Thinking beyond Christmas – so I can relax and enjoy it now

I’ve got my hands full, for the next 24 hours. I’m coming down to the wire with shopping and cooking and preparation for Christmas Day tomorrow. My spouse and I typically take it easy on Christmas, when we’re at home.

And this year, like last year — and several other years before that — we’re at home. Just the two of us.

No two days of driving, in both directions.

No packed houses with lots of people vying for our attention.

No navigating family dynamics and going the extra mile to let everybody just be who and what they are.

None of that. Just peace. Heavenly peace.

And to make sure it stays that way, I’m thinking ahead to the coming week, getting my schedule clear in my head so I don’t have to deal with a bunch of surprises, on down the line. I’m not very fond of surprises. I’ve got enough on my plate that I already know about, and I haven’t been sleeping well, lately, so that makes me more irritable and hard to deal with. I need to take better care of myself wherever I can, for the sake of everyone around me.

And that means streamlining and planning ahead wherever possible.

What do I need to do, this coming week? We’ve got some appointments we have to attend. I also have some car repair work I need to schedule. And I’ve got a handful of things I’d like to sort out around the house, too. Like do much-needed organizing of the files on my computer and the various “thumb” drives I have. I’ve got a lot of USB drives with a lot of stuff on them, and it’s time I consolidated them. Also, cleaning up, organizing the various rooms in the house. Moving furniture we don’t use to the basement, making room for the things we do use. Making space to move and breathe and live. And unwind.

Unwinding is good. I’ve been pretty tightly wound for quite some time. Unwinding will be a welcome change.

Before we know it, it’ll be 2018. Christmas almost seems like a blip on the screen, but of course it’s not. It’s a pretty big deal for my spouse, and I need to do my part. I’ve never been much for holidays, birthdays, special events — they all seem like just another day to me. But being part of something bigger than me — which also really matters to my spouse — is more important than indulging my Bah-Humbug spirit of the season. Just gotta put my own sentiments aside and get into it.

It’s not forever. And it won’t kill me to just go with it.

So, go with it, I shall.

And then… into the New Year with a positive frame of mind.

It’s the only way.

Merry Christmas – may it be so

Merry_ChristmasMerry Christmas, everyone. Happy Christmas. Frohe Weinachten. Feliz Navidad. And many more wishes in languages I do not know.

I hope it is a good day for you, and that you find peace and a measure of happiness before the day is through.

Christmas is a tricky time for a lot of people, including those who have some sort of limitation or particular need. One of the most poignant things about it, is actually the spirit of it, which so often gets lost in the shuffle. The original story (whether you’re a believer or not) is about people under duress making the best of a bad situation.

A whole country is uprooted by a tyrant (of sorts) and hauled away from their homes, so they can be taxed in the town of their family’s origin. One couple in the midst is a man and his very pregnant wife, who have to make the trek, regardless of her condition. Nazareth, where Joseph and Mary were from, was a kind of crappy area — economically depressed and not the sort of place “nice” people lived. So, Joseph probably wasn’t all that well-off to begin with, and dragging him away from his work as a tradesman to tax him, was just heaping one injury on another. It wasn’t like he made that much money, to begin with — but he gets taxed and he loses however many days or weeks of work. That’s rough.

And when Mary and Joseph get where they’re going, there’s literally no room for them in habitable lodging. So, they end up in a stable. In a strange city. Anyone who’s spent time around farm animals, knows this is about the last place you want to deliver a baby, but apparently that’s where it happened, and the child ended up laid in a feeding trough for his first night on earth.

Some entrance.

Now, I’m not a hugely religious person, these days. Once upon a time, I was, though. I was raised in an evangelical, fundamentalist Christian household and I was “raised in the church.” It was my primary social network. My parents are still very involved in their church community, as are some of my siblings. I’ve always been pretty spiritual (even after I stopped believing the way my family did), and that endured through the years with a strong tendency to feelings of mysticism and spiritual connection with something higher.

