It’s been a good 13 years since I’ve truly enjoyed Christmas. After the my Mom was diagnosed with Early Onset-Alzheimer’s (at age 52) in 2005, everything changed. For a while there, I held onto the old family traditions and tried my best to keep every family tradition the same, even if that meant I was in a ball in the bathroom crying on the holiday.
Then along came the girl. Mommy passed. Daddy had to be downsized.
Although I was excited to see my daughter experience the holidays for the first time, I was still unable shake the overwhelming cloud of grief and guilt that seemed to suffocate me as soon as the trick-or-treaters left.
Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday, spent elbow to elbow, cooking and tasting with my Mommy. Once she was gone, I hated Thanksgiving. Then before I could regroup, along came Christmas. I would perk up some to buy my baby toys but I was flat when it came to the rest. The hubs would bring the tree up, and I was indifferent about how it went up and how it looked. Looking back, I was surely a commercial for depression… “Have you lost interest in doing the things you would normally do.” Umm. Yea. I didn’t care.
I was just going through the motions for everybody else, trying desperately not to fall apart.
Anxious every Christmas because I would have to the worst daughter guilt. I had to do the Santa thing with the girl and hubs and stress about getting to Daddy so he didn’t feel lonely or forgotten. One year, I only let the girl open a few presents then I flew out the door to get Daddy. Another I sweated my hair out and both my husband and I strained our backs, getting Daddy in out the house and to the restroom.
After the Daddy experience and getting up early with the girl, I really didn’t want to go anywhere. But Christmas isn’t just for my side of the family. It’s off to the in-laws. I probably didn’t do a very good job looking like I hadn’t been crying when we finally make it to my in-laws on Christmas. (I can almost guarantee, my bangs were sweated to my face and my eye make-up was a hot mess.) It was too much!!! Too many people. Too many emotions. And honestly, I was too jacked up to change it.
If I had to do one thing differently, I would have stopped trying to be the human bridge to make our family traditions continue.
I would not have cooked all.the.things. I would’ve ordered more carry outs or had the holiday meals catered, so I could actually sit down and look my loved ones in the eye. All I remember is sweating. Rushing. Shopping. Crying. Cleaning. Cooking. Crying. Cleaning. Sweating. Crying. Sweating. Crying.
I would’ve let go of the old traditions sooner, so I could get on with the new ones.
Even if I was burnt to a crisp, like little ashes blowing in the wind, I know I did the best I could do at the time. I have no guilt about that. (My default negative emotion is always guilt!)
It’s very easy to judge a situation when you are outside of it. People either act like nothing has changed or, they are quick to minimize the situation. Saying things like “Ohh you should just do this or that.” Both are equally frustrating and isolating. It feels like no one understands and the sky has fallen. There’s no realistic outside advice.
So you just keep doing what’s always been done. You can’t think. You are too numb. So you just keep on riding the crazy train, even if it’s going 100 mph off the tracks. You are so bound emotionally, you get stuck in a holding pattern.
And that my friends is where I was with Christmas…the holidays…life! Stuck. Stuck holding it together. Stuck doing things the way they had always been done. Stuck in grief. Stuck in sadness. Stuck in burn out mode. Just stuck.
But it’s a new season! And not just the Christmas season, but the season to cr8joi. I believe that all of my intentions and prayers, set upon this mission to cr8joi, have finally started to clear the clouds. This year, I was asking the hubs to bring the tree up after Thanksgiving. And I definitely had a Mrs. Cr8 opinion about the holiday decor. And guess what?! I’m all the way in! Not for the sake for everyone else. But for the first time, in over a decade, I’m in the Christmas spirit for me!
How are you feeling this holiday season? Have you experienced a family change like me? Do you have any tips on how to cr8joi this holiday season?