Quick note: These are some of the things I do to stay sane during the holiday season. While this isn’t a “challenge”, feel free to write your own post of safe and sane ideas, and add a link to it or ping back in the comments section. Maybe we can help each other have a happy winter.
I started this post on Thanksgiving. In the hot living room at Dad’s, football playing at a ridiculous volume because Dad is a bit hard of hearing, but he is also trying to drown out the shrill voice of my sister, who never stops talking. I was exhausted from prepping, setting out (we do self-service), then cleaning up the big feast, and my head was starting to throb a bit.
Since Grandma passed away this year (one of six major deaths of people we know since the beginning of April) the holiday ads designed to evoke an emotional response had worked their “magic”: I was emotionally raw and spent most of that tiring day on the edge of tears. Combine that with a slightly throbbing head and I couldn’t think straight.
What better time to try and advise folks about the holidays? “Do as I say… not as I do?”
Really, this Thanksgiving was an aberration. Usually I am not such a mess, and I manage to manage and still enjoy things on the way.
Approaching the holidays, the first question is: How do you stay sane in this crazy world?
“We can’t all, and some of us don’t. That’s all there is to it.”
Eeyore (A.A. Milne)
My family has never pulled off a Norman Rockwell/Martha Stewart/Rachel Ray sort of holiday season. We are a lot more like National Lampoon Family Christmas. A whole lot more: one year we had a water spout from a broken pipe and a dog die. Grandma was our Chevy Chase: she wanted it traditional with all the knick-knacks and whistles that would fit on her window sill.
At this point we are a motley crew of a family. Kluged together from the bits and pieces that are still alive and care enough to tolerate the quirks and imperfections of each other. Who from this elite group actually shows up varies from year to year. The dogs always show up, and sometimes we have as many canines as humans.
Things changed with time
Before my grandparents moved to California we always spent Christmas Eve with my father’s family, Christmas morning at home then went to Grandma’s for Christmas day dinner.
Of course that changed when they moved to California. I mentioned in a previous post that we took a car trip down to spend Christmas with them the first year that they lived in California. Mostly we didn’t do that. I’m not sure we would have all survived to adulthood if we had. One year they came up but, because we lived down a steep trail, they couldn’t stay with us so that wasn’t repeated.
After my parent’s divorce we rarely spent the holidays together with my grandparents. My mother inherited their love of the holidays, but not so much of the spirit of sharing. So our holidays were centered around her home and my grandparents would send a Christmas in a box with everything from oranges and cookies to gifts.
The next major change for me was when my son was born. After a disastrous Christmas trip to Texas where my poor child wound up wearing a soiled diaper for several hours because of weather related travel problems and turbulence, I declared that I was going to stay home for the holidays and people could come to my house or not. My grandparents started coming up for Christmas. We did go down once when James was eight or so.
With no young children in the family Grandma became the focus of our merry making. As grandma got older I was the one who wound up trying to make the merry happen, often to strict orders.
Fortunately, I had a great deal of catering experience from doing events at church, I have organized elaborate events for a hundred people several times, so the food, always critical to having a good time (or at least good memories), doesn’t feel like a burden. Managing the herd of cats that is our family was tougher.
The burden was the expectation that I could both produce the party and, at the same time, sit patiently and be present. Since I made an effort to be calm and pleasant in the face of a long to-do list, even when I had a headache and wanted to crawl into a hole, she seemed to think I wasn’t busy and asked me to arrange knick-knacks, find batteries for her Santa House, procure eggnog, not forget to pick up the type of tissues she liked… At times I felt like I was being punished for being nice.
I know this is wrong. I know that she really just wanted us to be with her, to have reasons to stop by. But it was how I felt at times, especially when she would ask what I had been doing, as if I was, in addition to putting on the party, running errands and being there, supposed be out doing things and having fun so I had stories to tell as well.
