"Happy holidays! Ho, ho, ho..."
Aw, to hell with it.
After the catastrophic disaster of My Ugliest Truth in November I fell into a catatonic state when it came to writing posts, which sucks sons-of-a-nutcracker as that's how I'm able to process my feelings, examine my behaviors, better understand myself, and find solutions to improve the situation.
Instead I choose to wallow in the doldrums, failing to muster up the spirit of the season. I was quite successful, however, of mustering up heaps of self-pity, inner gloom, and uncalled for levels of aggravation with my small world and the bigger one beyond; a nicely wrapped package of despair and hopelessness blanketing me like a soot stained snow storm. Now, the last time I checked none of that qualifies as "Joy to the World" - but does fit snugly in the "Jingle balls THIS, jerks!" category.
While unable to make merry I put in a solid effort to Smack the Christmas right in me by attending others merriment. MotherMinder and I took Mom to Portland Opera To Go's production of La Boheme and for the first 15 minutes were the recipients of a normally vacant dementia lady focused on, and captivated by, the actors, the songs, the action, which resulted in two Mom-laugh-out-loud reactions before she settled down for a long dementia nap in her seat, awash in the clatter of beautiful music.
I was thrilled with Mom's level of engagement, which is so rarely seen anymore, but I couldn't sustain that feeling for long, falling back into bah-humbugs later that night.
A few days later Mom's Ridiculously Tall Grandsons and I continued our holiday tradition of dragging Mom out in the cold and mud to hunt down a Christmas tree; a family ritual that never fails to light my yule log!
Ridiculously Tall Grandson Number Two had to do most of the coaxing to get one very reluctant grandma out into the field of trees. (Due to Ridiculously Tall Grandson Number One and I sprinting far, far ahead, abandoning our compadre to his dementia-grandma fate in an effort to catch the best tree before they caught our scent and made for cover.)
While he didn't get her far from the van before she turned Scrooge and demanded to be led back to the warmth of Christmas 5-minutes past, and left entirely alone for the next Christmas 30-minutes into the future, we still congratulated him on his triumph. It was a Christmas miracle! Last year we couldn't even get her out of the car.
Once home, heady with victory, and hauling the carcass of an evergreen into the living room, I could feel the Christmas spirit slowly trickle into my icy veins. It was impossible to watch Mom meander in and around her tree-decorating grandsons while they teased her with lively affection and not experience a swelling in my heart that is currently sitting two sizes too small. But it was short-lived. Misery wormed it's way back into my psyche later that evening. I wanted to punch myself in the face for being such a downer, but I was too despondent to work up the energy.
I hung my stocking of hopes that I would finally get that goodwill-toward-men feeling on a visit to my aunt and uncle's that was to provide dinner followed by a drive through Keizer's Miracle of Christmas Lights; an annual event with over 200 bedazzled homes illuminated to benefit the Marion-Polk Food Share. While I was too glum to get off my butt and get our own outdoor lights up this year, I am nonetheless a big, BIG fan of the gaudy glow of Christmas strewn haphazardly across strangers domiciles and lawns. The more garish the better! Though tasteful is nice too... I guess... if that's the best you can do.
While my aunt and uncle were putting the finishing touches on dinner, I was amazed at how "present" Mom was, smiling when something humorous was said, watching the dinner preparations with interest, caressing arms, backs, and heads within reach. But it was during the meal that she really came to life! She talked up a blue streak of dementia-speak (nobody knew what she was talking about but marveled at the playfulness of her tone), laughed out loud at several points in the conversation, and had us in stitches with her good humor and mischievous sparkle!
It was a magical hour; my dementia-drowning mother was happy. Truly happy. My body buzzed, truly buzzed with joy. A warmth of gratitude spread through me - I thanked the universe for bestowing such a gift on a woman so deserving of an hour of peace.
It faded, of course, to the more typical dementia blankness, but for that short span of time Mom was blessed with delight in herself, her companions, her life.
And yet, my storm clouds of sorrow overtook me again. Even our lively Christmas celebration and dinner couldn't dispel the gloom.
Christmas Mom. Sparkling harder while shuffling off with the lights.
So, as the recipient of some pretty spectacular dementia miracles this holiday season, what in the name of "Hermey-doesn't-like-to-make-toys!" is wrong with me?
I dunno. Mired in inertia I haven't yet had the energy to answer that question, but the wear and tear of dementia caregiving is currently my prime suspect. In the meantime I've been ricocheting through my versions of "comfort" - without deriving much joy.
I've upped my drinking, my smoking. I eat everything in sight. I spend money I don't have ("Add to cart! Add to cart!"), all providing temporary relief then leaving me disgusted with my Miss Behaving self.
This strategy amounted to a series of stumbles and Bumbles through the season's activities in the hopes that eventually I'd find my way out of this blizzard of bile. A holiday version of fake-it-'til-you-feel-it if you will. It didn't work.
So... to hell with it!
And... get over it!
So, I had an off year. No one ever promised me that every holiday was going to be wonderful. No one ever promised me that every dementia miracle was going to warm my cockles indefinitely, overflow my caregiver reserves, give me superpowers to resist future frustrations and sorrows.
It's a new year, and while I still don't have a cure to this cold that shadows and shrivels my soul, I've managed to sit down and write it out, and that's my first small step on the road to recovery.