Seven Ways to Spend Thanksgiving Alone in Denver

Let’s face it: Sometimes you’re all by yourself. Maybe you’ve just suffered a break-up, and everyone else is still paired up. Maybe your family is an airplane ride away that you know you’re going to take in December anyway, and going to all that trouble for one meal just doesn’t seem worth it. Or maybe you’re just tired of people. (It’s okay to just not want to be around anyone, even for the holidays.)

Whatever the reason for your solitude, you might as well make the most of it instead of moping around depressed, eating Marie Callender turkey dinner and store-bought pumpkin pie and drinking a whole lot of boxed wine. No good ever comes from any of that. Here are seven alternative suggestions.

1. Run the Turkey Trot
Look, if you’re not going to commit to consuming eleven times the calories that you normally might in one meal, like the rest of us, you might as well do the exact opposite: Get out there and run the annual Turkey Trot. (Or walk—there’s no pressure to be anything but a casual participant at this run.) You might think that voluntarily going out to join a huge crowd of other race participants is the exact opposite of spending Thanksgiving alone, but doing a group activity like this all by yourself is actually a great way to be by yourself, on purpose. You’ll be alone, but alone among thousands, and that can be just as good for the soul as a solid scoop of corn casserole.

2. Binge Watch That One Series
There’s so much on TV these days that there’s not enough time to watch it all — even if you wanted to. Between pay cable, movie channels and even the regular old networks, there’s a ton of amazing stuff out there that's available either streaming or on DVD. So give in: Thanksgiving can be all about zombies (Walking Dead), 1960s advertising (Mad Men), meth (Breaking Bad), women in prison (Orange Is the New Black), sword-and-sorcery uber-violence (Game of Thrones), seriously twisted scares (American Horror Story), or sex, sex, sex (Masters of Sex, or 90 percent of the internet). Pop some popcorn, turn down the lights, break out the afghan and comfy up. It’s TV time.

3. Make Food
Not for you, and not for Thanksgiving. That’s everyone else’s bag today. You’re going to make something completely different. Bake bread to take to your neighbors this weekend, so they can delight in homemade slices for leftover sandwiches. Get a head start on Christmas candy that you can box up and send to your friends and relatives. Make copious batches of cookies to share with the retirement home nearby. Practice your Darth Vader and Yoda cookies for all those Star Wars release parties you're going to attend come December 18. (Isn't everyone having one? Just me? Okay.) These are small gestures of kindness, but a lot of them have gone the way of penmanship and vinyl. Be one of the people who brings everyday generosity back.

4. See a Movie
The old-fashioned way, that is: in a theater. Yes, theaters are open on Thanksgiving, and they’re (perhaps surprisingly) not empty. But they’re not packed, either, which means it’s a great time to go see something that you just haven’t made time for. If you're looking to feed your head instead of your stomach, check out Trumbo at the Mayan. If you're in the mood for a little comfort on this solitary holiday, see The Peanuts Movie. There’s nothing like Charlie Brown and the gang to make a person feel that despite all seeming evidence to the contrary, everything is going to be all right.

5. Clean the House
No, seriously. People are always talking about spring cleaning, but a fall cleaning makes sense, too—after all, you’re going to be spending most of your time inside over the coming months, so your home might as well be spotless. Take the time to prep your place right; get in those corners, scrub that tub. Make it a drinking game of this project if that helps—if you take a shot whenever a task is finished, by the time all the items on your list are crossed off, you’ll be ready for a long autumn nap. (Or, you know, to start texting exes.) At the very least, take down your Halloween decorations. After a month, if you still have jack-o-lanterns on your porch, you've officially moved from lazy into silent-cry-for-help territory.

6. Read a Book
Everyone always talks about how much they’d read if only they had more time — well, today’s your day. If you want to read an actual book, rather than one online, this will take a bit of planning, because you can’t run out to a bookstore on Thanksgiving. (That section near the magazines in the grocery store doesn’t count.) So head out right now, and remember to support your local bookstores, like Bookbar in the Highlands, which are all reason to give thanks. The right book or three will be good company on a quiet Thanksgiving day, and you'll feel good about your intellectual capacity to appreciate the written word again.

7. Volunteer
Sometimes having time for yourself means that you suddenly have time for others. Put some of the empty-day hours to good use by helping out somewhere around town: at one of the many shelters, at your own church or volunteer center, or with the Squeaky Bean or Operation Turkey Sandwich. Those who are in the habit of giving back know this already, but a reminder never hurts: Sometimes doing something for someone else isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s also a great way to take care of yourself.

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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen