There are 2 thoughts floating around in my mind lately and I’ve been meaning to post about both of them. I’m quite tired though and so may sound a bit gloomy; whatever my physical state my emotional state tends to follow.
My first topic is Christmas. I hate it.
Something in me finally died last year. Whatever it was that brought me to that point, it was truly irrevocable. I’m not putting this out there looking for sympathy, for thoughts on how to change my perspective…I guess I want you to have an opportunity to understand or at least see why the season no longer matters so much. It has to do with breaking routine, expectations…and whatever else gets wrapped up along with gifts.
I hate “traditions”. Traditions do not exist in our house. We have yet to find one single thing that can be counted on from any one year to the next. Mostly Christmas is about survival and anxiety. Who will crack first? How do we keep Son busy? How do we keep any semblance of normalcy so we can get as close to the 25th as possible before all hell breaks loose?
Last year I snapped on xmas eve. I could not – did not want – to struggle one more second. To keep up appearances one blasted moment more. As soon as hubby came home on xmas eve, I gave Son all his gifts and he had Xmas on the spot. It still wasn’t good enough. It still didn’t work. Now there was nothing for him to open on xmas day. The fact that we haven’t been able to get to xmas morning in years was besides the point…. it is no one’s fault. There is nothing to blame but society perhaps. Our beloved child has a neurological state that impairs his ability to handle excitement, a change in routine, or anything out of the ordinary. There is no magic cure and I have not met any other family who has successfully navigated xmas yet with their child. I’m talking about Asperger’s Syndrome, of course.
Our son now heaps blame on himself. He realizes that he has affected xmas and he hates himself for that. I don’t want him to hate himself. I don’t want him blaming himself, thinking this is what HAS to be and that’s that. Christmas is the brainchild of society, given its present state (no pun intended). Tell me all that glossy, slick advertising doesn’t cut straight through to everyone’s dreams? If you have the perfect gift, the perfect meal….the perfect get-together like that commercial on t.v., then your world will perfect, too, for that golden moment. All you have to do is ~ …..
You cannot even begin to imagine how much money is spent to cultivate that message and to bring it special delivery, to your door, your mailbox or better yet, your tv or computer. We all know that many commercial businesses make their highest sales during this time; it’s not by accident the Americans have their so-called “Black Friday” the day after Thanksgiving. Black, in the money world, means a profit. That day kicks off the Christmas campaign to shop. How many people in my local area got up in the wee hours to travel across the border to take advantage of the super deals on this year’s Black Friday?
So, the buying industry has created this world where we cannot be perfectly happy. If we were….we wouldn’t shop would we? We must always be in the state of wanting something more ~ a little better? another gift for your paper boy or teacher? That extra item on sale? Otherwise these guys would go out of business.
Yet it is no secret that xmas is the most stressful time of year for many. Aside from the homeless, the destitute ~ and the added calls to help those less unfortunate at this time of year; we are inundated with advice on how to survive this time of year. People go into debt to deliver the perfect gift or season. We add extra stress to bake for the loved ones in our lives, to attend school functions, work functions…. so, we are in a constant flux of pull and give before adding one single thing more to that combination.
Now, add something like Asperger’s Syndrome to that mix. One trait of this Syndrome is the inability to handle change. Anything out of the ordinary or routine throws these guys for a loop. Not that those around them help at all, given the chaos I described above. My son loves his gifts. He knows what they are because I discovered a few years ago that his knowing, and helping me buy them, decreases his anxiety and stress a small amount.
We have tried e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g short of drugging him, to get to Christmas Day. Nothing works. It is a drawn-out painful affair for all of us. Now that we’ve had some years of this under our belts, you just can’t miss the anticipation of that stress. By keeping Son busy and engaged on a constant basis, I have managed to get to Christmas Eve with some success. By then I am exhausted from my own personal stress of the herculean effort it takes to get there. Shopping on Christmas Eve is the LAST thing I want to do but it is a way to keep Son busy and not counting the seconds to the.big.day. By that I mean midnight.
For him, Christmas happens at midnight. Exactly. Ho ho ho, bring it on. Of course this doesn’t gell with the ideas of others in the household and so let the games begin. I am sure there is a “beware of” target on our roof so that Santa remembers to tread ever-so-lightly on our house, lest he fall through and join the midnight fray. Christmas Day itself is pure exhaustion, blinding headaches from lack of sleep and stress.
So I had to wonder, last year, why would we want to put ourselves through this? What kind of crazy life do we have, that we want to subject ourselves to this abuse, year after year? What kind of excitement or happiness was there in looking forward to THAT? I didn’t open my gifts last Christmas. I didn’t care. I didn’t go to the “Family Dinner”. I didn’t care. I didn’t want to fake the Christmas Cheer and I didn’t want to hear the thrilled voices of all the other children there. I didn’t want to hear the joy and excitement in fellow persons of any sort. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, really.
In fact, I felt dead. I broke open some booze, thinking I used to be a happy tippler many years ago. Not a good idea when the only liquer in the house is Bacardi Rum to use with the Pina Coladas. Oh.my.god. I felt worse in a pretty short period of time and my family were dumbstruck when they returned from their wonderful family dinner to see Mom now was SICK on top of whatever-else-I-looked-like-to-them. Oh that didn’t feel good!
I packed everything up; was it on Boxing Day? I threw many things out and gave away other stuff. Christmas was over. I was determined.
That’s the way it stayed until 3 weeks ago. Then the season drifted our way once again and the voices of those around me got louder and more insistent. They didn’t want it cancelled. I was outvoted. After much thought a compromise was reached. Each one of us will receive one gift and a stocking. Son was advised he could open his gift either on Xmas eve dinner or at midnight, but the stocking is for xmas morning.
