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Friday, December 2, 2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

This is supposed to be my time if the year.  I love Christmas.  I holds so much magic in many ways.  Even during some rough patches in life, Christmas seemed to make things stop, at least for a couple magical days.  That has a lot to do with my mother.

She decorated the house with great care.  Baked and decorated cookies and other treats for endless hours.  Christmas cards, gift buying, hiding and wrapping and menu planning for HUGE holiday meals for many.  She and my dad also would put together a meal and some gifts and deliver it to a needy family.  The world could be crashing down all around us and somehow, my mother managed to make most of December, wonderfully magical.  I love Christmas because of all she made it for us.  I have terribly great expectations for this season.

When I was on my own, I continued the traditions.  I even had a mini tree that plugged into the lighter in the car and lit up.  Christmas music was NOT to be played until after Thanksgiving.  That goes for any Christmas specials too.  I decorated and baked and cooked and was giddy with excitement at the thought of all the gifts I wanted to give.  It was no secret that I LOVED this holiday.

I bake with our kids, do crafts and decorate.  All the while trying to remind them what Christmas is really about.  And when I say bake, I mean my ass off!  I look for that same glimmer in their eye that I (used to) have.  I want all the magic for them. Like it was for me.

Lately, I feel like I am going through the motions.  By Monday, you won't be able to guess how I am really feeling.  The house will be decorated and most likely, there will be several batches of dough in the fridge waiting to be rolled, cut, baked and decorated with care.  It will all look...perfect.

Unfortunately, this time of year is magnifying all I try to deny each day.  Including how much I am unable to do on my own and how much things have changed.  How angry I am that I have to accept some of this.  And it certainly doesn't help when people comment on how the decorative cabinet on our front porch isn't yet decorated(I've just removed the fall decor from it).  I know they mean well.  They are used to me being on top of it all and have no idea what is actually happening here.  Which is fine, I don't want pity on my doorstep. And it also means I look like I am managing really well.  Can't have it both ways, I guess.

Truth is, I want to scream out how much MORE I want to do.  How I hate that I can't manage the attic stairs anymore.  How I HATE having to wait on someone to do something I used to be able to do just fine on my own.  I am panicking because, those cookies, need to be baked in the oven DOWNSTAIRS since our oven upstairs is broken (I know, we are lucky to have another) and that many trips up and down...not happening.  I am so afraid of not being able to pull it all off.  I know that things have to change, but, I don't want them too. Not this.

I keep telling myself that if my mother could pull it off, I can too.  The only problem and difference is that her obstacles weren't physical ones. I know that I have been demanding more of my body than I should lately because I am feeling it.  Christmas is here and there is so much to do and I am not sure how I am going to make this happen.  I am not sure if I will be able to deal with the comments that may come because I forget or let a detail go.  I feel like it will all be over and I will have missed it...all of it.  Because I can't find the balance.

While I am thankful that I am feeling "better" this year than last, there is a great amount of discouragement and frustration too.  Last year at this time I was physically hurting and had unbelievable exhaustion. And yet, I still managed to pull it all off. Including a Christmas party for the fireman and their families. This year, thanks to a diagnosis and ongoing treatment, the exhaustion has (mostly, I still struggle with it)lifted.  The problem is, now that I am not too tired to do things, my mind is racing with all that I want and have to do, but my body does not follow.  It hurts and limits.  I need to find a way to deal with this and would greatly welcome any suggestions.  On a daily basis, this is hard for me to accept.  However, at this time of the year, it is...I can't even describe how it feels.

To keep everything in perspective, I have a list that is full of blessings.  I can put my feet to the floor and walk.  I can still type and write. I can, I can , I can.  I try to make myself more than aware of all that could be.  I am not a soldier away in a foreign country, away from all I love.  I am getting treatment and it could be worse.  These and many others are things that I tell myself every day.  Every day.  Sometimes to the point of feeling so guilty for all I have, I could cry.  But it still stings.  I am still learning to accept. 

