Sunday, December 14, 2014

On holidays, gifts, and cancer

our mantle

So. It's December.

The month of Christmas.

Christmas is a big deal in this house.

It is my goal each year to give my family the perfect Christmas.

Several years ago, a perfect Christmas looked a lot different than it does this year.

For a few years I made the pajamas the kids would wear for Christmas morning. I tried to also make everyone at least one handmade gift. I baked dozens and dozens of cookies. Every inch of my house was decorated. We strung popcorn on thread and put it around the tree. Gingerbread houses were made. Crafts were done. Ornaments were made.

All of this equated to me not sleeping much during December. It left me stressed and frazzled and overwhelmed. There were probably enough tears to water our Christmas tree.

It was fun. But it was a lot of work. And at the end of the day, the perfect Christmas, probably wasn't so perfect for those in my family who were dealing with the fall-out of me being tired, stressed, and fretting when things didn't turn out completely perfect.


I'm tired just thinking about it frankly.

It took cancer to realize that maybe it was time to streamline things and focus on the parts I wanted and let go of the ones that were stressing me too much.

White Christmas and knitting
The Christmas of 2011 left me pretty much unable to do, oh, everything. That year my husband, bless him, was in charge of Christmas. I was sick, dealing with an infection for most of the month that wasn't actually diagnosed until December 23 in which I underwent emergency surgery. I had already been in the hospital earlier in the month. I was tired, in pain, and spent a lot of time in bed. I don't think I participated in Christmas hardly at all to be honest.

And I hated it. Except I was too tired to hate it as much as I should have.

2012 was better. Except I still feeling tired, run down, exhausted. I was dealing with the iron issues and bleeding and anemia. I didn't spend most of the month in bed, but I spent my fair share of time napping.

Last year was a lot better. Still exhausted, but able to shop and bake and do things.

It was good.

This year will be good too.  I'm still exhausted, still dealing with some chronic pain, but I'm here and I can be present.

That is a present in itself.

And I've learned to cut back. Because you know what? The couple years where I wasn't able to really do much (not by choice), an amazing thing happened .... the sun still rose, and the kids still had a good Christmas, and so did I (well, provided I divorce the holiday from the medical things going on).

We buy pajamas now. I make almost no gifts - just a couple as I can. I will still bake an obscene amount of cookies - because that is important to me to keep it on the list.

But I'm also spending a fair amount of time hanging out on the couch watching Christmas movies. We've watched White Christmas, Muppets Christmas Carol, Santa Paws 1 and 2, and some other movies. It's been lovely.

We are hosting Christmas Eve and bless my husband, he set-up for a cleaning service to come get the house cleaned. We pretty much never have anyone else come clean, so this is awesome.

I'm doing Christmas cards this year ... which I haven't done in a while. They are pricey and a lot of money. But I got them on-sale, they are postcard cards, and they will double as "we've moved" cards (which I never sent out).

Our gorgeous tree!
This might be the most relaxed about Christmas that I've felt since being a child.

It is lovely.

Because in 20 years I don't want to look back and think about how stressed I was this time of the year, I want to remember being happy, despite anything else going on in our life, whatever that may be.

But don't mistake me. Getting sick may have allowed me to step back and see that there is more to the perfect Christmas than I what I previously thought, but there is not one ounce of me that will ever. And I mean EVER. I will never call cancer a gift.

I know, I can my hear my husband in my head "Never say never. Or always." but no, I can say never here. Cancer was not a gift. That is, as I've said before, not to say some good things came out of that time period - new appreciations, new friends, new relationships, and changing how things were done to make it better. There were good moments, good things, but none of that will ever make me think of cancer as a gift.

I've got a lot of gifts in my life. Mostly a fabulous family and some awesome friends, who are there whether everything I give is handmade, or lovingly picked out from a store. I have good memories with my kids, some beautiful holiday moments. Those are my gifts. And I plan to appreciate them as much as possible this holiday season.

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