My TBI in 2004, however, pretty much erased my religious feeling. Suddenly, it just wasn’t there, anymore, and I could not for the life of me figure out why anyone would have any interest in religion or spirituality. My spouse has always been very spiritual, and I can assure you, the times when I did not pray along with them were not the best moments in our marriage. I rolled my eyes and tapped my foot impatiently, waiting for them to finish, which really hurt their feelings.

My lack of spiritual feeling has persisted somewhat, but in the past few years, that’s started to change. Just goes to show you how the brain continues to alter and develop along different lines, over time. And I’ve gotten some of my spiritual feeling back — though I have probably gotten back more willingness to play along so I don’t hurt others’ feelings, than I’ve gotten back my old religious fervor.

But religious belief aside, the story behind Christmas is one that really resonates with a lot of people. It’s all about being forced into a less-than-ideal situation, and making do. It’s about modest, humble circumstances setting the stage for later greatness. And to me it’s about dealing up-front with the indignities of life and recognizing that beneath the limitations of your circumstances, there lies a potential for rising above it all. The indignities of not having enough, of being pushed aside, being just another face in the crowd, aren’t the whole truth about who we are and what we’re capable of. We may not all be divine (though some believe we are), but we can surely rise above our circumstances, like that little baby who spent his first night in a feed trough.

Making do… that’s pretty much what this season has been about for me. I have been working overtime for months, keeping my emotions from getting the best of me, and that’s taken a toll on my system. It takes a lot of energy to keep yourself on an even keel, when everything around you feels like it’s going nuts, and I have really felt it, this holiday season. Not having a doctor I trust and can rely on… that’s a subtle source of pressure. Being told my neuropsych is retiring in the spring… that’s more pressure. Being threatened with a layoff in the immediate term… that’s a direct and intense source of pressure. Having everyone around me at work be in rotten spirits because of the impending job changes… that’s an indirect but distracting source of pressure. Expensive car repairs and drama while traveling over Thanksgiving wasn’t easy. Being sick has been a disruptive challenge. And having my spouse being sick, too — and increasingly disabled — has been hard to get my head around.

Most of this I’ve had to deal with on my own, but I don’t mind. It’s actually easier for me to handle things alone, so I don’t have to verbalize with people. Talking out loud is yet another source of pressure, and I’ve been doing it pretty poorly, this holiday season. Seriously — I haven’t been able to describe things I’m looking for, and people in stores don’t take kindly to it. It’s been kind of funny, actually, when I’ve tried to describe caulk… or a little bracelet with colorful beads… and failed to do so.

I’ve kept it together, more or less, but it’s taken a toll.

The energy that I’ve been using to keep myself on an even keel had to come from somewhere, and my thought processing has not been the sharpest. I’ve been forgetful, scattered, emotional, foggy, and that all makes it even worse. It’s really been a challenge to do the kinds of things that used to come easy to me, and that’s hard to take. I can’t believe I have to deal with all of this — and take things so much more slowly, plan so much more carefully, and resort to what feel like remedial measures.

And through it all… I                      am                   so                  tired.

But then I come back to the Christmas story. And I can relate. I have a pretty good idea how it must feel to be uprooted from your home and dragged somewhere else to pay someone money that you probably don’t have. I don’t know how it feels to have a baby on the way, but I know about long journeys and having more asked of you than you feel you can spare. And I know the feeling of despair and overwhelm, when everything around you seems to conspire against you, and you can’t catch a break.

I also know what it’s like to make do with what little I have. This year, we don’t have a tree indoors, because the artificial tree we’ve had for years has gotten old and smells terrible. It’s musty and dusty and the materials are starting to degrade and off-gas, so after a couple of tries, we ended up just putting the tree out on the back porch and arranging our presents on a beautiful golden cloth we have, surrounded by colored lights.

