Caregiving and Christmas: Finding Joy

Tis the season…  Black Friday, Cyber Monday and a heap of expectations that comes with Christmas in our society.  What does this time look like for you?  Can a family caregiver, who’s also a parent that is holding down a job, possibly find joy?_mg_5373

“We’re all climbing a mountain with the anticipation of reaching the top…to find peace and happiness.  But just as we near the top, something always knocks us down,” said Fr.  Shaun at Sunday morning’s mass.  I could see his face looking about the congregation, scanning our reactions.  He had my attention.  “We may reach that peak, but I don’t know too many people that get to stay there too long,” he added.

What Pushes Us Back?

Christmastime brings more hustle and bustle than many of us can handle. Shopping, baking, cooking, planning, and decorating are but a few of the things that lead up to the holiday, blowing up our daily routines and rhythms.   Finding balance with everything we are now juggling, amidst the chaos of the holiday season, can become “joy busters”.

What if it is less about clawing our way to the top of a mountain and more about the rest stops along the way?  Could the very things pushing us back become the stepping stones to rest upon, re-evaluate our path and adjust?

What’s on your Christmas mountain top that pushes you back?  Is it impatience or is it perfection?  Does pride make you unwilling to ask for or receive help?  Is it fear?   Does the lack of resources….financial, physical, etc….push you down?  If we can honestly scrutinize the things that push us back and keep us down, then we can be aware, and thus make progress!

How do We Find Joy?

The question of joy is answered differently for each of us.  But the path to finding and feeling joy can be the thing we share in common.  If our focus is the push to get to the joy of Christmas day…where it culminates…then I believe we will not find the joy we seek.  Rather, if we focus on our steps, give ourselves permission to slip and go sideways for a day, then look around to find something of joy to rest upon before moving on…we can slowly make our way…with moments of joy along the way. They are there.  We must intentionally find them.  Let me give you an example.

It’s an expectation of my mother’s that the Christmas tree will go up the day after Thanksgiving.  Not a day later.  This year I knew I couldn’t be there, as I had other obligations. I found myself stressing over this.  Fear of letting my parents down was pushing me back down the mountain.

So, I arranged to visit them the week before Thanksgiving.  Mid-day I selected Christmas tunes on my iPhone and turned it up loud!  Smiling I said, “It’s time to put the tree up.”  I received some resistance.  But once they understood I could not be there at Thanksgiving, we got the ball rolling.

Their tree brings frustration, because it’s old and invariably has lighting or branch  misplacement issues nearly every year.  Dad no longer can lift or help with the tree, so mom helped with balancing it while I got it settled in the stand.  Once again the lights didn’t all turn on!!!  Dad started giving me orders from the couch.  Feeling myself getting mad, I announced it was time for a hot chocolate break.  As I stood at the stove making it the old-fashioned  way, I reminded dad of his first attempt at making hot chocolate years ago, using water instead of milk and not adding enough Quick mix. It was awful!  He got a good chuckle.

Back at it, we got the lig_mg_5370hts to work.  Next, time to place the ornaments on the tree.  Dad’s not too stable on his feet these days, so he remained seated. He looked kind of sad, as he watched mom and me working on hanging them.

So, we switched things up.  I had dad be the decision maker on which ornament to hang next and where it should be placed.  It took a lot longer…but we filled  the time talking about the old hand-made ornaments, and of the times we made a mess glueing them and assembling the pieces together.

The la_mg_5382st ornament was a funny looking snowman.  I asked dad to walk it over and hand it to mom.  Picking up his cane, he made it to the edge of the tree and he gently handed it to her to hang.  Stepping back, we looked at our work.  It was beautiful!



With Intention We Find Joy

Was it done the way mom had planned?  NO.  Was it done the way I thought it was going to be done?  NO.  It was done the way it ended up getting done, without forcing our way through the way it “should” go.  Steps were altered.  We paused.  And, with intention there were stories, activities and gifts of memories along the way.

You have the ability to decide each day what one thing can bring joy into your life, making the days leading up to Christmas fulfilling.  Set intentions.  Maybe it’s a phone call during a break you take to reconnect with someone.  Or, maybe it’s a decision to forgo putting up all the decorations you usually have and instead  making time to watch an old Christmas movie together instead.

Remember, it’s not the top of the mountain that we are seeking to rest upon.  It’s the steps and beauty along the way where we will find our joy.  May your Christmas season be filled with planned and surprising  moments of joy!


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