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.
I sit here, waiting on news about my boyfriend’s father in the emergency room at Starbucks – hot cocoa in hand. Living through a scenario that began last night, I’ve been through many times before with my parents. A coughing spell led to chest congestion that he swears he didn’t have. When he came close to falling last night, it became clear that at the age of ninety-one, a trip to the doctor would be in order.
Speak your feelings when situations occur rather than letting them rise like yeast in bread! The other person may not even notice what is happening with you – not intending to cause you any harm or anger – so, speaking up can quickly clear the air. If you’re hurt, say it. Don’t let it fester. Something else will happen, and then suddenly, there will be an emotional explosion!
I recently found a different way. The caregiving after-effects can run long and deep. Just when you think you’ve got it neatly tucked away, it whirls back up like a tornado. Perhaps it’s the 7th anniversary of mom passing, approaching along with the recent (and somewhat unpleasant) dealings of my brother’s estate when he passed late last year. Perhaps, it’s those little, tiny emotions that are tucked neatly in the back of my psyche that, even though I continue my practices, were still knocking. None of this was ruining my life, days, or decisions, but it was a constant, subtle, poke or prickle.
The holidays are upon us, which adds yet another layer of responsibilities. Whether it’s baking cookies or coordinating a gift for your mom from the family, this time of year has its own pressure. Or perhaps it’s navigating the grief of a loved one no longer with you. All of this can have an additional impact this time of year. Speaking to a friend about this recently, we referred to this as “emotional whiplash.” You might feel emotions and deep-seated feelings that others won’t understand, side by side with the demands of what needs to be done.