Monday, December 23, 2013

Holiday Prep - with CFS (or well, an undiagnosed condition that matches that syndrome 100% in symptoms)

Over the years, I've learned what doesn't work.

What doesn't work for me?

I can't spend a whole day cleaning. I can't. I used to. Before I crashed. But now? eight hours of cleaning the house top to bottom? Results iin months of not being able to do much of anything, cleaning, working, functioning at all. It's not worth it.

What does work for me?

Getting my kids to pitch in and getting the main living area - that's the living room, kitchen and dining area to a passable state. That means toys/books/dishes/trash are all where they belong, the floor is vaccuumed... the private areas? well, those can still be semi-disasterous. But this way, I don't have to be ashamed of the public areas and it's enough to get through the Holidays with.

Doesn't work?

I can't spend a whole weekend baking a half dozen different types of cookies and treats. Nothing like a self-induced sugar coma on Christmas day. I love having the treats.... but spending the whole weekend in a hot kitchen; even with trying to sit on a stool most of the time? Is still a disaster in the making.

What does work?

A dozen cookies, MAYBE two. TOPS. You know what? Not one neighbor ever complained that I didn't bring them cookies any longer. Co-workers don't care. My kids kind-of care, kind-of don't. And you know what? The few I do make are still yummy. And we don't really need that much sugar in the house anyway. Christmas, funny enough, can still be enjoyed without all that extra sugar. Who knew?

Doesn't work?

Sending out Christmas Cards. Making sure you have enough, making sure your address book is organized enough, sitting down and writing a meaningful message in each one or even typing out a letter that you can print 20 copies of to insert into the card? Getting the stamps? My brain fog is such that sitting down and trying to think of anything to put in it that doesn't sound like whining? Too much work.

What does work?

Refusing to let myself feel guilty about skipping the whole darn thing. I've thought about the 'email equivalent'... but honestly? If you are close enough to friend me on facebook (and haven't shut off my status updates from feeding to you yet?)... then you arleady know what's going on in my life. Good enough for me.

Doesn't work?

Multiple days, mutliple trips to multiple stores, hitting up the sales and trying to find the 'right' gift. My stamina is just not up to it.

What does work?

Shopping online for 90% of it and saving the 10% for a half day well-planned run. If I can get the remaining items in less than five stops? That is AWESOME. If I can't??? Then gift cards. Seriously... well thought out gift cards. Cards to places they actually shop/eat at.

Doesn't work?

Marathon wrapping sessions. I used to wrap all my gifts in the evening, often procrastinating until Christmas Eve.  The little one wouldn't fall asleep for forever, because, of course, he was way to excited about the upcoming holiday. Which meant it was often after midnight before he fell asleep and it would easily take me until 3 am or 4 am to wrap everything. That way lies insanity.

What does work?

First off - gift bags! Second off - more gift bags! Seriously, SO MUCH EASIER.

Then, still in the evenings, but at least a week before Christmas? I wait until he falls asleep (at a thankfully reasonable time - like 9:30 pm) and then I wrap 10 gifts. That's it, just ten gifts. I'm in bed by 10:30 and within a few evenings all the gifts are wrapped. So much less stress.

Doesn't work?

Lots of traveling. Driving to opposite side of the state for Thanksgiving and Christmas and then another state for New Years? It adds to the stress. It adds to the work. There are issues on how to keep some presents secret while the kids are loading/unloading the car. There's the issues with what food to bring that can travel well. Add potentially bad weather to the mix and it just seems like it's more work than it's worth.

What does work?

Spreading out the visits. I try to see my side of the family twice a year - once in the middle of summer when the roads are never covered with ice and snow... and again at Thanksgiving. Christmas is now spent at home.  Admittedly, part of what helped was being divorced and not having to travel to the in-laws any longer... but the expectation I would have had if I still was in the family would be to go in the summer ... of course, it helps that it was me that wanted to see them at Holiday time, my ex was just as happy not going to see them twice a year.

Doesn't work?

Working full time on Christmas Eve, boxing day, etc. I used to. Of course, I used to 'do it all'. I don't any longer.

What does work?

If I have an ounce of PTO left, I take it surrounding the holidays. It's funny how exponentially less stressful it is not to juggle daycare, work and feeling ready for the holidays. It's the day before Christmas Eve and I still have a little bit of work to do around the house. But I have the rest of the week off this week. We'll see Christmas lights tonight, clean and bake cookies and listen to Christmas carols tomorrow... throw some Chili on the stove top to simmer all day with snow falling down outside. We'll probably watch some Christmas specials and movies and just be relaxed because I don't have dozens of things to do in not enough time...

Doesn't work?

I used to hand make ornaments... (well, I still do)... but not just a few. No, I made one for each of my nieces and nephews (current count 19 and counting). My sons (2 and not counting). My son's teachers (six), daycare (10 more), etc. Add some for coworkers (about a dozen).Seriously. the craft would vary although lately it's kind of stuck on knitting), but I would make several dozen hand-made ornaments EVERY year.

What does work?

Cutting back. It's still my tradition and it's still something I share... But now I make about 8-10 ornaments. 1 for me, one each for my two sons, one for my future daughter-in-law, one for my grandson and the rest go to my youngest son's teachers. That's it. That's all she wrote. And no one has ever complained. Not once. They would always compliment me when they got it and be excited to get one (so I know they were appreciated) but it's not like Christmas doesn't happen if they didn't get an ornament from me. The world didn't stop spinning.




Funny thing is? All of the things on my list are things I could have done before I got sick. Not one of these things is geared toward anything other than taking it easy, enjoying myself and my family and the holiday... and lowering stress. I've had more holiday melt downs in the past than I'm comfortable admitting to myself. And every one of them was completely preventable. If only I'd figured this out sooner.

We put soo much pressure on ourselves to do X, Y and dozens of Z for the Holidays. Enough pressure and stress to put you in a pressure cooker that's bound to explode at some point. Yet, cutting back? doesn't hurt anyone's feelings. It doesn't leave anyone deprived. It doesn't lessen your love for the season.  But it does let you focus on the really important part of your life - sharing joy with your loved ones.

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