Friday, December 27, 2019

I Survived Christmas! (Barely)

The Highs and Lows of the Season of Celebration:

Here we are, two days after Christmas, and I am beginning to feel better, getting closer to my "normal" baseline (which is pretty good). Christmas is always a double-edged sword for me--enjoyable time with my family but also exhausting preparations and work--but this year was a bit more challenging than usual.

We took a fabulous family vacation during Thanksgiving week, a trip to St. John in the US Virgin Islands with our adult sons to celebrate our 30th anniversary this fall. It was a wonderful time spent together in a spectacular, beautiful, and unique place. I am trying to conjure up those lazy, warm days now...

We enjoyed our relaxing week on St. John
The downside was that we got back and all of a sudden, it was December 1 and the start of the Christmas season! Thanksgiving was extra-late this year, so this abrupt re-entry was made even worse. Suddenly, it was just three weeks until Christmas, and I needed to get everything done: buy gifts, order cards and calendars and other photo gifts, plan for the holiday, get groceries, wrap gifts, send cards out, cook ... you know how it goes. This is the challenge of feeling a bit better with ME/CFS--I can do more but am still not able to do what other people do. It's a tough balance to get right, and I often end up doing too much.

We did manage to find a few hours when all four of us could get together, so we were able to enjoy our annual tradition of decorating our Christmas tree together. This is something we all love to do. Our ornaments are all memories--of trips, childhood, family members--so it is fun to go through them together.

Our finished tree!
Two weeks before Christmas, my laptop suddenly stopped working. It was a Christmas gift last year, so not very old, but the keyboard wouldn't work at all, not even allowing me to type my password. I called Apple, they sent me to the Genius Bar, and they said it would need to be sent out for repairs. I should have it back in a week, they said. A week?? My whole life is on my laptop. I don't even own a smartphone or tablet; the laptop is IT. I figured I could at least get all this Christmas stuff done. Send cards? My address list is on the laptop. Finish buying gifts? My gift and shopping lists are on the laptop. Start my year-end DVD that I give to family as gifts? Yup, you guessed it--all my photos are on the laptop. So, basically, I lost about 5 days (they got it back to me quicker than expected), which put me even further behind.

So, despite my annual promises NOT to wait until the last minute, I was doing everything at the last minute! On Christmas Eve day, I was just starting to wrap gifts, finishing the last of the cards (into the mailbox moments before the mail truck came by!), and cooking in preparation for the next day.

We enjoyed a nice, quiet Christmas Eve. Our younger son had to work, and my father-in-law wasn't feeling well, so just my husband, older son, and I went out to dinner and then to an early evening church service. This is the son who's been struggling this year (he has both ME/CFS plus tick infections), and he commented later that church was probably too much for him that night. Because he'd been feeling so poorly, he started his Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve at noon! Definitely too much for him to manage, let alone in one day. We were home by 8:30 though, and the three of us enjoyed a bit of downtime together on couches and recliners, with herbal tea for our sore throats, a cookie treat, and the Christmas episode of Modern Family for some laughs.

On Christmas day, we look forward to a quiet, low-key morning and afternoon in our own home. Except that when my husband brought his 94-year-old dad into the house this year, he got sick. Our special Christmas breakfast was delayed for a major clean-up operation (plus some extra paranoid antibacterial wipe action!). My father-in-law was shaky but OK after that, and the over-the-counter medication helped him, but we got off to a very late start. In some classic brain fog moments, I lost three of my husband's gifts--hid them so well apparently that I couldn't find them! I also put his lottery scratch-offs (a tradition) in my son's stocking (who wondered why he got so many). No worries, though. I found my husband's gifts at about 10 at night, and none of the lottery tickets were winners anyway!

Late afternoon on Christmas Day, my mom and her husband arrived from out of town for dinner. I love having them here for the holiday, but as usual, I was pretty wiped out by then. I got up from my late nap and had to jump into action to get dinner ready. My husband and my mom both helped (and my well son, too), but it was a lot of work and way too much time on my feet. Everything was ready to go when we realized the turkey was underdone and had to go back in the oven for another 20 minutes! You get the idea.

After some missteps, we finally all sat down to dinner on Christmas!
I don't mean to sound like I'm complaining because I am very grateful for my family and that I am well enough to do all this at all (there were years when I wasn't), but by the time I went to bed (WAY past my normal bedtime!), I was in bad shape - exhausted, achy, sore throat, shaky. You know the drill. I do want to mention also that I am very grateful for my husband, who did most of the wrapping and grocery shopping and half the cards, plus loads of other stuff this season.

I didn't feel much better the next morning, but by 11 am, our visitors had left and the house was quiet. I lay down flat on the couch, with my feet elevated, sipped a cup of herbal tea, and began to recover. Fortunately, we had leftovers for both breakfast and dinner yesterday, and my son and I enjoyed our favorite lunchtime smoothie, which soothed both our throats. With a very long nap yesterday (and no cooking!), I was able to enjoy an evening trip to see the new Star Wars movie. The four of us all went together and loved seeing the ending to the series we have enjoyed for so many years. Thank goodness for recliner seats in theaters now!! My son and I both said we couldn't have done it without those last night.

So, the holiday season is almost passed. We have a couple of meet-ups with friends today (fingers crossed!) with time in between for napping and resting. I love the week between now and New Year's, when there is nothing going on, and I can just recover and get ready for the new year.

Next year, I swear I will start holiday preparations earlier and not wait until the last minute! Barring unforeseen crashes of both the human and computer types, of course.

We have had lots of time together with our sons, which is getting rare these days, and I cherish that.

How is your holiday season going? Are you holding up OK? Finding ways to celebrate within your limits? If you have any tips for next year, I'd love to hear them!

Enjoy the season!

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