching a parade, being with crowds of other people in backyards, beaches or parks. But guess what? You can use this day in any way you like and consider it an act of freedom. If you have the opportunity to spend time alone, luxuriate in a bath, finally pop in that Zumba DVD you've never opened, catch up on crap TV or dust off your bike and head down to a favorite woodsy path or beach front to take in all the scenery you normally zoom by in your car. Even if you choose to do your own thing for a couple of hours and then embrace the traditions at a block party or BBQ, I assure you that you will feel rejuvenated by spending some time exactly as you please, holiday or not.
2. Let the kids plan a party.
If you have children with you for the Fourth, why not ask them to pitch in and help plan a backyard bash? They can choose from a selection of silly games, face painting, water ballooning, sprinkler dancing, picnic snacks, tie-dying, or if they are old enough, plan out the day and organize their own kid carnival. Have other single mama friends? Invite them over to join in! Turning the event planning over (at least in part) to the children will boost their feelings of independence and relaxing in a chaise while they get it all going will feel pretty good for you, too.
3. Make a list. Check it twice.
Take a few moments to think back on where you have come since last summer. As that movie plays in your mind, jot down a few ways you've made your life and your children's lives better, healthier, happier, stronger. If you are up for it, list the things and people you've released, enabling you to move forward. If it is all too much to put to paper, use pictures, symbols or a few short phrases to capture what comes to mind. In loneliness or stress or just getting through day by day, we often compartmentalize and tuck away all the strides we've made and risks we've taken and challenges we've pushed past. Spending a few moments to center on all of that will remind you of the strength that resides within you every day. Finally, tuck that list into your wallet or make-up drawer so you can revisit it on a regular old Monday or moment when the I-can-do-this feelings slip away temporarily.
4. Power up.
I love power tools and I take great pride that my tool box is more complete than the sad collection of pliers and Allen wrenches most men I've dated have shoved under the sink. And I always feel really powerful and self-reliant when I pull out a drill or mallet to take care of some home improvements. OK, so most of the time, those jobs are putting Ikea furniture together or knocking something back in place that I accidentally kicked with a high heel. No matter. So long as I feel like a bad ass fixing it alone with my tough-lady tool box, it is worth the few minutes and however much a bucket of spackle costs. Power up your own badassery by taking time on Independence Day to finally fix the leaky sink, put together a new grill, paint your bedroom a glorious color or retile the roof - whatever you, your tools and skills are up to!
5. Breathe in. Breathe out. Get through.
If your children are away or at home and being a little too Nutters McGee for you to relax and enjoy this day, if you can't rustle up any plans or are triple-booked for barbecues, if you are feeling weary or crumbling or headachey at all this holiday demands of you, press pause. Inhale and exhale deeply ten or twenty times in a row. Stretch your body. Close your eyes. Sip some water. Choose one or two things for your Fourth agenda and let the rest go. This is one day out of the whole year. Tomorrow will be just another day, and you know very well how to handle those.
Tell us your tips. How do you use moments of overwhelm, loneliness or stress to fuel your independence?