Sharing Christmas with MS

*Sharing Christmas with M.S.

I never really liked the Christmas countdown. Limited time, dwindling funds, and lack of energy all snowballed into one great big seasonal frustration. When they were young, my three kids compounded my anxiety by announcing how many days there were ’til Christmas. Several times a day. And when they realized that hearing Charlie Brown’s “Christmastime” song aggravated me further, they sang snippets or hummed the tune just to see my reaction. Now, don’t misunderstand; I love Christmas. But sometimes I chased the Norman Rockwell version so intently that I lost the vision of the holiday’s true meaning.

For instance, I insisted that our tree be perfect. I wanted it decorated just so, with the lights spaced nicely (no wires showing!) and the ornaments hanging at the ends of the branches. What I got was crooked trunks and double-tops, trees that fell on Christmas morning, a HUGE tree that put a hole in the ceiling,(“but it didn’t look that big at the lot”), trees that were wired up, one that broke the living room window, a tree stand that cracked and spewed on Christmas morning as we were about to open presents….Oh, and then there was the tree that we cut down ourselves, in the sleet, while pulling our son on a snowtube that deflated in the field. After loading and binding that special tree onto the car for the ride home, the branches covered almost all of our car windows, AND neither one of us brought the money to pay for it! How perfect was that?

Perfection. I’m wise enough to know that it’s not attainable, yet a driving force within pushes me to chase it still. It’s a part of me that hasn’t been conquered by MS, and yet, if I could choose, it would be the part of me I’d gladly relinquish. Chasing that dream with high expectations is a recipe for discouragement and depression!

Sharing the holidays with my unwelcome guest (MS) has benefited me nonetheless. In a way, it’s made me stronger– year by year, it’s chipped away the extraneous fluff of flurried holiday chaos. It provokes me to say no to some activities despite having an emotional reluctance to discontinue “that tradition”. For instance, I quit my cookie exchange (some of the participants brought horrible cookies anyway), and stopped making gifts when the stress of the deadline superseded the enjoyment of creating. I was a believer in “gifts for everyone”, but over the last year or two my immediate and extended family has picked names for exchanging gifts. That has not only saved everyone money, but the stress level of shopping has plummeted and I didn’t once collapse from exhaustion. (I know that there is little scientific evidence about exacerbations being brought on by stress, but ask anyone with MS and they’ll tell you that it is indeed a trigger for a flare-up.)

This year is a lot different for many reasons, but the best reason is because I have a grandchild!! “A Baby Changes Everything” is the name of a play, and now, the theme of my life!  Sweet Molly is only 2 ½ months old, but she is the one little treasure of the season that truly is perfect!

*part of this printed in MSResources of CNY newsletter.

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