Chapter Three ~ Reclaiming the Holidays

I turn the key to my apartment and I feel relief flood over me. I loved visiting New York but there is something so comforting about being in your own home. When I open the door and wheel my luggage in, relief turns into apprehension. The space here feels foreign and darker than I remember. I drop all of my belongings on the floor by my feet and reach for the light switch. Even with the light on, something feels off. I suppose I’m just feeling the absence of Ryan, and I shudder, thinking of my loneliness.

I feel moisture beginning to pool at the corners of my eyes, and I turn to the mirror hanging to my right. I let my hair down from its messy bun as a tear spills over. I just don’t understand how he could walk away from everything we built together. Staring at my reflection I notice that my eyes appear dimmed. They are usually a lovely cobalt blue, but now it is as if they have a shadow cast over them. Who is this woman staring back at me?

The tears are flowing freely now so I turn my attention to my belongings on the floor and bring them to my room. This space no longer feels safe, like I am just a visitor passing through. I push that thought aside as I collapse into bed, exhausted. I was unable to sleep on my flight and I am utterly drained from the events of this past week. Hopefully, I can sleep away my memory of him.

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“I wish you would stop feeling sorry for yourself,” Emma says, distractedly looking on her phone and seemingly bored with the conversation. Her perfectly manicured index fingernail shimmers while she effortlessly scrolls through Instagram. It’s been a little over a week since I’ve returned from New York but I haven’t seen Emma since before the break-up.

“How can you say that? The last thing I’m doing is feeling sorry for myself,” I declare, feeling disgusted. “We were together for over three years, Emma. It hasn’t exactly been that long.” Emma grimaces, though still does not look up from her phone. Clearly, she isn’t buying into my pity party.

Emma and I have known each other for years. We went to high school together back in Alameda. Go Hornets! You better believe we rocked that yellow. Emma knows me better than anyone and has never failed to tell it like it is. I think this is why I love her so much. She tells me what I need to hear rather than what I want to hear. However, it doesn’t make me feel any better being called a “whiny piney” pants. I have this feeling inside of me that is hard to put into words. It is almost a longing to feel sorry for myself and all of the injustices I’ve endured.

Today we met at Julie’s Coffee and Tea Garden on Park Street in Alameda. Emma is vegan so she usually picks the places we go. Park Street is always on top of their decorating game during the holidays. I love it here. They have a little secret like garden area in the back. Super cute!!

I love coming back to my hometown. It feels so good to be back and taking a break from the city life. Alameda is only 15 miles from San Francisco but feels like a different place entirely. Alameda is a cozy little town located on an island next to Oakland. The population is under 80,000 which feels very small for a city in the Bay Area. I grew up here and my parents still live here. It is where I feel at home.

“It wasn’t like you were happy. You put up with so much bullshit.” Emma put her phone down and looked me in the eye. “Were you happy?” Her directness contrasts greatly with her physical appearance. She has a softness about her that many women would envy. Her beauty is quiet, it won’t scream at you from across a room, but rather it sneaks up on you. Her attitude, however, can knock a grown man down on his ass. This can be a little off-putting to some, because of her delicate frame and features, but I find it endearing. Though she does let a glimmer of her personality shine through when it comes to her hair. She dyes it a charcoal black and keeps it in a blunt cut hovering just below her jawline.

I want to shrink away from her direct gaze, but I hold my ground. “I honestly can’t remember if I was happy or not,” I admit. “I think I had moments of happiness but I was mostly holding onto hope for the future.” At this statement, I look down at my coffee. I cup both hands around the mug and take a long sip, thinking about my time with Ryan. I’ve noticed that memory is a tricky thing; it wants to remember what it wants. When I was angry at him and venting to my friends, I could think of so many things I wasn’t happy about. But now, wishing things were different, I remember the lighter moments, the reasons I continued holding on through the storms. I look up at Emma again and she is staring at me pointedly. I know she is about to drop some wisdom so I brace myself.

