The Holidays-A Survival Guide

This year I did not struggle to provide for xmas. I saved all year, as I have in the past, and had a reserve of cash just for this. We made gifts for teachers. I made a decision about charity vs. products for adults in the family. I had enough money to get a few great things for my kids and loved ones. We have enough.  We are fed. We have a lovely home. We are free from concerns about meeting our most basic needs.

But it’s still the holidays, a hard time for many folks. I was a single mom for a while before I met my ex, and Christmas was rough some years. I’m going to leave out commentary here on what holidays are like when you’re in a loveless marriage. Enough of us have been there. If that’s you this year, please reach out. I have nothing but empathy for you.

This year, I kept my commitments low and my expectations right down there with them. Holidays have historically been catastrophically terrible for my mental health, and I am determined to put an end to that nonsense. So I did a few things to ensure my stability during  this weird and whacky time.

Here’s my list of kindness toward myself:

Relax about the house.

Really. It’ll be uncomfortable sometimes. It’s okay to be uncomfortable. Let it go once in a while, or for weeks, or until the last possible second.

Be okay throwing things out

When I found myself picking up a thing (especially an ornament or decoration) and wondering either 1) where does this go? I can’t figure out where this should go or 1) why do I have this? It’s ugly.- I gave myself permission to throw it out.

Turn down invitations

No, I don’t want to go to your holiday open house. No, I’m not going to make it to brunch. No, I don’t want company. Why? Because Netflix is why. This is not unique to the holiday season but at this time of the year it’s crucial that I stand firm in my position that there’s not one damn thing wrong with sitting on the couch in my pajamas when I could be doing x or x or y or bonding with my friends.

Stay the course when it comes to the budget

I like to say I’m anti consumer but the fact is that I love the holidays and the shopping that goes with it. I ADORE giving presents. I love that the holidays gives me an excuse to give people things I want them to have. I struggle with this contradiction in myself. I like to save a little all year and use only cash to get gifts. At the last minute, I tend to get to selling off a few of my things to make extra cash for the extra shopping that I am prone to do. But one thing I do not ever want to do again is use credit to finance Christmas gifts. I love that credit exists and I know plenty of people use it, use it well, and are happy with how it works. But it feels like a looming monster over my shoulder. This year, I’m working two jobs to pay off a debt I incurred when my mother died in New Mexico, and I gave myself the freedom of locking up all my credit cards. I’ve paid for each gift with the cash reserve I saved. I am struggling now that it’s close to christmas and there are SO. MANY. AWESOME. THINGS. I want to buy for people. But my best gift to my loved ones is my sanity, and my sanity depends in part on not feeling the crush of holiday debt.

Keep expectations low when it comes to kid bonding

Sure, kids love rituals. But kids also have a short attention span. What they remember isn’t the actual playing out of the ritual (which in our case often involves children wandering in and out of the room where the Special Movie is playing, leaving their homemade hot chocolate to cool untouched, listlessly hanging two ornaments on the tree, and then bolting for the yard because hello, it’s so nice outside)- kids remember that you made the effort.  Kids are weird. They do have expectations, and they do want things to be “just like last year” but when they’re 20, they just remember that you showed up. Which brings me to:

Just show up.

Just go. To work. To the kitchen. To the restaurant with the kids. To the couch with a cup of coffee. Just show up, and let the universe take care of the rest. What people remember is that you were there. What matters is that you showed up. Take a nap after. Drink some wine during. Just show up, and keep showing up, and pretty soon it’ll be January.

I’m going to make it. I’m not where I would like to be, emotionally, at the holidays. Not yet. But I am stronger than I was last year and I am a completely different person than I was the year before that.

High-impact Gratitude, May 8

I’m going to start posting these little things here on the blog, and not just on facebook. I think it’s time to resurrect this old thing.

High impact gratitude: Some people call me naive, and it’s true that I tend to trust things and people probably more than some do, but I appreciate knowing that everything is really just going to be OK in the end. This helps me share, helps me move on from co-parenting conflicts, and helps me feel more connected to my community, and lessens my attachment to things. Everything is so impermanent. (…I tell myself, as I collect wet socks from the backyard where my kids have flung them in their excited haste to play in the mud)

I know that my life looks chaotic and messy and often shows a disregard for convention. It’s monumentally full of love and abundance, and I feel lucky every day that I have children who play in the dirt, friends who look past the clutter, and family who share freely and lovingly.

 

How to Get Back Up Again. And Again, and Again.

It’s the holiday season, traditionally my lowest time of the year. I had a snarky thing to write about how I’d been convinced it was my lowest time of the year by someone else, but really what do we really know anymore? But the real truth is that I set the tone for these expectations. “The holidays are my lowest point” I declared, early on in my courtship with my ex.

I was all about creating realistic expectations. I didn’t want there to be any surprises. This is me, I thought I was saying clearly. “this is me, WYSIWYG, take it or leave it.” I felt powerful, forthright, progressive.

Here is what’s also true: I will never live the same day twice. I will never live the same MINUTE twice. What right did I have, do I have, to declare myself and my state of mind before the situation even becomes an issue? I don’t. I simply don’t.

