The holidays are always bittersweet for my family. While everyone seems to be shopping feverishly for deals, filled with excitement for the Christmas season, I notice that I actively try to disappear into the chaos. My inbox fills with questions about where I will be spending Thanksgiving, how my family is going to spend Christmas, and my favorite; “Will you be flying back home so that you aren’t alone?”

As much as I love my family and understand that they are just trying to include me in their love for togetherness, being “thankful” for generosity and kind words is a lot harder for me during this season. As much as it appeals to everyone else for me to book a last minute flight and empty my bank account to make the family happy, THAT is not the life I chose.

In November of 2014, my favorite person in the world took me to the most secluded spot he could think of- Dauner Trails. It was a cold winter in Michigan- but that was irrelevant to us. We were in love. When we got to the end of the trail, pitch black and freezing, he shined his flashlight on a bouquet of Dahlias he had placed out there earlier in the day, and knelt down into the snow. There, in the frigid trails and completely secluded from the rest of our loved ones, he proposed to me.

And I said “yes.”

I said “yes” to more than marriage that night. I said “yes” to leaving my entire family behind so that I could start my own. I said “yes” to the cold reality that is being alone. I said “yes” to the dark days during the holiday season when I will not be sitting around a table with my family. I said “yes” to being alone in a life that we created together.

I’m not a martyr. This is the life I agreed to. My husband will not be sitting with me at my dinner table this year, complimenting my green bean casserole and joking around about how I can’t cook a turkey so I always have to cook ham. My husband will not be helping me put up our Christmas tree after dinner in lieu of tradition. And guess what! I’m still here. I’m still living this life that we created together.

Yes, I am sad. I am disappointed. I am frustrated. But I chose this life and these holidays without the person I sacrificed so much for. Because to me, it wasn’t a sacrifice. It was a trade off. I traded my goodnight kisses for late night emails. I traded my home style holidays for amazon prime packages. And I traded my husband’s presence for someone else’s security.

I am thankful for the love that I feel unconditionally from family and friends. I am thankful for all of my loved ones in San Diego who reached out to me this season. I am thankful that I have a place that I feel welcomed for dinner. I am thankful that my dinner will not be Chinese takeout with my toddler.

My only request is that, instead of guilting me with your pity and your disappointment, be thankful for the memories you get to make with your own families. Because of the sacrifices of mine. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, especially those who serve.

A.

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