Friday, December 19, 2014

How to not "Miss" the Holidays with a Chronic Illness

The holidays are a particularly nasty time for someone with a chronic illness. We desperately want to participate in all the merriment, and every year something happens where I just fall out. This year I got a stomach flu right before Thanksgiving. One holiday missed. My father's recent stroke make it impossible for him to fly for a while (and lord knows I don't want him driving this far at his age...). I have too much pain to drive long distances (anything over an hour pretty much does me in), plus a night-time oxygen machine that is as large as a carty-on itself, and three times as heavy. It's all such a logistical nightmare, that visiting one another for Christmas never happens. Oh, sure, for my father's stroke I would have found a way... but he said, "Stay." Christmas just isn't important enough to pull out all the stops, which can make it difficult to get through!

In past years I've ignored the season, which is easy to do when there's no evidence of the season around you. Seattle was rainy that time of year, just as it was since October, and would be until May or June. It was easy to act like Christmas happened somewhere else, in a land far, far away. Now that I'm in Colorado where the main precipitation is snow, it's a little more difficult to be in "responsible denial." (Denial of certain specific facts, such as an upcoming holiday, to protect yourself from the sorrow of knowing you're too sick to participate anyway.) So I have to find other coping mechanisms.

As a compromise, knowing that I may not be well on the exact day on which the holiday falls, I expand the holiday to strech from December 21st (the traditional Yuletime) until the 4th of January, (what my mother called "the Twelve Days of Christmas"). That way I can celebrate any time that I feel good, and shrug off the days I'm not feeling well, and not feel like I've missed the holiday completely!

This year I have bells on my door that ring cheerily every time I run an errand. I splurged on Christmas lights (and repurposed some of my Halloween lights) that sparkle beautifully in the night. And, friends in-town and out-of-town are coming to see me, which I appreciate so much, because it makes it possible for me to have energy left to socialize, rather than me being exhausted by the mad holiday rush.

I love my family, so we can make it a celebration any time I visit, and it doesn't have to be a holiday. There are family traditions on different days (like our summer family reunions) that can be as special to me as Christmas or Thanksgiving, so it's okay that we're not able to meet face-to-face. We all call one another on the phone or Skype, so we still spread the holiday love around.

So this year, it feels really good to be a part of the seasonal celebrations that everyone else is doing. I love the lights that everyone in my neighborhood puts up. There are some amazing displays that out my little white strands to shame! But what matters is what I do for the season, and this year, I'm celebrating!!

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