The Holiday Season is here; sigh. I am blessed that my only child is now 26 and I don’t have to rush about getting gifts, wrapping them, shopping, and cooking for several days; all in about one month’s time. That does not exclude me from attending family events where I often start out or finish feeling like a giant bear in the room while everyone else is laughing and interacting away; for hours. What to do? Set boundaries. Now.
I recommend starting with changing how the entire cooking process of the two separate but, giant meals happens. If you are like me, this is no longer something you can tackle by yourself. If you are going to a large family gathering, or having one at your home, create a new plan where everyone brings a dish. If you traditionally cooked a huge turkey or a large roast, consider buying pre-cooked meat from a good grocer. Or, change the meat dish to a large chicken or a few, smaller items, like game hens. No one needs to eat that much at one time and if they wish to have some leftovers, then they can bring larger platters to share at the end of the day. In reality, one of the family members can bring the large meat dish and leave you to create some smaller appetizers. Actually, lots of small but delicious appetizers can become the entire meal. Buy meats, cheeses, crackers, olives, and more; snack all day, done.
Then there are the gifts, good gracious. This can be changed as well. Create a new tradition where all the adults choose one name out of a hat. Grandchildren and young children can be excluded and gifts can be purchased throughout the few months leading up to the gift day, or purchased online already wrapped. Handmade gifts are also something you can start several months in advance, and can be very easy to create. Google DIY and other sites to find items like lavender heating socks. Rice, dried lavender and a sock; simple enough. Hand drawn bookmarks and so much more are gentle on our bodies but are still lovingly cherished and used. Give a gift to a organization like Heifer International in an adults name. If you feel the way I do today, shopping trips during this time of year are guaranteed to overwhelm us and cause a huge flair of pain every day spent inside overcrowded shops.
Last, but not at all the least of these changes, is drawing boundaries ahead of time. Call your loved ones and inform them that you do not know how you will feel on either holiday (and forgive me for not mentioning Hanukah, Kwanzaa, or other holiday times; I am not familiar with how one celebrates theses). If the celebration is at your home, keep it to only two or three hours and ask for help in the clean up afterwards. If you are going elsewhere, let them know that you should be there but is always possible you will have to cancel. Personal boundaries are not wrong and may actually help to lessen the tension. Let them know you can only be there for a few hours, or that you may need to go lie down and take a nap after a few hours and then spend another hour before heading home. If you are staying there for the weekend or several days, inform the family that you will need to spend a lot of alone time in order to be one of the happy faces at the table or tree; not the bear.
Lucinda Tart, Fibromyalgia Peer Advocate/Life Skills Coach