Contrary to the silliness that usually goes down on my Facebook page (I keep it pretty frivolous there; I’ve found that it’s not at all wise to be otherwise on that particular platform), I have to tell you all: I am actually really struggling with the whole “making merry” thing this year.
If you’ve been following along here for a while, you know that this is the first holiday season in which we are no longer the full-time, in-home, primary caregivers for my mother-in-law, which we had been since 2010. We have thus far had several months of not jerking awake at all hours of the night, listening for footsteps, running water, and other various strange sounds not coming from our cats. We are not responsible for getting her dressed, fed, and bathed. We are not washing soiled sheets and clothes.
The unbelievable pressure we had been under has been lifted, mostly. We are still her caregivers in that we’re regular visitors at the memory unit, checking her room to see that it’s clean, checking in with the staff to make sure she’s set for lotion, Depends, and non-binding socks. We schedule her hair appointments at the little salon on her floor (as I write this, she’s probably getting her perm right now). But this is manageable. This is done without the constant undercurrent of fear that marked the last year-and-a-half of our caring for her at home.
In the depths of my depression and anxiety during that period, I would try and look ahead to this very time. The first Christmas where I could take a deep breath and enjoy myself. I held it aloft as something that would, surely, be a shining Christmas, even with the sad understanding that my mother-in-law would not be actively participating in it.
And here we are and well, I’m just not having it. Any of it. I’m dressing the part and wrapping the presents and baking the cookies. My tree is up, decorated, and lovely. But I cannot muster the cheer. I get home most nights and can’t be arsed to flip on the lighted garlands or the little ceramic “village” on the sideboard. I’ve talked to a few people about this, and the general consensus is that I’m still just emerging from the trauma of that last year-and-a-half, and that feeling completely “normal” is still a ways off. I should go easy on myself, and stop feeling pressure to make this the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER.
So I’m going through the motions while feeling sort of sleepy and intermittently sad. I might also be overcompensating a tad by eating a lot of carbs. I’m sort of looking forward to January 2nd at this point.
And I feel shitty because of this. I feel guilty because I’m having difficulty with getting into this whole holiday thing while my mother-in-law is in a memory center having no earthly clue what day it is, let alone that it’s almost Christmas. And I fall into the trap of clobbering myself for not having perspective. And mostly I just feel stupid. I should have known better to load up on expectations.
As always, humor helps. I bought this mock-ugly-Christmas-sweater not too long ago: