A Happy Holiday Season

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I often use conversations with friends and family as inspiration for my posts. It inspires me to know that others around me fret about the same kinds of things I do. And after a couple of lengthy chats with friends this week, I have come to realize that the holiday craziness is officially upon us and we’re all feeling the pressure to make it just right.

A couple of mornings ago, I was stunned with guilt when Dana announced that Annie, our Elf-on-the-Shelf, had not gone to the North Pole (to tell Santa that Dana had been a good girl and return to a new spot in the house) and the Tooth Fairy had left her tooth untouched. Suddenly, what should be fun and whimsical turns into a weird twisting of the truth for the sake of keeping the “magic” alive.

Thankfully, Dana bought my story about the storm keeping Annie away and her tooth in its case, but what about next time? In the midst of decorating the Christmas tree, finding matching dress shoes for tomorrow’s holiday performance, making dinner, helping with homework, and preparing gluten-free holiday treats, something else is bound to be forgotten. These thoughts leave my friends and I asking–How can I get it all done? Should it feel this hard? What if my kids are disappointed? And most importantly, how do I deal with all of this stress?

I think I learned the answer to this question the hard way just a few weeks ago. Upon returning home from Disneyland (a trip that took loads of preparation), our dog passed away. A few days later my identity was stolen. The dryer broke. I blinked and it was Thanksgiving, and we were hosting. I handled it all fine. No mommy meltdowns. No major dysregulation. Everybody was eating and sleeping and behaving just fine. Until, I couldn’t   sleep. And my cycle was jacked up. And then I thought I was losing my hair again. The stress that I thought I had beaten found me in a dark alley and had its way with me.

I was sure there was something terribly wrong. Again. I had bloodwork done to make sure I was okay, and I was. Just more adrenal issues in response to stress. Things are back on track, and well, now it’s Christmas as well as Birthday Season around here, and I feel the same pressures as my friends to make everything special and sweet and wonderful for my children over the next few weeks. I want to do it all without stressing myself out too much. Is that possible? I can only continue on my journey and learn as I go.

I realized that over the month of November, where it felt like the universe was working completely against me, I pushed through some important messages from my body. Sit Down. Skip Your Workout Today. Breathe. Eat. Relax. Smile.

I got a lot done, but I let my Type A tendencies kick the pants off of anything restorative or helpful. So, today, with less than 3 weeks until Christmas, here’s how I’m attempting to find some balance and cheer this holiday season.

Sit. Breathe. Read.

Since Charlotte is in school more often this year, I have more time to myself in the middle of the day. I’ve learned over the last few months that I’m only going to find quiet and restorative time if I do it during the school hours. Once I pick the girls up, the second half of my day begins, and I’m pushing myself too hard if I start at 6am and don’t stop until bedtime. I’m forcing myself to stop what I’m doing and sit down in the middle of the day  to have a cup of tea, read a blog, pick up a magazine, or just close my eyes until pick up time.

Bathe.

A hot bath at any point in the day is a restorative luxury for me. I instantly feel my cortisol drop and am forced to relax, once I clear Ariel and her mermaid friends out of the tub.

Write.

After I did the Disneyland post, I felt more reflective and connected than I had in a long time. It was a very healthy exercise for me to think back over our previous experiences and  tell a positive and inspiring story. Taking a look how far we’ve come keeps me focused and  inspired to keep doing all I do for my family. (And thanks for supporting this habit by reading what I feel inspired to write about)

Observe.

Dana takes ballet class two evenings per week. Often, I drop her off and run errands, chat on the phone, or try to get something done. But lately, I’ve been watching her during her class. Really watching her. Studying how strong and graceful she’s become. Taking pride and feeling grateful for the sacrifices we’ve made to make her lessons happen. And feeling pride and gratitude as a parent is never a bad thing.

Forgive.

Last week when I was fretting about the food budget and gifts and affording everything we needed to buy, it was Chad who gave me the permission to just buy the cheaper eggs and meat at the grocery store. No, we haven’t left Paleo or high-quality, real food, but we have given ourselves permission to eat less-than-perfect foods this month without guilt or anxiety. We’ve put our time in with this lifestyle and we’ve learned what allowances our bodies can handle. I can forgive myself for subbing conventional ground beef for grass-fed when there are many other expenses this month.

Keep it Real.

At a time when we’re bombarded with society’s images of the perfect holiday, I’m going to remember all that our little family has gone through. Many less-than-perfect moments have added up to a lifetime of happy, shared, memories that are uniquely ours. I don’t look back and regret any of the lessons we’ve learned, the mistakes we’ve made, or the triumphs we’ve shared.

As I continue on this journey toward better health for my family, the more I realize there are no easy answers. Each day, each season, and each experience brings us closer to knowing what works and what doesn’t–if we pay attention. Christmas time will never be easy and our grandmothers and mothers will tell us it was equally hard for them. There’s no extra credit points for getting it just right, and no reward for the picture-perfect experience.

Happy Holidays. May your holiday season be uniquely yours.

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