That of course is too much pressure for most of us on a good day, but add an illness and things can fall apart easily.
I think this Thanksgiving was an example of that very scenario for us. Day-to-day around here is hard enough. It was just a week or so ago I was negotiating my days so that the days I showered I could stay home and rest; yet I was ready to take on Thanksgiving as I had in previous years. I admit I knew I needed help. My brother Jim offered to come visit and help with the cooking. It was a very sweet and much appreciated visit.
I, on the other, hand planned all meals for the weekend and in my jumbled mind picked up the ingredients for various dishes and made sure we had everyone's favourites. Not being my usually organized self around meal planning it took several attempts to even get that right. I was stressed before it even started. My stress was I wanted a warm and inviting environment for my girls to come home to. What I created was a house full of the right foods and one high tension pressure cooker on how we would get them on the table.
The tension was all mine. It was for the most part internal. It had been brewing along with the internal voice that repeated over and over again that there was little I could do to make this weekend enjoyable.
Our usual Thanksgiving includes sitting by the campfire, sitting talking and laughing at the table for long periods, and sitting and playing cards. A lot of sitting. Sitting is very painful for me at this point so short little snippets of it work for me but not conducive to our usual lingering. The other activity usually involves throwing a football and a hike, again neither of which work for me.
Without even knowing it, I was going into this weekend feeling a little left out before it even started. Admittedly, I had been feeling down and inpatient with my recovery anyway.
I was very thankful to have Jim with us as he added a lot in a sense of celebration, the way having family visiting always does.
Saturday I woke feeling a little off. I had not had a good sleep and woke with pain and discomfort from the start. The day wore on, and I started feeling pressure about the meal for that evening.
I was asking for help in all the wrong ways. Grumbling and complaining does not inspire help. And even after all these years my family doesn't recognize the defeat of pain when it shows itself that way. They run for cover and I can't say I blame them. Some families fight and yell and get on with their day, we have never been that kind of family. Times like this I wish we were.
It was a nice meal prepared by all but once on the table the usual banter at the table that I love even seemed too much for me. What I hadn't realized was my blood pressure had risen quite high, which makes me highly irritable.
I'm not even sure I can recount what actually happened to precipitate the break down of the evening but it happened, and it happened fast. Thankfully Jim had gone out for an hour when the blow up occurred.
It went sort of like this. I can't do this myself, you don't have to, blah blah blah. I ended up crying so did Jerri. We didn't know how we got there and how to get out of it.
Meg insisted on taking me for a drive. I resisted to no avail. We went to the Lookout and parked to talk and hug it out. At home Barry lit a campfire and he and Jerri were sitting by it when we finally returned. We all hugged and went on with our night. When Jim arrived home we were happily sitting by the fire as though nothing happened. Meghan joked that we were highly efficient at getting ourselves back on track in the nic of time. Not that it was any secret from Jim but we sure didn't want to involve him.
The moral of this story is home is home. The feeling isn't created by food or the perfect table cloth and flowers, it is a genuine hug from Mom when you walk through the door. The feeling of putting on sweats and not "putting on" in any other way. We should have eaten out one day of the holiday weekend it would have eased the load.
The bottom line is I expected too much of myself and others and when none of us could keep up it fell apart. I will learn from this and take things slower at Christmas. Even though I expect to be so much better physically, I will still remember to focus on what is important, people not things or food. All the decorations in the world can't make up for a cranky Mom or worn out Dad. The girls want to be with us and us with them, that is what matters.
So with this in mind I found a list of ways to prepare for a happy holiday for those of us with limited ability.
I have been cursed with the challenge of physical limitations and a very creative mind. Every holiday I would, if I could, decorate and cook and bake to the max, but I can't. So here are some tips if you're like me and want to create a nice environment without all the work.
1.Get organized early. Write cards, if you do them, in November. Pace yourself and write so many each day throughout the month. Mail at the appropriate time in December.
2.Make a list of decor for the house inside and out. Keep it simple, decide when it will happen, and what if anything will need to be purchased.
3.Make a list of gifts and start buying the gifts as soon as you know what you want for each person. Force yourself to buy early.
4.Once purchased, wrap the gift immediately or alternatively set aside a wrapping week and wrap so many each day. Do not allow yourself to do too much in one sitting.
5.Anything that has to be mailed do it by December 1st. The pressure of having to get things in the mail can add stress where it is not necessary of done early.
6.Wherever available shop online. Avoid crowded mall, parking, and overspending by staying out of the stores.
7.Have a written budget and stick to it. Avoid the unnecessary one more thing to "add" to a gift.
8.Look at who you buy for and ask yourself seriously if it is necessary. Are there people who you hardly see but make the point of seeing just to exchange the habitual gift, if so mutually drop it. Seeing the person is more important then shopping for a gift for the sake of it. Spend the time, not the money.
9.If you want an easy way to wrap gifts and support a charity have your gifts wrapped by a charity for a small amount per gift. Save yourself the time and give to others. Win/win.
10.When it comes to food, keep it realistic. There is so much waste over the holidays, why not have a good look at the menu and pare it down. Keep the favourites, and lose some of the extras.
11.Meal prep can be done ahead of time. Like spending it is so easy to overdo it. A menu will help with that, so stick to it and start early. Buy items as they go on sale. If in November you see a good sale for shrimp and you know you want them for Christmas buy them early and cross it off your list.
12.Baking! Even those who rarely eat sweets have Christmas favourites. Why not bake early and freeze these items or better yet buy them from a charity. With the exception of course of those you make with family.
13.Once shopping, cooking, baking is done, or organized to be done, resist the urge to get caught up in the frenzy to do more. Enough is enough.
14.Remember holidays are about being present not having presents. That is true for everyone including children.
15.Remember to breathe, and enjoy those around you, and don't sweat any of the small stuff.