Recently someone asked me “Are you the type of person who_____” and suddenly I realized I don’t know. I’m the Summer type of person. I am funny, I am strong. I am fallible, I am sensitive.  I am this person, this minute and in five minutes I’ll be someone else. This is normal; this is regular, this is happening to us all every day, all day long.

I fall down, every day. A stack of old letters makes me instantly regretful and contrite about my deep distrust of history. I throw away perfectly useful items because when I touch them, they radiate pain.

And, I get up. Every day, several times a day, I get back up. Sometimes I bounce out of bed, joyous at the sight of the coffee machine pre-heated and ready to serve me. Sometimes before the alarm goes off, I am playing on social media, grateful beyond containment in that way that makes you just HAVE TO TELL THE WHOLE INTERNET how lucky you are. (just me? oh.)

Sometimes though, I get up as if I am wading through the sticky, slimy mud of an overgrown lake bed. I rub my hand up and down my face, blinking away nightmares. Sometimes it takes me an hour to fight my way out of the blankets, haunted by dreams that none of this has really happened. But no matter what, I get up. I must get up.

I get up because I am ready to be done with THIS and I want to move to the next minute and see what THAT feels like.  I want my kids to see me strong, smiling, happy. I get up sometimes knowing that I only have to stand on my own for a moment and then I will feel the utterly magnificent sensation of  being propped  up by my incredibly fierce, loving, loyal and brick-wall strong group of friends. I get up sometimes so that I can be a propper instead of a propee. Because I can do that now; I have that in me.

I always did. I always will.

How? A few things work for me.

  •  Gratitude list, especially about things that suck. So contrived, but I’m not kidding; even if I don’t actually feel thankful, when I post (publicly) a grateful spin on something that is hurting me, the power goes out of the pain. I am literally tricking my mind and it works. I don’t care why.
  • This prayer: I love you, I’m sorry, Please Forgive Me, Thank you. – I know, right? I’m an atheist. Whatever. This prayer is about my soul, my own memories and the things that I myself am doing to hold myself back. I love you, I tell myself and my memories. I’m sorry, I exclaim. Forgive me, I ask myself. Thank you, I tell myself because I’m already forgiven. I am a good soul and I love myself. Sometimes, I need a reminder.
  • Actual prayer. I KNOW RIGHT. No joke, I’ve done it. “help” non specific, out to the universe. Saying it lets me see where the help is. Spoiler alert: it’s everywhere.
  • Selfies. Yeah. I’m a narcissist, full of insecure ego. Whatever. I post them to remind me where I am, have been, want to go. I post them to let my friends know how I am, that I got up AGAIN HELL YES, and how #divorcerecovery is going.
  • And since I’m taking selfies: fashion. Not normal fashion, you guys. Just the kind of fashion that says “I’m out of my pajamas now and I am good to go to leave the house. BOOM” Also makeup. And hair products. And scarves. I’ve been known to decide to go in to the office just so that I could wear an awesome scarf out in public.
  • Work. It’s not much, but it’s there. I rented an office and I go there every weekday. I rented the office space instead of working from home because I wanted to be accountable and responsible and for it to be necessary for me to leave my house.
  • Vulnerability. I cry all over the internet. I tell people that I need help. I say that I’m hungry, that I need child care, that I am hurting because I just read 18 handwritten letters from my husband. I don’t hide my pain and I don’t hide from it. In that action, I make connections. In connections, I find pillars of support. Fountains of experience and strength that I am humbled to witness.

There’s more. I also eat junk food and play with my kids and make plans that scare me. A hundred ways to love yourself. A hundred tiny reasons to find out what the day will bring.

If you’re out there, if the holidays is your “hard time of the year”, if you’re stuck in bed or a TV coma or even under the bed- contact me, reach out, call someone. Write a note. Know this: five minutes from now you will not be the person that is reading this post. You can do anything you want, five minutes from now. You have worth. You’re valuable. People love you. YOU love you. It’s in there.

Merry Holidays Happy Christmas or Yule or Solstice and all that other stuff. I love you, internet. Thanks for being there.

tis the season for writer’s block

Therapy is a life altering experience for me. Yesterday my therapist said to me (in reference to me dancing around some long past trauma) “Oh, I’m not expecting you to have some huge cathartic break. I’m not even sure that would be healthy” and that’s when I knew this was my kind of therapy.

I might be making great strides in “creating healthy boundaries” and “managing anger” and “re-framing thoughts” but I’m just so worn out from all this forward progress that I haven’t been able to think of a single witty thing to blog about. Instead I’ll submit a list:

-Jack’s first haircut. A comedy of errors, involving a child sitting in the sink playing with the faucet while 2 adults hover around his head with a set of clippers, a beard trimmer, and a pair of scissors.

-Alert the media: I still love my husband.

-My teenager is about to get major media attention again. Which means I should probably stop wearing my pajamas to drop LittleA at Pre-K. Someone! Please use google-fu to find me a SAHM uniform that does not involve low waist jeans or really anything with a waist. I only have one velour tracksuit.

-Hell froze over, and my children play together. I have photographic evidence. Watch this space.

-LOST and Grey’s Anatomy’s shark jumping plotline have made me dream about my dead ex boyfriend. Ouch. Seriously, subconscious brain? Don’t you have better things to do?

-my newly painted toenails make me unreasonably happy. I’m going barefoot (brrr!) just so I can see them more often