“You were in love with the idea of Ryan, not the reality of Ryan. Percentage-wise, how often would you say you were happy and how much of the time were you upset or wanting things to change?” she probed.

I look out the window, pondering her question. “I don’t know. I guess if I had to really answer that questions I would say 80% of the time I was unhappy and 20% I was happy.” I don’t want to go any higher than 80% because then how am I supposed to feel about myself? What does that say about me that I would stay in a relationship where I was basically unhappy all the time?

Through the window, I can see an older man walking by with his dog and I become aware of the fact that I am avoiding Emma’s gaze again. I square my shoulders and raise my eyes to look at her. I see a hint of concern in her dove gray eyes. She sets her tea down and I realize she knows I wasn’t completely honest with the numbers I gave her.

I finally crack under her stare. “Fine Fine Fine, It was more like 95% to 5% but it didn’t start out that way.”

Emma takes a deep breath and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. “I am not upset with you, Khloe. I just want you to see that this could actually be a gift.” I give her an incredulous look, so she explains further. “Because he’s out of your life, he’s created room to fill with a relationship that is… well, any ratio would be better than that one, but you know… happy. But what makes you happy, love? Maybe it’s time to find yourself again and figure out the answer to that question.” She looks at me with such compassion in her eyes, I can’t help but feel grateful to have a friend like her in my life. “But you’re not going to get anywhere if all you do is sit around here and mope and feel sorry for yourself. The holidays are a triggering time, especially after a breakup. So why don’t you turn it around and go do all the things you wanted to do during the holidays that you couldn’t or wouldn’t do with jerkface.” Emma scrunches up her face with that last word, mimicking her dislike of Ryan.

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After another hour of catching up with each other, I leave the coffee shop and go driving down Shoreline Drive. There is something about driving by the water, music on and windows down, that clears my head and helps me think. I have Emma’s words ringing in and out of my ears now, thinking about percentages and happiness. Happiness is what I was waiting for. I craved that sweet ending to a job well done. I put so much work into our relationship, I assumed it would result in a big payoff. It never occurred to me that I could be happy now. I dwelled in the when… in expectation. When he gets a job that he likes, when we get an apartment together, when we get married, when we can afford to buy a home… when.

The funny thing about when is that it never comes. There is always something else that must be done in order to get there. No wonder I felt so bad all the time! It reminds me of the movie Groundhog Day where the same day happens over and over again. It is crazy making to be always trying to figure out why you’re unhappy and then fix what’s broken when you don’t even know what is wrong. Emma would tell me that Ryan is wrong. She has described him as hollow. She thinks he’s a narcissist and that he can’t fake his feelings to save his life. And there I was, always defending him. I understand why I stubbornly stood up for him, but it doesn’t make me feel any better. I had to either believe he wasn’t that empty or accept that I had been duped. I guess my need to save face clouded my judgment, but seriously, how could I be so wrong about someone?

I could sit here and think all day about him and his head-scratching behavior. But the fact that he was able to pick up and move, to start over so easily, was the last straw for me. I had to unfollow him on social media. I don’t want to see how happy or sad he is after leaving me. In a weak moment, I stalked his Facebook page, and I instantly regretted it. He is already dating someone else and is smiling and laughing as if he didn’t leave a grieving fiancé behind just a short time ago. How does someone not care, or at least have some respect for others and how it may appear? It feels as though our life together was so easily thrown away. That hurts more than the actual absence of him. Did I make it all up in my mind?

I will never forget that time when he told me that he missed the way I used to make him feel. That always bothered me. What about the way you made me feel? Or even, am I responsible for making you feel good all the time as if you have no say in this? Maybe he just likes the beginning when it is all new and exciting, although no one can sustain that, eventually you move into a relationship and all that comes with settling down.

