Archives for posts with tag: holiday season

I’m sipping my second coffee on a proper day off. I highly recommend taking the occasional actual day off from work (and yes, even from non-work routines). Real down time. Don’t check that email. Don’t answer those calls. Don’t participate in “just one meeting”. Be available for you, once in a while.

…There are very few things that feel reliably more luxurious, satisfying, and nurturing than having my own undivided attention for a few hours, a day, or a weekend… Just saying. Totally worth doing, even during a pandemic. Even if social distancing. Even staying right here at home. I like the woman in the mirror, rather a lot these days, and I enjoy her company greatly. (If you don’t feel well-disposed toward that human being you face in your mirror each day, well… it’s a great place to begin again, on better terms!)

It is a lovely autumn morning, well-suited to all sorts of things I might like to do with my time.

Autumn is already more than just hints of color, or occasional leaves found on the deck.

It is a chilly morning. Yesterday, there was even ice on the windshield of my car, well past sunrise. I enjoyed my morning coffee with my Traveling Partner. I took time to soak in the hot tub, watching the morning sunshine warm the dewy rooftops, steamy vapor rising into the air. I listened to the birds in the neighbor’s pear tree arguing over the not-yet-ripe pears, hoping they’d leave a few unmarred by pecking, but not particularly concerned about it. My mind wandered briefly to chores and housekeeping, and weekend meals, and I made some “mental notes” (promptly forgotten) about things I could add to my list. No pressure.

Today is definitely about “no pressure”, and that feels good.

The holiday season crossed my mind. Gifts to think about. Meals to consider. Guests to invite. No guests; there’s a pandemic going on. No, seriously – and it is serious – we’re okay here at home, and fortunate to enjoy each other in close quarters over a long period of time. (I sometimes suspect our military experience gives us an advantage; we “work as a unit”, even when we are aggravated with each other.) I know there are people who are frustrated with the constraints placed upon them by pandemic life. I get it. I just think it’s worth making the effort to be generally safe, generally respectful of the wellness of others, and generally fully compliant with the requirement to practice social distancing, to wear a mask, to avoid crowds. Yes, even close family crowds at important family events; those people will go home (and so will you), having shared whatever they’ve been exposed to, and to share what they were exposed to at the event. It’s not an acceptable risk, from my perspective. We see it play out in the news every week; a big gathering, a spike in new cases of COVID-19. It honestly just seems like an easy choice to me… so, since March, my partner and I stay home, except for a handful of difficult to avoid errands. It complicated house hunting. It complicated the closing. It complicated the move.

…Both of us remain well. Worth the complications.

We relaxed enough to allow my partner’s son (my step-son) to visit after we finished moving in. I regretted that more than a little bit, as much I enjoyed seeing him, particularly after he admitted to attending gatherings of friends, more recently than two weeks prior to traveling to see us… and… he did have to travel. He was here less than two weeks. Yes, it caused me stress to consider that with greater care – too late to change the planning. I am unlikely to make another exception as we head into flu season. I’d rather not even get the flu, or a head cold, and social distancing and mask wearing has definitely reduced my exposure to those risks! Win.

…But… Thanksgiving…!?! Giftmas??

Yeah. Thanksgiving. Giftmas, too. Fuck your Thanksgiving feast and holiday parties if they send half your family home to far away places with new exposure to COVID-19, and with increased potential of losing loved ones to it. I mean, seriously? Weddings too. Baby showers. Parties of all kinds. Music festivals. Worship. Celebrations. All of it. Fuck every minute of every “important life event” any one of us chooses to attend that results in the loss of someone else’s life. What right do we have, as individuals, to be callous with someone else’s risk of death?

So. Holidays will be simple this year, here at home. Cards. Letters. Calls. Merriment. A comfy holiday at home – intimate, joyful, and low-stress. Healthy, too, maybe…? (I am one of those folks who nearly always has a head cold, or is “just getting over” – or just catching – the flu, right around Thanksgiving or Giftmas – maybe not this year?)