It’s modest, but it’s beautiful, and later I’ll roast the turkey for our Christmas dinner. We’ll have a quiet day, today, and just enjoy the quiet in our own merry way.

We’re better off now than we’ve been in quite some time, and for that I am grateful. We have our issues, but we also have our ways of dealing with them. It’s Christmas. Time to focus less on what we don’t have, and more on what we do.

May your Christmas be merry, as well.

Two more days… then home!

Today we rest at my parents’ home, then we are driving home tomorrow… missing the worst of the Thanksgiving traffic.

I’m going to pause now for a Christian moment, since I have been surrounded by very religious Christians for the past 5 days… Praise God Almighty! Praise Blessed Jesus!

I only have another 30 hours to go (give or take) till I am back in my car and headed HOME to my own space, my own diet, my own schedule, my own life.

This really has been a very challenging time for me. The most challenging thing, by far, has been dealing with people’s prejudices and judgments. My spouse has been having some difficulties, being off their schedule — as have I. They’ve been tired and irritable and have not been thinking clearly or as mobile as one would expect. And both sides of the family do not handle that well. So, they are hard on my spouse, which is hard for me to watch. My in-laws, especially, are pretty judgmental, and they put all kinds of pressure on my spouse to DO SOMETHING about their condition.

Get up earlier each day.

Get regular exercise.

Get a hip replacement.

Go out into the world and do all the things that people without noise and light and scent sensitivities can do.

Of course, they know nothing about the strokes, seizures, cognitive impairment, and I’m not about to tell them that, because they are exquisitely attuned to finding the worst in everything, and trying to overcome it. They will pick out the worst piece of information (e.g., if the power steering fluid had spilled all over the exhaust system, our van could have caught fire) and then they dwell on that. That will become their mantra — Something Terrible Could Happen — and they will proceed to make every thought center around that.

Which is a really draining way to live.

And now that we are away from them, I can breathe. My side of the family is overwhelming in other ways – we’re about to start the day’s social overwhelm drama – so there’s not a ton of respite. But at least it’s not that constant dark cloud of risk management and imagined damage control. At least I’m out from under that.

So, what have I learned from all of this? It’s going to take some time to figure that all out, but one thing I’ve gathered, is that I have a very unique ability to see people for what they are and accept them for what they are… regardless of their perceived disability and limitations. I can see the goodness and strength in everyone, and I can see the hidden abilities they have, which are usually eclipsed by their challenges or shortcomings. I’ve known a lot of functionally limited people over the course of my life, and none of them have actually seemed as damaged or as strange as others said they were.

I have always been this way, perhaps because it’s what I needed most from others — but never got it. When I was younger, it got me in trouble because I was taken advantage of by people with ill intentions. It’s taken me years to learn how to discern and steer clear of the trouble-makers.

What I’d like to do now, is find some volunteer opportunities to use that to help others.

I have several free days my employer gives me to use for volunteer work, so for the holiday season, I think I’ll look for a chance to do that.

Everything can be used — especially the difficulties.

Onward.

 

 

Well, hello…

followersYou know, I really do try to keep up with everyone who follows this blog. I’ve got 678 followers right now. That’s not astronomical, and compared to some who have thousands of followers, it’s a pittance, but it’s something. And I appreciate each person who follows me. I truly do.

So, thank you.

I periodically check my list of followers to make sure I have followed everyone who has followed me. I like to keep in touch with what others are writing and thinking about. I read people’s blogs while I’m riding the exercise bike in the mornings — it’s a good way to wake up to the day.

Plus, it’s just good practice to return the favor of someone following you… provided, of course, they’re not dangerous and/or promoting ideas and behavior that cause indiscriminate hate, harm, pain, and suffering to people who are simply different from them.

Granted, 600+ blogs is a lot to follow, but it really gives me a nice range of writing and thinking to choose from. So, if you’re one of the bloggers who follows me/is followed by me, thank you for widening my world.

