Tomorrow is the 1st of December so I can officially start “Christmas-ing”! It’s our own little rule that we wait until December to start, so we’re on our way…
Getting through Christmas can be daunting when you have any chronic illness. And one of the biggest problems for me is that I love Christmas! I love the decorations, the shopping, the parties, the ballet, the tree, going to church….everything. Just everything Christmas. But now that has all changed. I cannot do all those wonderful things anymore. So for me it’s a little bittersweet. I simply do not have the physical stamina to do all the activities and I get mentally bogged down and depressed because I miss Christmas. Sometimes literally. So far, I have spent two Christmases in the hospital, and I don’t intend to let that happen again.
I know that some of you aren’t that into it and this season is just another thing you have to get through. But others, like me, are all about everything Christmas. Either way, I’ve put together the best tips that I’ve been using to not just get through Christmas, but to relish it.
Slow Down. Plan it Out.
I’m sure you’ve never heard that one before. I hate it too. I used to be a mad woman…dashing out after work to shop, decorating everywhere, or baking late at night. Lots of parties. Lots of wine. Lots of wrapping gifts last minute. It was total Chaotic Christmas Fun!
I can no longer do that. All the normal things now require rest before and after and because planning is the key for me, it means I have to decline some things too. I hate that but if I don’t I’ll miss Christmas altogether. Fair trade I guess. Here’s what I try to do:
Aside from the planning and pacing we have to do, I do parties one of two ways:
First are the parties where you know people well; family or close friends.
- My family Christmas is a huge all day event, lots of commotion and kids running everywhere. I have a big family and we tend to get a little crazy. Over the years it was getting increasingly difficult for me to go. And it finally reached the point where I started having so much anxiety over it, I could hardly get there. Then one year I didn’t go at all. I will never let that happen again.
- So the next year I went for about half of it, but I didn’t like it…missed too much fun stuff. But there was such a simpler solution: the year after that, about half way through the party, I went into my brother’s bedroom and took a nap. It’s not like they don’t know I’m sick or anything so I don’t know why I didn’t do it before, but this way I only miss maybe 1/2 hour or so. It worked out perfectly. When you’re with this group you know you can take a break. They understand. And you don’t have to lose out.
- I use the movie star approach. (I do not think I’m a movie star, just for the record). This is for people that don’t really know all the complexities of your illness. You make a stunning appearance. Mingle and talk and truly enjoy yourself and your friends. Then leave.
- A little short, I know, but you get to see everyone, have a little fun and you still get to take part in Christmas. In an effort to be polite, I usually say that I had two parties on the same night, and I couldn’t say no to either one and that’s why you have to leave early. I know lying is bad but it would be impossible to explain to everyone that I don’t feel well and why, etc. So off I go.
- I call it the “Fun, Funny and Happy Christmas Shopping Trip”. I like the busy stores and Santa at the mall, but rather than dragging myself through 40 stores and ending up exhausted, I go out twice ( maybe three ) times. Once with my mom and sister and once with my son. We keep it light and funny, laughing and joking around but not really getting much shopping done. It’s more about enjoying the experience, spending time together, and admiring the beautiful shop windows.
- So what about the real shopping? One word. Internet. For me , it’s a godsend. Everything delivered to my door. Of course it’s not much because I’m living on SSI now but that brings me to another good point about shopping.
Sounds tacky, right? But honestly you can find some pretty cool stuff there if you really look. I managed to do it and was happy with what I found for everyone.
One More Shopping Idea
If you’re having a hard time figuring out what people want try shopping with one category for everyone. One year I chose books as the category. Every person on my list got a book that was tailored to their liking. It was easier for me and they were all pretty pleased. Other categories you might try could be sweaters, something for the car, kitchen gadgets and so on. Get creative.
Getting The House Festive
Here’s where I invite my son, his girlfriend and maybe one other to come over for pizza and spiffy up the house leaving it beautifully decorated. My husband has no choice; he lives here already. Lol. I know pizza might sound weird, but there is no way I can cook a meal for everyone and decorate. So pizza it is. The house is beautiful, and we have such a blast doing it. And of course, with the help, I’m not knocking myself out trying to do it on my own.
I would not do this without a lot of help from friends and family. It can be done though, but I generally steer away from it. It’s one of the things I have to give up, but it’s ok because I have so many other things I get to do.
I cut a LOT out. I make simple cookies and scones. When I make cut-out cookies I take a knife and cut out diamond shapes so I don’t have to keep rolling and re-rolling. I also spread out the baking over two or three days instead of doing it all in one.
Important things not to forget
- Set aside some special time for your spouse. I think this is so important. Everything gets busy and chaotic and sometimes we miss the beauty of Christmas with the one person we should be sharing it with.
- Read the real story of Christmas.
- Of course, if it’s for you… go to church! Faith is a powerful thing.
So, I cut down a little on the parties and the baking. I enlist help. I use the internet. And I manage to get some good presents at good prices and I really don’t feel like I’m missing out on that much. Getting just a taste of everything makes it feel like your completely wrapped up in the season but at the same time your not making yourself sick. It seems like a fair compromise to me.