I sip my coffee and smile. We’ve already figured out where the Giftmas tree will go… and there’s so much room for it… 🙂 Right now, that’s enough. I look at the time. The lovely day stretches out ahead of me. It looks like a good one to take a walk on an untraveled trail… or simply to begin again. 🙂

Someone dear to me has a birthday today. (Happy Birthday!) More than one friend, love, associate, colleague, or family member have birthdays during the winter holiday season, sometime between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Statistically, it would be stranger if none of them did. I rather like celebrating these birthdays; each person a unique individual, with a different need/desire to celebrate – and different aesthetics and traditions for celebrating. How delightful my entire holiday season were filled with these individual days…the calendar could roll from one to the next day over day… Jen’s Day, Jo’s Day, John’s Day, Sean’s Day, Tyler’s Day, Michael’s Day, Lisa’s Day, Stephanie’s Day, Rhi’s Day…mixed in with the ‘bigger’ holidays and given full measure of celebration and meaning! Each of the people dear to me are worth celebrating, at least I find them so, myself. I hope they find joy in celebrating their experience of self, it seems important.

When I celebrate my own birthday, I like it to be ‘about me’ in a rather literal way. I like to spend the day with friends and loves, doing what I like to do utterly unapologetically, sharing those experiences with people who matter to me – who are willing to share the moment because I have value for them, and the relationship is worth taking that time to participate in some activity that might not be their first choice, any other day of the year. We celebrate me, that one day each year. I tend to celebrate everyone’s birthday that way, if I know it is their birthday, just by deferring to their preferences when the opportunity to do so arises. Seems an easy enough way to say ‘I value you’ by saying ‘let’s do it your way’.

I know people who don’t actually celebrate their birthday. I don’t know that it is truly significant or has any meaning beyond what it is. The more I enjoy me, the more I want to really celebrate my birthday…and to do so beyond gifts, parties, or elaborate plans; I want to celebrate simply by being me, quite comfortably so, and really delighting in what I have to offer myself. Seems a little funny to take a special day to do that, though; I am sure I could do it every day, in every mindful moment, quite as easily.

Like a butterfly; a birthday celebrates the growth of an entire year.

Metamorphosis; a birthday celebrates the growth of an entire year.

Verbs and choices… Perspective. Words matter. Happy Birthday. I hope you celebrate you. 🙂

Learned helplessness sucks. It’s a common enough byproduct of surviving certain sorts of trauma. The frustration that can surge to the forefront of my experience due to complications of struggling with learned helplessness is akin to the nuclear blast of emotional weaponry; sudden, unreasonably forceful, and laying waste to the pleasant now that might have been. When I am simply doing my best to manage, day-to-day, and doing so with some measure of success, other things that need to be attended to may fall by the wayside; I can only do so much, moment to moment. My will falls short in the struggling, you see. I give up. Learned helplessness is a very real thing.

I wrote some days ago about my environment degrading, and that being a sign of ongoing stress, and a need to take care of me, more skillfully. I spent yesterday restoring order to the chaos of my environment. It feels very nice to handle that bit of business, and my surroundings are orderly, clean, tidy, and quite to my taste, generally. What I need is at hand. What I don’t need, has been put away. The effort to restore order in my environment results in renewed enthusiasm to keep it so, as well as ‘clearing my head’ for a whole host of other things that would benefit from being handled sooner than later.

I woke later than usual this morning, and took my medication later as a result. I am now taking care of me – and my loved ones – by taking sufficient time solo for my medication to kick in, and to wake up, and find my voice before I impose myself on their experience. Yes, that level of consideration matters to me; some women don’t leave the house before they ‘put their face on’, I avoid interacting with people before my brain has entirely come back online, and my level of pain is as addressed by medication as it will be, for the day. Taking the time I need really matters to me, and failing to do so changes my experience in a reliably unpleasant way.

The only snowflake I'm likely to see this holiday season.

Let it snow…

I recently got an email from an ex. A large measure of my PTSD is related to relationship trauma, and domestic violence, and I don’t have a comfortable experience of exes reaching out from the past, generally. I felt very anxious reading the email, and feel anxious considering it after the fact, too. This ex, this time, reached out to inquire – 4 years after the break up – whether I have any of her antique holiday ornaments. I was filled with complicated emotions that began with irritation and anger; when we divided our property I had specifically asked what holiday ornaments she wanted and was firmly and specifically told that the holidays would no longer have any meaning, and that she wanted no part of them. The anger became mixed with some measure of humor, and bewilderment; we’d never owned any antique ornaments together, at all. She had a few small handmade figurines, made by her Mother, and those were so clearly hers that taking them with me wasn’t even something I considered. I had a small number of handcrafted ornaments my own Mother made, and had given to me. The rest of our ornaments were common enough glass ornaments, some traditional sorts that I purchased my first holiday alone after I left my first husband, few of which actually remain, and some interestingly non-traditional sorts that continue to delight and amuse me with their whimsy. Still, I carefully checked the tree, decked out for the holidays, to see if ornaments dear to her had remained with me. I didn’t find any, and my journal entries of the time indicate that I had taken pains to carefully box the ornaments that were peculiarly ‘hers’ and left them behind for her when I moved out. I replied kindly that I didn’t have the ornaments she was looking for, and reminded her that we hadn’t had any antiques that I could recall. I made an effort not to read subtext into her reply, and have since tried to let it go. You can see the effort to do so has been only marginally successful; I feel angry that she even asked, and helpless to act on that in a way that is appropriate, effective, and needful. My logical brain tells me that I already have – so let it go, already. My heart says ‘this was so not cool!!’ and wants to do/say more. That was probably the point in the first place, making it even more wise to just let it drop without another word.