Anyway, I thought I was keeping up with all my follows ‘n’ such.

But looking back at my WordPress list… as it turns out, probably about 10% of my followers are not marked as being followed by me. And a lot of them are from years ago… How did they fall through the cracks?

Really strange.

I was so sure I was keeping up. I clicked the buttons. I paged through the listings. But still, there were a lot of folks I had not followed. How did that happen?

Ha – story of my life. I have a tendency to be sooooo sure that I have everything covered, only to discover surprise!! that I really don’t. Just another reminder that I need to check my results more than once, to make sure I’ve done/said/supposed the right thing. That certainty that I feel about being right… well, it often steers me wrong. So, I have to stay honest and humble about these things and do the extra legwork to follow up.

Argh!
Argh!

Which really frustrates me, to tell the truth. I mean well, and I want to do well, but my brain seems to conspire against me. And I have to back-track to figure things out… which is also frustrating because my memory sometimes fails me, and I’m working with less information than I would like.

It’s a little like carrying water in a woven basket. So often I get to my destination without all my ducks in a row, so I have to go back to the well and fill up again, but I still keep losing the pieces of the puzzle.

Ah, well. A day in the life.

The main thing is to keep focused on what is most important — how my life is going, how I’m feeling about it, how much energy I have for the good things.

Good things like the birds at my birdfeeder, who are so, so happy that I filled it up with fresh seed. I have been remiss for the past several months. I even bought a bag of seed, and it sat in my kitchen for 2 weeks, before I got around to filling the feeder. Now it’s full. At least, it was early this morning. The birds have been so busy at it, I probably need to top it off later today.

And get more seed, the next time I go shopping.

Poor birds. I got so caught up in my own drama, my own concerns about work and life and my health, that I lost sight of the things that put a positive spin on things — helping those in need… like the hungry birds in my back yard.

When we get out of ourselves and put aside our preoccupation with the pain and frustration of our limitations, we begin to truly live. We all have our limitations, we all have our wounds and our hurts. It’s what we do with them and the knowledge they grant us, that makes it all worth it.

And with that, I wish you a good day.

I look forward to reading even more of the blogs I’m now connected with.

I don’t think winter is ever going to end

But I’m actually fine with it. I know, it sounds bizarre – this should be over. We should all get a break from the cold, the snow/rain/wintry mix, and be able to get on with our lives.

And yet, this is our life. All of it. The seasons. The weather. The delays. The difficulties.

It’s just how it is, sometimes.

I’m fine with it.

Because I’ve come to expect it. By now, I’ve become a bit acclimated to these weather extremes… the teasers of warmer weather, followed by arctic blasts. And it’s to the point now where rather than resist and revile it, I’m actually enjoying myself as I clean the slop out of my garage and pull my coat closer around me as I go from the house to the car.

I’ve written before about how familiar it feels, when we have to all slow down, and how dealing with my own issues has helped me to learn to deal with limitations that drive other people nuts. And 2 weeks later, I still feel the same way (which isn’t necessarily a given). It’s true. I do feel like I’m better equipped to deal with setbacks, disappointments, and general thwarting of my intentions, than a lot of “normal” folks who just assume their faculties are never going to fail them — at least, not yet, anyway. Not till they get “old”.

For me, I never quite know when my faculties are going to come through, and when they’re going to fail me. My energy levels yo-yo all over the place, leaving me feeling energized one minute and exhausted the next. My balance can turn out just plain wrong at any given point, leaving me staggering around for something to hold onto. And I’m never quite certain how tolerant I’m going to be of light and sound and touch.

I just roll with it. I don’t have many other options.

Speaking of being wiped out, I just had a wave of weariness hit me. I keep mistyping the words, so I think it’s time to stop. I’m making chicken stew this evening. My spouse is out of town, and I’m on my own. So, it’s stew on the stove, and maybe a little nap to get my strength up enough to eat.

Later.