I don’t know who I am more angry with, him or me. I put up with so much and put what I wanted on hold. And for what? Emma is right. I need to go back to the city and start exploring the holiday season with only my happiness in mind. I am through with letting people hold me back from what I want. Emma just amazes me: she has this deep knowing that has helped my mind around many different situations during the years of our friendship. She sees the world just a little different than anyone else, but she is usually right. When I’ve asked about her unique perspective she credits it to her mom, Angelica. She is the kind of mom that everyone goes to. She just knows the right things to say no matter what is going on. I am adding gratitude to my list of things I want to work on next year, and I am definitely grateful for Emma and her mom.

There are two weeks left before the start of the new year for me to go do something fun. This year’s resolutions will be all about finding “me” again. On paper, it seems easy, but the reality is that all I want to do is go hide in a hole.

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Driving over the Bay Bridge, I start making a mental list of the things I want to do. There was traffic on my way home but it gave me time to think. I’ve already started formulating a plan for what holiday festivities I want to delve into first. For once I feel like a little spark of hope has entered back into my life. I shoot Emma a quick text and take the stairs up to my apartment.

Inside, I look around with fresh eyes. Maybe this won’t be so bad. Instead of the hopelessness, I felt last week, I am starting to feel inspired. I put my purse down on the kitchen counter, grab my laptop, and cozy up on the couch with a blanket. I pull up the website for Society6 and scroll through their different categories, looking at ways I can start making this space feel like mine again. There are so many different patterns for comforters, throw pillows, wall tapestries and prints, I’m already seeing things come together in my mind. If I can get a little more color and personality into my home, it might start to feel good here.

I look up from my laptop, realizing I’ve been on this site for almost an hour, and look around at my current layout. I realize now that this furniture has never been rearranged since I moved in here with Ryan. I immediately get up off the couch and spend the next couple hours fixing just that. The TV is now on the opposite side of the living room and I had to get very creative with cords since I have limited wall outlets. Everything is in a different place, even my plants and picture frames. I look around and whistle to myself.

It is amazing how open my apartment feels, now that I’ve moved all the furniture around! Not only that, but I feel like I’ve reclaimed this space back, in a small way. Even though it is the same furniture I bought when we were together, and there are still memories attached, the fact that it looks completely different makes it feel brand new. Over the next week, I have plans to decorate for Christmas and go out on the city and get into the festive spirit. I am so excited! But first, all I can think of is a hot bath and a good night’s sleep.

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The night is clear and crisp which is perfect to check out Union Square to look at all the holiday decorations and displays. I may not feel like celebrating but I am going to be around those that celebrate. For now, that will be enough. Taking back the Holiday. This is my mission. 

The Christmas tree at Union Square is so beautiful! And, BONUS, parking is easy and on the first floor. This has the potential to be a great night.

Macy’s really went all out in the red and white this year. Christmas usually has a popular color scheme, this year was red and white. I am a rebel, I will decorate my tree in blue and black, maybe like my bruised heart. I laugh inside at my own jokes. The ice skating rink was a bit of a disappointment, as in no one was skating. That is a first. I decided to saunter on over to Neiman Marcus to look at their tree. It did not disappoint.

The Marriott was just a few blocks away and an easy walk, so I head over there for a glass of rosé and a city view! Just what I needed. 

It is such a beautiful night that I just had to do something cliché and “touristy”. Coit Tower has incredible views, especially on a clear night. Absolutely stunning!


While the city has enough lights on any given night, it is so cool to see how some decorate for the holidays.

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I am so inspired by my Holiday revamp, I decide to decorate. Ryan didn’t really like Christmas, or any holiday for that fact. I typically downplayed and kept myself really busy. So in reclaiming my space I had to go buy all new decorations. It feels more like me and my space now. I am in love with how this turned out.

I am exhausted and ready to just dive under the blankets and watch TV. I am going to watch Elf for the second time this season. I feel pretty good. Maybe Emma will want to come hang out now that it no longer reeks of the jerk face 🙂

Bring on the new year!!

Pictures Taken and Written by Traci Hines Co-Founder of Modern Soul Society.
Copyright Modern Soul Society, LLC 2018.
All contents for personal use only. All rights reserved.
Any duplication or misuse of this material will invite legal action.

December 6, 2017