eighty-six holiday stress
My mom would make everything seem so easy during the holidays or special occasions.
I remember waking up around 2 or 3am and noticing that the kitchen light was on. I would see my mom in her brightly colored robe, her hair all pinned up as she buzzed around like a busy bee. Literally, she would be immersed in flour and recipes while she was baking a huge spread. I was too young and naive to realize that this would have been a perfect time to grab a glass of milk and talk to her. But my mom really had to work hard in the kitchen and around the house during the holidays, and she always tried her best to make them wonderful for family and guests. Besides relatives, my mom would often invite the local grocery store cashiers, the mailman, and even our weekly garbage men. If they couldn't make dinner or a special holiday lunch, she would drive over with her goodies and leave them a care package. To say that my mom was a perfect hostess and imbued the spirit of the holidays would be an understatement.
As for my dad, he was always the "straight" man to my mom's Energizer Bunny tasks in life and, especially, during the holidays. I grew up with the sense that he just had to help set the table, bring out the good dishes, and of course, be dressed appropriately. Once he was through greeting our guests and serving libations, he could talk to anyone about anything and, typically, people responded. Through the years and to this day, I can't tell you the number of times someone has said to me, "Your dad is one of the nicest human beings," and frankly, I believe he still is.
It is not hard to see that I grew up with an idyllic image of holidays and that spending time with family and friends is what it should all be about. However, as we get older and lose family members and friends and have children of our own, the physical distance of family—along with other commitments— can make being part of the holiday spirit a challenging, stressful feat.
Being part of the "sandwich" generation has also not been easy and, in particular, seeing and dealing with both of our parents' illnesses of Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s has been difficult on the family. We are left with a mixed sense of emotions: guilt, sadness, and even the question, "How do we do right by our parents yet create happy memories for our kids?" Faced with trying to make the holidays joyous, merry, and all about family for young children is one of the toughest things I have had to go through, and yet, it is just the course of life.
My parents didn't try to instill in me an image about the holidays being "perfect." But they did make it about family, friends, and sharing the moment with others. As life coach Spirit advised me on The Ricki Lake Show, I should remember to let go of the perfect image of the holidays—and any day for that matter. This is something with which I have struggled the last few years as my parents decline mentally and physically. The reality is that I will lose them both in a matter of years, but I need to remember to appreciate the moments past and present.
As the holiday season approaches, let's remind ourselves that life is too important and short to be overcome with holiday stress!