I don't know how to live in this place.  By nature, I am a nurturer, a pleaser. I feel like my ability to do these things, that I have either always done, or grown into doing are being taken from me.  Which means that I am limited in what I am able to give.  I am not OK with this. There is so much that I want and need to do.  I don't think it is unhealthy.  I think it is what comes naturally to me.  It is so frustrating.  And I know that my pride sometimes gets in the way of what I should do versus what I want to do.  I am afraid that if I let go a little, what will stop me from letting go all the way?  Who am I then?

I know that these struggles are not unique to only me.  I know that there are many Mom's and Dads that are trying to pull it all off as well. I know (all to well) the financial limitations and worries too.  I know that some parents won't even be able to celebrate with their children and/or families.  Heartbreaking.

I understand that this time of the year is a hard time for many reasons.  I am sure it has to do with the expectations and demands we place on our own.  We expect it to be like a dreamy, snow-filled scene in a movie with Christmas bells playing in the background. There is that commercial from Target where the woman closes the door after her guests from Thanksgiving dinner leave and turns to find that her whole house is beautifully decorated.  Jealous.  We expect that all the negatives in our lives will suddenly become positives.  We think that those people in our lives who have wronged us in some way are suddenly going to wake up and make up for it all.  If nothing else, we hope that it will be a pause in our daily lives.  We try to cram all this good into a few short days, maybe a week.

For some, that is the magic of Christmas.  And I can't say that they are wrong.  As humans, we need those toasty warm connections.  We need to be reminded of who we ought to be and how we should treat one another.  How wonderful it truly is to give, than to expect or demand. 

When I was young Christmas held so much for me.  Joy, hope, love, acceptance and happiness.  Anticipation.  And of course, there was Santa and presents.  And so much fun with cousins on Christmas Eve while waiting for Santa in our newest pajama's.  Those precious memories are so wonderful to hold.

I don't ever want my children to look back on any of their Christmas's (or any day for that matter) and have it marked by, "oh we couldn't do it that time because Mommy...".  I want the same warmth to wash over them when they hear a Christmas song or see the first lights of the season.  I want it to be so wonderful that they want it all for their children too.  I want all the magic for them.  Aside from my sisters, the Christmas Spirit was one of the greatest gifts my mom could have ever given me.  Thank you, Mom.

Now, Lord, help me to learn and give me all I need to get through this.  I don't want to lose the gift of Christmas.


  1. Oh my... this was hard, yet easy, for me to read. Hard because it's like looking at words in my head that I have not said aloud yet... easy because it's like I almost knew what the next line was before even seeing it. I feel so many of these same things this year. It makes me so sad, though anger is how I have been portraying it lately.
    It is incredibly frustrating and I know there are some things that just have to be accepted because they aren't going back to how they used to be... but I too am really struggling with acceptance.
    Know that you are not alone, though your life is yours alone a lot of the same battles are being fought by others around the world. I hope we both can find some acceptance and feel closer to "whole" again soon.
    Blessings to you and yours.

  2. Rachel, I have felt/feel everything you are saying here. My kids are older now--just a little. We are a family that loves our traditions and celebrations. But sometimes, the faster you go, the worse you feel. It has been 5 years for me. Acceptance, or something like it, will come and go. For now, mark some of those items off your list. Not all of them, but if you don't, you may not be able to do any of them. I've overdone it so many times, and my health has suffered in the long run. Your babies would rather have YOU in their warm memories. You sound like a great mom! Your relationships with your kids are as important as their memories of the traditions. I have one in college now--and we are best of friends. She will be my biggest help this year. Sometimes there were things we couldn't do b/c of my ra, but we always found other things we could do--lots of snuggling and talking and giggling. My younger 2 have fewer memories of me before, so maybe it has been easier for them, but I have more guilt:) Be kind to yourself. It's Christmas!