What really stood out to me about the winter holidays this year is how much they didn't suck. This is almost unprecedented in my memory, which is sad, but there it is. When I was a kid, Christmas was when people got mad and screamed and threw things, so when I converted to Judaism, I didn't miss it at all. Chanukah is fun with my kids, but it doesn't get me out of schlepping back to my hometown each December, which, given the history, usually leaves me twisted into a ball of anxiety.
As I've written before, my father likes the idea of having grandchildren better than the reality of dealing with them, especially my son, who has Asperger's Syndrome and who does not, contrary to my father's suggestion, just need to have his ass beaten. Though I love my family and look forward to seeing them, some years things have been so tense that I've had panic attacks. Throw in the fact that this is the first holiday season since my shitty shitty breakup, and suffice it to say that I didn't have high expectations.
However, I was pleasantly surprised. The kids and I stayed in a hotel (which I should have started doing a long time ago), and it made a huge difference. I found things for the kids to do so that they could get their yayas out before family gatherings, and of course my cousin's adorable baby girl was a big focal point, with the kids wanting me to smuggle her back home. I felt relaxed and happy. It was weird.
After Christmas, my ex picked up the kids and took them to visit his family, so I was free for a whole week. I spent that time in Miami with a friend, hence the giant cocktail. I got in the sun as much as possible, trying to bank up heat and light to get through the rest of winter. I ate lots of oysters. I wasn't worried or tense. I felt great about my life. What dark sorcery IS this?
When I went to my first therapy session of the new year, I didn't know what to talk about, so I talked about how strange it is not to feel horrible about my life following the holiday fallout. Again, I recognize that this might be rather sad, but it beats another year of ball-sucking. And it means something I'm doing must be working. Here's the list of suspects.
- Sleeping. I've been prioritizing getting 8 hours of sleep every night. It's magical.
- Drinking less and eating better.
- Taking folinic (not folic) acid and vitamin D supplements, on my doctor's recommendation (obviously, people should check with a physician before taking anything).
- Not volunteering for things I don't want to do.
- Not taking responsibility for other people's choices or moods.
I know, none of this is rocket science, but I never claimed to be quick on the uptake. And some of these things, like sleep, I simply couldn't have done when my kids were younger. I've been thinking of it this way: if I had a friend who struggles with anxiety and depression and whose heart has been put through the shredder, what would I tell her? Those things. If I would want this for a friend, then I should want it for myself. It's time for me to give myself what I want others to have. It's time to be my own friend.