12.15.2016

Surviving the Holidays with MS

Growing up, Christmas in my family was a BFD. It still is. Like an insanely, big deal. My mom still gets up at 5, anxious to tear into presents and eat fruitcake for breakfast. My dad only encourages her by throwing open the sash and bellowing “Merry Christmas”, causing all the dogs within a 1/2 mile radius to lose their shit. Compared to these two, Clark Griswold was a hack. I can hardly be blamed for the sugarplums that dance in my head. It’s in my DNA.

This is what my parents consider a decent sized tree.

Of course, what happens in December starts in November. And everything seems possible in November. I eagerly say yes to it all, seeing no problem in filling my days with concerts, parties, dinners and overall excess; indulging in every tradition on the books, from the first Advent chocolate to the last New Years hangover.

But it’s not all rum and eggnog. As much as I love the holidays, they can overwhelm. Trying to balance the fun with the festive can sometimes fail, especially for an idealist like me who likes things just so. And by just so, I mean perfect. Because December can also mean colds and flus, exhaustion and burnout, calories and credit card debt. 

Keeping my stress in check is imperative to managing my MS, so I’m sharing the ways I try to stay joyful and triumphant during this season. Because sunny November with its fall leaves and sense of can-do is over. It’s mid-December now and it’s freezing-ass cold. The tree sits unwatered next to a mound of unwrapped gifts and a sink full of dishes and somehow I thought I could go to not one but two parties tonight. And, oh yeah, I promised to bring homemade cookies, which I need anyway because I’m hosting six people the next night and oh, there’s that potluck at church the following day. Nerve pain, MS fatigue and wobbly legs be damned.

What the hell was I thinking? Who do I even think I am?

Rather than dropping my phone in the toilet and hiding under the covers for the next ten days (OMG there are still TEN DAYS of this madness), I’ve decided to write a blog post. (Because, guess what? That’s stressing me out too! I mean, I haven’t written anything in forever).

My main concerns during the holidays are really my main concerns in life but in December they’re jacked up on cheap champagne. Among them:

  • I won’t have enough energy to entertain or shop for gifts.
  • Changes in diet will eff up my delicate system. 
  • I’ll catch a cold and send my MS spiralling out of control. 
  • I won’t have the strength to do all the fun things. FOMO. 
  • People who haven’t seen me for awhile will be startled by my progression.
  • I'll look drunk without the benefit of actually being drunk.

Thankfully I have a plan.

Outsourcing

Did you know you can get a turkey on the internet now? Yup. A turkey. I’d like to be the kind of girl who can pull off a turkey dinner. And I am. Sort of. Secret sharing time: after deciding it would be super fun to host said supper, when the time finally came, I didn’t know how I was going to will my body into cooperation. Instead of bailing, I unapologetically ordered a pre-cooked turkey. And why would I apologize? I've cooked 4 turkeys in my entire life and Pusateri's has cooked at least 7 thousand. They definitely know better than me. The goal wasn’t to prove I’m an awesome cook (I’m not). The goal was to eat a skin bowl with some of my besties and play fairy godmother to their kids. Fait accompli.

Drink Through It

I know what you’re thinking. Here she goes telling us how alcohol is the solution. And you would be right. But downing 2:1 water for every cocktail is a life hack. You’re welcome. Because changes in my diet will affect how I’m feeling, I really do try to stick to my exercise and sleep routine. And to avoid the side-eyes of those who will blame my loopy gate on liquors, I like to do most of my drinking sitting down. 

No Touching

If you ask me, there’s simply too much hugging at Christmas. At a time when passing the peace can feel more like passing the plague, a good quality hand sanitizer is my best accessory. And all the extra scrubbing means I also need a great lotion. I love my l’Occitane. This post isn’t sponsored, but I wish it were. 

Online Shopping

Duh, I know. This one is so obvious, I don’t need to plug its benefits, but it’s the reason why anyone who gets a gift from me, ever gets a gift from me. Santa is a MacBook for whom I don’t ever have to put on a bra.

Shoving Shit in a Closet

People are coming over. I’ve known for weeks, and yet here we are shoving shit in a closet. Everything in its place. Sometimes that place is a sky-high fire hazard behind your bed.

Pre-napping

Like pre-drinking, but cheaper. Even if I don’t actually fall asleep, it’s important for me to be totally off my feet for an hour before going out or having anyone over in the evening which is typically a challenging time of day for me.

Knowing when to say Fuck It

There’s good and there’s good enough (this blog post). I accept that I can’t be awesome all the time and maybe not everyone I’ve ever met is going to get a Christmas card from me this year. And, if I finish wrapping a gift only to realize I miscalculated how much paper I’d need, leaving a small exposed square, so be it. I already ruined the wrapping job anyway when I ran out of Scotch tape and decided to use painters tape. (‘So be it’ is the zen way of saying ‘Fuck it’.)

Netflix

It’s important to make time for loved ones and Netflix is no exception. Because Netflix gets you like your family never will. I like to put downtime in the calendar. It helps me recognize it as a priority. 

Just Say No

Sometimes I cancel plans. I don’t like to and I feel guilty, or I don’t. Because I know my presence isn’t going to make or break this shindig. Plus, secret surprise - everybody wants to bail on stuff this time of year. Let yourself off the hook and then don’t be a jerk the next time someone flakes on you. (Unless it’s my birthday 2017. Seriously, I will cut you.)

Just Say Yes

Because often the best nights are the ones where we rally. To get myself out the door when it feels impossible, I always plan a GTFO strategy. I tell myself I’m going for 15 minutes. Most of the time, the energy somehow shows up once I get to the actual event. Just show up.


I have a lot to look forward to as we wrap up this year, and when I look at my calendar and think about all the friends and family I’m going to eat, drink and be merry with, I’m reminded that it doesn’t matter if my base boards are gross. I’m taking my niece to see her first Nutcracker. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, Trippers. May you drink too much champagne and kiss someone lovely at midnight on NYE.

Love, A.

What are your holiday hacks?


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10 comments :

  1. Great hacks; here's mine: slice, plate, and cover your baked goods the day before your party. (this takes longer than you think) Save the crumbly bits for a trifle or parfait. You are bound to have left over wine from the party and whip cream from the Christmas Day pumpkin pie.

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  2. A... you have to post a warning on these! Don't read in public, if you are by yourself. I totally lost it at ...except my birthday,... I will cut you.

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  3. This was another great script - and so uplifting! It's one of the reasons your posts are so helpful - we aren't alone in navigating this journey of Multiple Sclerosis.
    Me too - I take a bit of a nap for 30 minutes or so before an event, even if it's only on my yoga mat on the floor with legs up the wall. It's a well-deserved and needed reset.
    Recently I've decided to up the amount of Vitamin C I've been taking… maybe this will help me
    with any 'plague' problem?? No clue, but I've convinced myself. And try to stay on track with
    all my supplements and herbal tea intake… I'm crazy sensitive in the digestive area and this
    helps…
    Happy Holidays to you Ardra! ~~~Barbara. NY

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    1. My tummy can be a mess but I swear by a really good probiotic. I take Align and it has helped a lot.
      Merry Christmas Barbara!

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  4. Can I just be you when I grow up? Love your optimism and honesty, as always.

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  5. I think this blog was better than 'good enough'! Thanks so much for adding your inimitable voice to the warm and witty chatter in my Christmas this year. Wishing you the very best in health, happiness and Netflix in 2017.

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    1. Thank you lovely Emily. Happy New Year to you and yours!

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