My level of physical pain the past couple of days has been very high. I hurt enough to affect my experience moment to moment, and although the effort to be compassionate and kind to others nonetheless is entirely worth it, I also find myself struggling not to resent how clueless people around me seem to be about the fact that I am indeed in that much pain. Sometimes I just want to lay down and weep, I hurt that much. It doesn’t help, though. I sometimes want to plead with people around me “please just be patient with me, please be kind to me – I just hurt, is all!”, but it hasn’t been my experience that it makes much difference; they are having their own experience.

Time to get the day started…laundry, putting away things that were relocated out of my personal space during yesterday’s cleaning, writing holiday letters…all the makings of a fulfilling quiet day. Today is a good day to take care of me, on my own terms. Today is a good day to change how I feel in the world.

It’s late, and the house is quiet. The weekend is over, Thanksgiving is past, and this moment right now is the space between waking and sleeping. I’m not quite ready to let the weekend go. I’m also not particularly in need of an audience, or someone with whom to share this quiet moment. My sharing, for now, is handled and this moment, now, is my own. It’s a very nice quiet one.

An annual celebration of light.

An annual celebration of light.

The loft has been transformed into a holiday paradise. There are very personal, particular, even… ‘magical’ qualities to the holiday season for me, that go far beyond jingles, sales, advertisements, tradition, marketing, habit, or expectations. I made the winter holidays my own, a very long time ago. Today, I sipped my last coffee of the day surrounded by colored lights, and fantastical glass ornaments of all imaginable sorts, quite content to enjoy the things about this holiday season that move me so much. I’ve tried hard for so many years, and in so many relationships, to share this particular experience, this magic, this wondrous transformative understanding of the winter holidays that is my own experience of it… I’m not sure that I’ve ever really succeeded beyond communicating with some modest success that these are holidays that matter to me. That’s enough. It has to be. We are each having our own experience.

Ornaments as metaphors; love is a lighthouse.

Ornaments as metaphors; love is a lighthouse.

For me, preparing the house for the holidays, decorating, setting up the holiday tree are more than tradition, or habit, or expectation; they are in important ritual in the cycle of my life, letting every year end on a note of warmth, love, generosity, appreciation, gratitude, and value – no matter how bad the nightmares, or how traumatic the reality. Each year I unpack the ornaments and treasure the moments I recall as I handle them, and look them over in the light. I place each one so carefully, considering even ‘now details’ and how the precious memories it holds fit the context of my life; I place some prominently, and tuck others around in the back where they are less likely to be seen, or asked about. Each year the tree is a monument to life, to emotion, to memory – to the content and meaning of life and love, experienced over time. Bits of sentiment, souvenirs, and trophies, too, perhaps; my life in glass and glitter cherished through the season, and packed away ever so carefully once the new year arrives.

Some ornaments are purchased, others are handmade.

Some ornaments are purchased, others are handmade.

I sat, hands warm and wrapped around my coffee cup, enjoying a moment of stillness and waiting on our evening meal, it finally became more real…how little need there is for any one else to ‘really get it’, so long as I am true to myself, my values, and I am accepted and valued within my relationships such that I can enjoy the experience that is my own without any particular hindrance.  A lovely moment, a gentle lesson in life’s curriculum; I almost managed not to wonder if I feel exactly precisely all of this every year, without being able to understand that I have, that I do, that I will… I did manage not to be frustrated with that thought, it too passed, and I enjoyed the stillness.

Holiday magic - everyone makes their own.

Holiday magic – everyone makes their own.

These simple harmless pleasures contribute to this amazing journey, enjoying them is part of who I am – and it’s one of the very best parts, too – I woke up to a better understanding about ‘experiencing’ and ‘sharing’ and how distinct from each other those ideas can be, and how utterly okay that actually is. It’s a nice idea on which to end such a nice day, such a good weekend.