Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Sink or Float? Surviving the Holidays Like Goldfish Can't

I love some of the traditions of Christmas.  The decorations.  The family-specific rituals each of us creates for our families, borrowing from our parents, borrowing from our spouse.  Tradition anchors my memories of Christmases past. 

But tradition can also be the anchor that drags our spirits down. The holidays are stressful for everyone. We're all trying to jam so much into them. And it's all good stuff. is it that we reach a place where you try to jam so much good feeling and holiday spirit into it that it ends up going so wrong and creating so much stress? It's like eating too much because you love it.  Like we're fucking goldfish and if it's in front of us then we MUST eat it until we gorge ourselves and die.  Maybe not EXACTLY like goldfish.  But you get it.  Christmas cards and parties, decorations and obligations, finding the right gifts and getting them wrapped...when it's all over and the tissue, bows and wrapping paper drift gently across the gift-strewn wreckage of your house like tumbleweeds across a post-apocalyptic landscape, maybe then you can look back and smile at all the joy. Or maybe not. Maybe you'll look ahead to the clean up. The putting away. The diet. Whatever.

It's okay to ditch the anchor. It's okay to create a happier healthier holiday for yourself and your family.  One of the best and most ironic lessons autism teaches is to abandon traditional parenting methods in the face of  neurology and look for new/different ones that work for your family. It teaches flexibility in the face of rigidity.  It teaches us to look for a "better" way, instead of the "traditional" way. To focus less on the tradition and more on the results. What works for some or most DOESN'T work for you.  It's okay to stop trying to make shit that doesn't work work.  I'm not saying this very well no matter how many times I rephrase it...if you don't see the irony, trust me it's there.  I know irony. 

It's okay if you didn't send Christmas cards.
It's okay if you didn't make cookies.
It's okay if you buy the "weird" present that your child wants instead of the "normal" present that you WANT him/her to want. 
It's okay to skip the holiday party because sitters are impossible to find at christmas.
It's okay to skip church.
It's okay to decorate less.  Or decorate differently.  Or decorate late.  Or skip decorating.
It's okay if your child didn't sit on Santa's lap. 
It's okay if your gifts are in gift bags instead of wrapped in paper.
It's okay if you give gift cards or money.  
It's okay if you can't afford to give what you really WANT to give.

It's all okay.  Celebrate in a way that actually feels joyful.  Abandon the stress and the rigidity of tradition if it makes you and your family happier...healthier.  How many of your traditions are for you?  Because it's the way YOU were raised, not even because you or your kids want/need them?  How many of your traditions do you KNOW you actively have to push energy into almost constantly in order to maintain?

It is a week before Christmas.  Less than.  I got the Christmas cards out.  I'm making Christmas Eve dinner.  I have the gifts bought (not wrapped yet).  Decorations have been up for weeks...two Christmas trees.  Teachers' gifts are on their way to school in my daughter's backpack.  Two Christmas parties yet to attend; both are this weekend.  I'm living the dream over here in Single Dad Autism Parent land.  Except that
I'm fucking stressed out.
I am stretched THIN.  I could do it, so I did it.  And now I'm at the end but I don't have anything left.  Not going to church on Christmas Eve this year.  Even thinking about it causes me stress.  So I'm not doing it.  Because I'm done.  DONE.  This Christmas will be awesome...probably in the way that winning your first marathon feels like...YES!!  I WON!!  Now I'm going home and I never want to put on another pair of running shoes again.  I didn't take my own advice...until now I guess.   
It's more important to me to maintain my sanity and my holiday cheer than it is for me to go to Christmas Eve Mass.  I probably won't take my decorations down until March.  Maybe not.  Maybe I'll leave them up ALL FUCKING YEAR.  Christmas cookies that Emma and I were going to make?  Meh...maybe. 

My POINT don't have to get to this place.  You don't have to jam all this fucking cheer down until you bloat like a goldfish and float to the surface of the holiday aquarium.  LET GO of the idea that you NEED to jam all this shit into the holidays in order for it to be...HAPPY.  BECAUSE...are you happy?  NO!!  You're fucking stressed out!!  I know!  I'm in your tribe!

Okay...anyway.  I'll close by saying...I.  LOVE.  CHRISTMAS.  Love it.  It is my absolute favorite time of the year.  And I love THIS Christmas even if what I've written above might make it SEEM like I don't.  And even if I AM capitalizing every third word so you can see how emphatic I am.  I love this season.  But it seems to me it is a bitter irony that this season we love can be destroyed by too much...cheer.  So...learn the lesson that having an inflexible child can teach...try a new way to reach holiday happiness.  Ditch the traditions that only LOOK good on Instagram and Facebook and find NEW ways to reach for something less...surface.

PS...I'm so torn about the fact that I'm comparing traditions to an anchor that holds you down, and then comparing them also to fish food that bloats you and makes you die and float on the surface.  We're floating...we're sinking...WHAT IS THE FUCKING ANALOGY JIM??  SINK OR FLOAT? 

I don't know...But if "It" taught us anything, it's that floating is bad.  So whatever.  Sorry about the analogies.  Focus less on tradition and more on happiness.  Create true happiness for yourself even if it doesn't make for a good facebook pic. 

The actual End.


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  2. Christmas is not about stress but about Jesus' birth. I've learned to cut out anything that keeps me from focusing on that. Each year is a little different for me, but I always keep that focus. So you know, last year, my decorations were up until March just because I had no time to do it sooner and we enjoyed having them up. We needed a little extra I guess.