My Holiday Safety Plan
I have been underground recently. Did you notice? Well, not really underground. I have been sitting in a grey rocking chair, surrounded by diapers, wipes, zip up sweatshirts and that book on tidying up that has yet to clean my house. We welcomed our little guy in mid October and things have been really... FAST since. I eat fast, sleep in frantic bits, get ready quickly, sneak showers in during naps and usually end up having at least one child in the bathroom with me. We are adjusting. It is wonderful. And we are lucky. And tired. The monotony of caring for someone is so draining. You never know what each day will bring and yet it kinda feels like yesterday.
And Christmas is now. Whenever I would stress about not being ready for Christmas Dad would say "No one told you Christmas was coming?" I think what he meant was: "So sorry you are stressed out. How can I help?" I woke up this morning and was in a really grumpy mood. Part of it was because I'm exhausted and fighting the mighty cold that has taken out my husband and son already. Part of it is that I have been on post partum depression watch since having this little guy and started to wonder if she was coming round for a visit. (More on this in another post). Or maybe I'm so tired that a good night's sleep can't fix it. There is a reason why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture and it's hard to tell what is making me feel black cloud-y. And sorta angry. Like I want to throw an old burrito at the guy two tables away who is crunching his hippie veggie chips so loudly. Can you just imagine how satisfying that would be? It would probably break open in such an outfit ruining way. A friend of mine told me a story once about how he ate a burrito by accident that had maggots in it. He got very sick. But I would buy that burrito for this coffee shop attack. A maggot burrito. Now I know I'm tired because this is cracking me up and I think it might not actually be nice.
Wondering how I got time to write with two kids on maternity leave?
I think part of my feeling down is that Christmas is not the same. And I've been trying to come up with a way to not just make it through this year, but to actually enjoy parts of it. So here is what I'm doing.
1. I'm opting out of things. First, I made a list of all of the things I "HAD" to do. Then I went through it and crossed out the things I really don't have to do. Like maybe I don't send Christmas cards. Maybe I get them out for St. Patrick's Day.
2. I'm really trying hard not to use this end of the year period to evaluate where I am in my life right now. I'm two months post partum. It's not a good time to evaluate my fitness when the only pants that fit are a terrible pair from Target that I bought without trying on. I just threw them in my cart because one child was crying and the other one wanted to know why Mama got a present if he couldn't get a present. They would go amazingly well with the mesh underwear from the hospital, if that gives you any idea. And they are getting stretched out from their daily wear, making them all the more dumpy. So I wear them with a belt. But none of my belts fit except for the stretchy ones. So the pants are loose with a cinched waist. Having trouble picturing? Picture a cinched garbage bag. There you go.
I would also like to boldly suggest not doing an evaluation of how your life is going when you are in the middle of grief. It's not going to be pretty. Because you are in the coping season. It will not last forever, but here you are. So you do the coping things you need to do for right now. Maybe next year will be better. It will certainly be different. If you had told me last year that this Christmas would be spent with a new baby, I never would have believed you. If you had told me a few years ago that I would lose my Dad to cancer and be losing my Mom to Alzheimer's, I would have told you that was nuts. See? Different.
3. I am talking about Dad and Mom to my son. I'm making sure he knows their names, what they liked and what they were about before they got sick. Mom is still "here" but she's different and I want my son to know that she wasn't always like that. They kayaked, they went to Alaska and camped next to a river, she ran a school, he ran an office, they loved you and chased you around the yard and thought your smile was awesome. For a while I debated about talking too much about Dad to my son, but then decided that I don't want to be the kind of parent that gets upset and then says to their child that everything is "fine". It's okay for me to say "I feel really sad right now because I miss my Dad and I wish he was here." He is almost four, he gets what it is like to love a parent.
4. I'm trying daily to let go of what I thought my life at 37 would be like. As a parent of two young children, I find that I am often thinking about the role that I thought my parents would play in my children's lives and right not I've been thinking a lot about what our holidays would have looked like. And maybe you can let go a little too. Be sad, miss them, and then maybe you can let go of what your Christmas "should" look like. It's different now. Maybe someone you loved isn't here. Maybe you thought you would have a new house, a new baby or a new love and you don't. Ok. All of that is true. Breathe it in, sit with it. Cry about it. If you don't like the way your Christmas is going, control what you can control. Take an early morning walk. Eat food that makes you feel good and strong. Drink. Don't. Stretch.
5. Lower your expectations. I spend a lot of time imagining what certain days, meals or encounters will be like. I get disappointed a lot. I tend to overextend myself to try and make holidays and birthdays perfectly match my high expectations. So this year I'm shooting really low. Remember these videos about "Lowered Expectations"? That's me, I'm lowering my expectations. My goals are to exercise every day for at least 10 minutes, to eat a vegetable and a fruit each day and to nap as much as I can. See how low?
6. I decided with the energy I do have, to be thoughtful about how I use it. I could make homemade cookies for your party. But my older son really needs attention right now. So I'm taking him for a walk instead. I can do the dishes and the laundry, but I'm tired and so I'm going to go lay in my bed and fall into a deep sleep to be promptly woken up by a little crying baby. My family could cook, but they are all grieving too. So Wegman's will cook for us. And the time will come when we make our family's famous rolls, Mom's mint cheesecake and spend days researching recipes the way Dad used to. This is not the time for that yet.
7. When your relatives ask how you are this year, maybe you do something different and tell them. Maybe they love you and would really love to help, or at least would be willing to talk to you over some ham. I would say "I'm happy and exhausted and drained. I miss my Dad every day and right now it just feels so wrong that he is still not here. My Mom is really sick and she has a really difficult disease and it sucks that she doesn't recognize her grandchildren- the un-sick Mom would have been so different. I feel like I'm in some sort of transition but I'm not sure where I am transitioning to" It' s a lot for ham talk, but maybe in the process you might discover someone who can relate to not being exactly where they thought they would be.
Good luck out there everyone. You got this.