Fortunately, I have a sister, who was able to come and help Grandma decorate and arrange her knick-knacks the weekend after Thanksgiving the last couple of years. I generally “celebrate” Black Friday by hiding.
I do it my way.
I’m actually not the Grinch you might have thought from the rant above. I like the holidays, in my own way. I space things out. I finish with Thanksgiving before I think about Advent and Christmas.
I’m not real big on the whole Christmas morning thing. I call that “consumer-fest”, honestly it has always seemed like nothing could be less Christ-like than the “traditional” Christmas morning scrum under the tree. I used to have a St. Nicholas Day tea party for my son and nieces. My nieces father’s family did Christmas big (I never understood why since they are Buddhists and atheists) and I wasn’t going to compete.
I celebrate Advent, lighting a new candle each Sunday, decorating for Christmas a bit more each week and doing one or two seasonal things that I enjoy each week.
COMING SOON: Aunt Kate’s Safe and Sane Guide to the Holidays.
PHOTO CHALLENGE OF PLACES WE SIT…OR MIGHT SIT…OR ART ABOUT SITTING
Welcome to week 14 of Pull up a Seat. Take a load off and share a favorite perch by linking your post to this one, either with a comment or ping-back. For more detailed directions go to Pull Up a Seat page.
Thank you to everyone who participated this week. It is always fun to see the variety of ideas.
The prompt “Bludgeon” immediately brought to mind my feeling when I returned home from China on the 20th of last month: it is the election season and, to make matters worse, Christmas is just around the corner. Going through the pile of mail awaiting me were two Voter’s Pamphlets (County and State) plus innumerable vote-this-way-or-that mailers, and several holiday catalogs. Both of these represent bludgeons to me…and I hate that feeling.
This year there are 39 items on our ballot!!!! If, for the sake of argument, you assume that the average per issue is five mailings and 5 phone calls that equals 195 items of junk mail and times of getting up to answer the phone to be disappointed that it isn’t an emergency (the reason I always answer the phone is in case it is Grandma or Dad). The “do not call” registry doesn’t apply to political contests.
In addition to the Christmas catalogs (more arrive daily) I have already received two “black Friday” ads.
Rant #1: the election…but its not what you think
7 initiatives, 2 advisory votes, and a proposition!!! I appreciate the idea of democracy, however, the basic idea of “representative democracy” is that you elect competent people, who are paid to research and make intelligent decisions that “provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare”.
I am a good reader, and have higher than average computational and reasoning skills and it often takes me an hour or so to go through and reason out the pros and cons on these issues, even at that I often feel like I can’t make an adequately informed decision. How many people do you think do even this much? I am guessing that the average person just reads the top level description and votes a gut reaction. That means that people who do not actually understand the issues are calling the shots.
If the duly elected and paid for professional services representatives can’t do the job then we really need to do some soul searching: on what grounds are they elected? Right now it feels like we are selecting people based on their favorite color (red or blue) not their intelligence or skills.
Rant #2: “the holidays” are far from holy
The reason for the “black” in “black Friday” is that it is the day of the year when businesses, especially smaller ones, move from being “in the red” to “in the black” for the year’s accounts. Everyone is desperate to make ends meet. The desperation comes out in marketing that screams at you and jerks you around emotionally, in bright and flashing lights, louder than usual music (sometimes shockingly bad), and cinnamon and pine scented everything, for me this is a sensory overload.
This time of year I often feel bludgeoned when I go out to buy basics: the general bustle of busier than usual stores with bright and/or flashing lights, singing snowmen and loud music has more than once caused me to turn tail and run home…who needs bread and eggs?
I understand the desperation of stores trying to make money: although I have a bit more trouble with TarWalOsco acting desperate than with local independently owned stores.
Here is what I believe: Christmas won’t be a life changing event because you give or get just the right electronic gadget…and if you use Thanksgiving just to get energy for the mad dash to get that electronic gadget (probably made by someone who is living in pretty miserable conditions) you will lose out on the things that matter.