I honestly don’t know how it is going to go but I have a pretty good idea. There has been some maturity this past year and a little more independence in our Son. Will it make a difference? Will it be easier to cope with one gift? Not that we ever had an insane pile ~ our policy was that “Santa” brought one gift, because that was all we would allow Santa to bring, and whatever else was under the tree came from family and friends. That way there was a reasonable approach to gift-giving and some semblance of control over greed and desire.
These less-than-stellar seasons of “joy” over the years has impacted on our daughter. I will write down my memories of the early years, before the date of December 25th brought on the craziness in this household, for her to cherish when she is older. She won’t remember those early ones but I do. When there was the thrill of seeing that Santa came and the all-out-joy of receiving that thing you wanted most. There were a couple of those Christmases.
I hope the changes to this one will bring us peace. Screw anything else. I want a restful, peaceful Christmas above all else. I thank my brother-in-law in advance for his beautiful suggestion of Christmas dinner being moved to Boxing Day. I never did like the stress of THAT on top of everything else. I had thought of Christmas Eve myself, but Boxing Day is much better. Nothing is open and people have had a chance to catch up on rest, the gifts are done so everyone has already moved on to playing the new movie, listening to the new music, etc. My idea of a wonderful xmas day is to have a smorgasboard to bits and bites to munch on throughout the day. Ho-ho-hold the traditional meal! Turkey and mashed potatoes mixed with stocking candy? Those baked goods? Well, blow me up and away! Then that xmas BREAKFAST on top of all that? What kind of INSANE custom is THAT?
Give me stuff to nibble and sip! Let us VISIT family or friends if we want, without the pressure of dressing up and preparing some great feast. Those who want to drive out to see others, bring it on! Those with little ones who don’t want to leave their new toys ~ STAY! It is much more comfortable to visit YOU in your home and marvel over your decorations and letting everyone just r-e-l-a-x….. that gives “joy” to the seaon.
Personally, I don’t see much success in our home. Call me a pessimist but I have tried everything I can think of to make it a smooth transition to Christmas Day. This year hubby is home for the week of Christmas so it will be him who deals with Son’s growing stress and anxeity as the 25th draws ever nearer. Maybe he will succeed where I didn’t. Maybe Son has matured enough to bring a slight, positive change in our environment.
But, I don’t care! What the hell is all the stupid craziness for? For ONE DAY?? For one morning? We get all bent out of shape, stressed and go totally bonkers….for a few minutes on a particular day on the Calender? Just who is NUTS here anyway? It is a freakin’ DAY not a life-changing event! Some people are sick and spend the 25th with the flu, puking their little hearts out. New mothers probably won’t remember that first xmas between baby feedings and poops. Other parents won’t remember the blur either, simply due to the fact that they were lucky if they got to bed at all…. putting items together, wrapping final gifts, tying up loose ends ~ it all tends to move the clock to the wee hours of Christmas morning before it’s done. Just in time to put the turkey on and listen to the children getting up at the crack of dawn!
Yeah. I think the gift in this house IS our Son. Having the courage to discard the traditional crap and look for something more peaceful that works for us, in our world. I would rather spend the time and money taking in a good movie with him; eating out somewhere nice with my family…doing something special… and making it more of an ordinary day with a small, special twist to it. Son’s world makes sense ~ it is OURS that is so out of whack!
As with all changes, there are steps to work through and getting accustomed to new feelings and thoughts. Last year was the turning point for me; where I truly grieved what was lost and just couldn’t go on. This year brings about something new to try. This might be a positive adjustment where we find contentment and peace. It might prove to be another step towards discarding Christmas altogether.
Don’t feel sorry for me. I don’t. I am free of the pull and guilt of Christmas. I don’t care about gifts or the big Christmas Day get togethers. I enjoyed visiting the malls and watching the hustle and bustle ~ and not being a part of it. For this year, I am much better off than last year. What mother wants their child to feel the burden of “ruining” Christmas? Why can’t WE change the way we EXPECT our lives to be since HIS world is already chaotic and confusing to him? What is so necessary about hanging on to damned “traditions” that wreak havoc and mayhem on us? How did it ever come about that society ~ or advertisers ~ decided what was the norm for our household?
Ok. So I foamed and railed against society a bit here. That hasn’t left me any time to write about the second topic that is on my mind. It will be the next post; Friends and Time. I needed to get Christmas off of my chest. I want you to know, I am not sorry for not conforming to someone else’s idea of a perfect Christmas. I am NOT sorry if I don’t do what you expect me to do. My child comes first. His well-being, our life together, this household. My outlook on life, how I face the challenges presented to me ~ to us…. will affect my immediate family the rest of their lives. I want what works for us. If I haven’t worked through everything just yet, then I’m not going to be around to put myself through some get together or event, unnecessarily. Think less of me, or us, if it pleases you. I.don’t.care.
When the door shuts, it is my husband, my son, my daughter and myself at the end of the day. No one has been there through the hard years and these years. You simply can’t know what it is like no matter how much you think you do. It isn’t “just” at a certain date for us; it is every single day. Asperger’s does not come and go at will; it doesn’t get “fixed” or “cured”. We learn to live with it and to adjust our lives to get the best fit. My son does not have a choice; he can’t walk away from it, hang it up for a day, or forget about it for 5 minutes. It is there, in his face, every second of every day.
So, I may seem Bah Humbug to you out there, but I am rooting for something good in our home; peace. However that includes or removes Christmas…I am fine with it. I can live without Christmas or society’s semblance of what to expect; but I cannot live without my son or my family.
Peace to you all this season.