Published on Tuesday, 27 December 2011 22:50
Written by Jules
A year ago, post Christmas and Hanukkah, I wrote this post about how I might consider changing up my holidays to be more accommodating to my ever changing condition.
It's time to pull the post out of mothballs and get to work on my expectations for this year.
Nothing wrankles my expectations like the holidays. I really do it to myself too. Our house is a very multi-cultural place. We are Buddhist Jews with a Christmas tree. Don't even try to wrap your head around that one or it will most certainly explode. In fact, that is probably part of my point. Each year, what should be a time of great joy, a time of family togetherness, instead turns into at least a dozen small disasters, or one mega disaster of Old Testament proportions.
Why do we do that to ourselves? Why do we expect perfection out of situations that we, largely, have no control over? I am sure that it has a lot to do with all that storybook stuff, and the songs and the movies, that make us believe that Christmas (not too many Hanukkah movies out there) will be perfect. It's hard to find perfection in anything
, much less anything that so many people can stick their grubby hands in.
I remember, back in the day, (marriage 1.0) my expectations were much higher. I was very young, and a new mother. I had not been out of my mother's house very long so my memories of childhood holidays were fresh. I wanted things to be so perfect for my child, for my new(ish) husband and for the kid that still lived in me. I was doing very well until others came in to our home for visits. Other family members that had less care and respect for what I wanted out of a holiday came into our home with desires to eat my food, drink my alcohol, and do holidays the way that they
Now really, before I get downright upright about that, isn't that what we all do? We celebrate the way that WE
want to? The questions really are, where do and how do we celebrate the holidays the way that WE
So here I am today, making tough decisions and wondering if we can all do the same things. Can we decide to make the holidays what we need and want them to be by simplifying and removing the distractions? Can we say no to the things and the people that hurt us? Can we at least move things outside of our safety zones? I think we can, but it takes some tough emotional work. Don't worry, I won't leave you hanging.
For starters, let's make a mental list of the people that always muck things up. I know who they are in my life. The people that come into my holiday celebrations and make everything a nightmare. Ask yourself first of all, do they have to be a part of your celebrations at all? Well in my case, yes they do. So, can you limit the interaction in some way? For example, do they have to come into your home, or can you arrange a nice dinner out durring the week of the traditional holiday you celebrate.
Try this: "Mom and Dad, I am really not feeling well, all the shopping has really put me in a lot of pain, but I can't imagine not having a family dinner. How about we do a little something different this year and have dinner at (insert favorite nice restaurant here)? It might be a nice treat to be waited on instead of all the work we all usually do."
If you can manage a bit of interaction you can still do dessert and gifts at home afterward, just very much limiting the effort and time.
Maybe you have out of town family you rarely see and would like to visit. This is your opportunity for the great escape! Get your butt out of town and away from it all. Yes, holiday travel can be a bit rough but it can save you from so much emotional grief. You don't have to go far, just the next town over can get you away from so much. When I consider what I just went through, I am thinking that 10 hours (one way) in the car to see my mom would have been a much better use of my chronically awesome super powers than the time I spent laying on my kitchen floor cleaning up spilled au ju while my father-in-law yelled "save the pieces of the bottom of the gravy boat so you can get your money back!" Me telling him that the gravy boat was 6 years old matters not, he would return that bad boy and demand a full refund to any store that had a similar looking one, and he would get his money back. What I would have rather had then any money back? Help cleaning up the au ju. Yeah, THAT.
I am sure there is some family member that has been wanting to see you. If not, you have a whole year to start saving. I am sure there is a lovely place that is calling your name. One year we went on a Christmas cruise. For that year I didn't not put up a tree, light a single candle, put up one single decoration. I didn't have to cook anything and we had several fantastic meals. That was one FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC- holiday. In fact, I may start looking into that one for next December.
Maybe you can handle the guests, you can deal with the family, but the work is too much. There are many grocery stores and restaraunts that will put together fully or partially prepared holiday meals for you. Just pick them up and do the last bit of prep. That removes so much stress from your day that you can enjoy your loved ones.
Was the meal prep and the family bonding time just perfect, but the whole gift giving thing just way too over the top for you this year? Have you spent too much on medications and doctors trips that the very concept of expensive gift giving gave you such an ulcer that your holiday was a giant financial anxiety attack? I totally get that. I just lost my job and I was really not sure how to deal with the gift giving thing this year. I immediately informed my daughter as the shopping season started that this year was going to be a lean one in the gift giving department. I also told her that we were doing practical gifts.
Nothing says "move out" to your nineteen year old like a set of sheets! HA! No, I don't want her to move out but I also know that she likes pretty sheets. A gift that was practical, and I found lovely organic sheets at Target for a decent price. Useful, affordable, lovely and they made her happy. Instead of the usually 15-20 gifts for her under the tree, she had 5. But each of those gifts were more meaningful, and great quality. Each had a nice story to go with them about why I thought she would want or need them.
Don't bow to holiday pressure. Don't feel like you have to do certain things, buy certain things, entertain certain ways, just because that's what the others are doing. They are not YOU. They are not Chronically Awesome. They don't wake up each day facing what you face. And if they have their own challenges and choose to ignore them and put pressure on themselves anyway, that is their choice, and in the end, that is their PROBLEM.
While the holidays are fresh in your mind, I would like to assign you some homework. List making is so fun isn't it? Make yourself two lists. A list of the things that went well and the things you would like to change for next year. Each time you get a little down in that after the holiday crash, look at the list of what went well, remember the great things that happened. Remember the faces of people that appreciated what you did for them, the food you cooked or the gifts you have. Whatever it takes to help you compose that list. I am sure if you sit for just a few minutes you can think of that list and it's much longer than you expect. I would love it if you put some of those great things as a comment on this blog post. What are some of the awesome holiday memories you have from this past winter holiday?
Now for your list of things to change for next year. You have year to start making plans for next year. If you have your list you can start making little plans now, things you won't do next year. Things you will do differently. Put it in a desk drawer or on the side of the fridge. Someplace easy enough to access that when you see a commercial or find an article that strikes you as something that may apply to how you want to change your holiday plans next year you can attach it to your list and cross off one more thing that didn't work for you. Trust me on this one, I think you have trusted me on a few other things in the past that have worked. I am going to check back with you on the WTJ boards (see link at the top of the site and sign up) in about a week and ask about this list. I want to see some lists and we are going to make an exercise of it. I am excited to help you come up with ideas. Let's not mess around, let's take some chronic out of the next holiday and make it more awesome. Getting our families along for the ride may be like herding cats, but we do harder things every day just getting our butts out of bed, so I think we can do this. We are chronically awesome, nothing can stop us from this!