Traditionally the 4th conjures images of picnics, swimming, fireworks and family fun. My memories include all of those things as a child and as an adult with children. The year of my divorce, it was the first holiday after my separation. The actual day, July 4th is also known as Independence Day. For me it was a day to embrace my independence. Independent, free from outside control and not being subject to what others may want or expect. It didn’t and doesn’t mean I had no responsibilities, it meant that I also chose what I wanted to be responsible for. Above all else, it meant and still means being responsible for myself. Taking care of me and my own happiness. Many of us are so conditioned to take care of others, that we have to work at prioritizing ourselves. My recommended thoughts/steps are below.
- Think about what will make you happy this July 4th
Brainstorm for activities and events that will make you happy for the day/weekend. This is simply thinking through the day(s) and exploring your options. Here’s some ideas:
- What do I need for this day, this weekend?
- Sleep in or get up for an early morning run, walk, yoga practice etc.
- Big breakfast or a quick coffee.
- How much time do I want to spend with others?
- What activities sound like fun? (Picnic, swimming, hiking, watching movies and ordering pizza)
- Do I want to watch a firework show, get my own fireworks (where legal), or do both?
- How much time will I have my kids? What can we do together that will make us all happy? Can I give them choices from my happy list?
… [it] doesn’t mean I had no responsibilities, it meant that I also chose what I wanted to be responsible for.
- Think about what makes you happy – long term!
As you’ve thought about what you want, did any item make you flinch, or grow tense? Is there a relationship that may suffer if you do all the things you want? Independence is more than doing what we want in the short term. It’s also about taking responsibility for the long-term effects on our most important relationships. Which people are most important to you and what is important to them? My list of most important people includes my kids, my sister, my best friend, and my neighbor. Think about who is on your list. There may also be a boss, or a coworker. These people may want to monopolize your time. They may react with hurt feelings if they feel you aren’t including them enough. That is understandable – but it doesn’t mean you have to give up on your list. For those who you don’t have long term relationships with, don’t let their possible hurt feelings stand in your way of doing what makes you happy. Be kind but be firm.
This is a tougher decision for those we are close to, whose feelings and happiness are important to us. Even then, remember, your happiness comes first. If you have a July 4th tradition with the important people in your life and that is not on your “happiness” list this year, give yourself the freedom to choose you. Your relationship shouldn’t hang your attendance at the event. Once you complete your plans – be sure you give your wants and needs priority.
- Make your plan and stick with it.
Finalize your plan, keeping all the parts that make you happy and reconcile with your long-term goals. If you’ve decided to skip any events that may make important others unhappy, be upfront with them. Let them know that this year you won’t be able to attend. It’s okay to remind them how important they are to you. Be firm and let them know, this year you need to skip it. You deserve it. People who truly care about you will support you.
Follow through with your plan! Celebrate your independence and happiness all day long. Keep the Independence in Independence Day!!