Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Holiday Stress

My women’s group is growing, seeing as the holidays are here. It gets this way every year, so far, because so much of the burden, it seems, rests on women’s shoulders for making the holidays a success. Starting with all the cleaning, cooking, inviting, and serving on Thanksgiving, we take on too much, generally speaking.

My husband suffers from SADD in addition to his usual depression, and he hates Christmas. I mean, he really hates Christmas. Not in a funny, Scrooge type way; he hates Christmas the way someone who was ridiculed for his or her gifts as a child hates Christmas, because that’s what happened to him. He was the youngest by several years, and his brother and sister were working part-time during the years he remembers, so they had a little money to spend on their gifts. He was a kid in school, and basically, he had to save his allowance (and I think we all remember that a quarter or even a dollar was a huge amount for a kid in the 60’s) or make stuff in art class in school. Sometimes he could do a craft at home, like wood burning or something like that to make a gift.

I know his Mom and Dad were gracious and loving about whatever he gave them; after all, they grew up in the Depression, and from what my Mom has told me, getting a fresh orange at Christmas was a big deal then. But he was always made to feel, somehow, through the family dynamics and mere circumstances of birth, that his gifts to others were inadequate. Which sucks. I also think that maybe he never really got one thing that he truly wanted for Christmas – he got frugal gifts from his parents and thoughtless ones from his siblings. They still gift that way. Sometimes the gifts are so bad, they’re comical. BUT, the thought was there, at least for some, and that’s what counts to me and my kids.

In addition, we have two birthdays this week. Spawn and Hubs have birthdays, and both of them detest having their birthday gifts or celebrations commingled with Christmas. They feel it’s not their fault for having been born in a big holiday month, so they shouldn’t have to be penalized for it. I have to agree. So, we don’t even put up the tree until the birthdays are past, and woe betide us if we wrap their birthday gifts in Christmas paper!

I kind of like putting off the preparation until the second week of December. The holiday gets so hyped and so pushed and people start talking about it in October and November, and this is a way of putting it in perspective. Sure, I shop ahead, I wrap in advance, but I don’t even think about decorations and lights and get that mad shopping urge until the month is well advanced. It’s nice to make cookies and treats close to the holiday rather than trying to figure out how to keep them fresh until the big day.

I like Christmas. I like stupid Christmas songs with chipmunk voices, I like mopey ones like Elvis’ “Blue Christmas”, and I like instrumentals. I like the scent of pine, wrapping gifts, and having a bowl of fresh nuts for cracking on the coffee table. So, I make up for what my husband doesn’t want to do, and most of the time it doesn’t bother me. What has bothered me in the past was dealing with his depression – how it made my Christmas stinky and made the kids feel guilty for feeling festive and upbeat and anticipatory. I hated that about him and his behavior.

Last year, with the help of my women’s group, I overcame his mopery. I held strong to MY liking for the season and indulged in my favorite things. I turned on the Christmas tunes on the CD player as soon as he left the house, I bopped happily around the house, I bought or made Christmas cookies, I put up the tree where I wanted it to be, and the kids and I had it all decorated in one day. I laughed, I giggled, and I watched stupid Christmas movies on TV over and over with the kids. They laughed at me and my sentimentality, but, you know, they watched, too. I’ll bet they won’t admit that to their friends, though!

Anyway, it worked. Anytime hubs had the glums, I turned up the tunes and wrapped. I invited the kids into the kitchen to stir up frosting to make sloppy gingerbread houses with, and we drank spiced cider and ate up all the good gumdrops. WE had a great time, and a really good Christmas. Mopester sat on the sidelines.

I can’t make him better. I can’t. No matter how much I wish he could enjoy the holiday, he doesn’t. I can’t change what happened in the past, I can’t change his biochemistry; I can’t change his stinginess or his selfish actions. But I can change how I respond, if I respond.

So, it’s off to women’s group again today for me. I can use what I learned last year, and I can learn some new things today. I’m looking forward to it, and, for once in a long, long, time, I’m looking forward to Christmas with joy and happiness instead of dread and the subconscious urge to “fix” things for anyone. It’s me and my tinsel and glittery crap, and whoever wants to can come along for the ride, or they can get out of my happy way. Whee!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's been great reading about how you're learning to cope w/ your Hubs' grumps, & are reaching a tolerable level of homeostasis together.
Being a fellow SAD sufferer (are we still allowed to say 'sufferer' or should it be something like "darkness challenged'? :-))...I've found a gadget I swear, after a month's use, does at least, enough to recommend others give it a try...something I seldom do re products.

Hope this isn't inappropriate...but having found a bit of help, & knowing how bad the seasonal black beast is, I'm impelled to share.
It's a new variety of light therapy. (I'd tried other, earlier types, to little avail.) (I don't know if posting a link is appropriate, so...) it's called a goLITE, which uses Bluewave LEDs & supposedly mimics the useful natural-light spectrum. It actually has some real science behind it, w/ some seemly genuine, positive studies.
It's made by ApolloHealth (with a dot com), & available from stores, online, even eBay, w/ quite a price spread, within the $150 range.
It's small, simple, easy to use, & reasonably effective. JMHO, of course.
Maybe this might be a little return for all the psychological good that reading your blog has done for me.

Happy New Year to you all, including Hawthorne. Your anecdotes about him are always delightful.