Simplifying holidays to reduce stress is something I’ve been embracing as I’ve gotten older, and life has become busier and less predictable. Several years ago, when I was recovering from knee surgery and couldn’t climb ladders, we downsized our decorating. I skipped the garland wrapped around the bannisters (something you should avoid anyway when you’re hosting anyone with mobility issues), cut the menu in half (do we really need mashed potatoes AND whipped sweet potatoes?), and downsized my tree from an eight-foot behemoth (which STILL didn’t have enough room for my vast collection of ornaments) to a five-and-a-half-foot tree with all the light connections inside the center pole. I’ve also culled my ornament collection, giving some away to younger friends with growing families, and discarding anything that was worn, damaged, or just didn’t speak to me any longer.
One of my favorite memories from childhood is coming downstairs early in the morning to find my grandfather, his comfortably faded flannel bathrobe knotted over his blue pajamas, his feet cozy in fleece-lined slippers, stirring a pot of something on the stove. What the something was would vary – sometimes rolled oats (never “oatmeal”), sometimes farina (cream of wheat). In the warmer months he might be poaching eggs or soft boiling them for presentation in adorable ceramic egg cups. But the point, other than that he often expressed his love for us by cooking, was that he knew what we so often forget: breakfast is important.
What makes accepting help easier is to have it defined as help. “I can help you with that” is a world away from “let me do that,” and the first step here is listening. Asking if it’s awkward to get in and out of the shower, difficult to wash your back (a task that everybody has a hard time with!), put on your socks – to a client this sounds so different than saying “I’ll do that for you.”