Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays. Mike Strand

“Not that she didn’t enjoy the holidays: but she always felt—and it was, perhaps, the measure of her peculiar happiness—a little relieved when they were over. Her normal life pleased her so well that she was half afraid to step out of its frame in case one day she should find herself unable to get back.”
— Jan Struther, Mrs. Miniver

As the July Holiday weekend draws to a close and there is now a spacious break until Labor Day in September, this quote from “Mrs. Miniver” got me to thinking about the holidays. Specifically, why I don’t really care for them. There are a few reasons why I find them, on the whole, not as pleasant as one might imagine.

The first reason is that they disrupt my routine. Routine helps me manage life in general, even as my brain injury unnecessarily complicates it. My otherwise ordinary day-to-day living is fraught with memory lapses and lack of occurrences, compromised foresight, and unanticipated happenstances. The sorts of minor swells and eddy’s that make normal life not so boring can make my life a chaotic maelstrom. By slipping comfortably into my coat of routines, I can compensate for my brain-injured lack of initiative and executive function deficits. If it’s Monday, I vacuum and dust mop the floors; if it’s Tuesday, I clean the kitchen – and so on through the week. By the end of the week, I have cleaned the whole house. I have not felt overwhelmed; and I have completed my chores.

Until a holiday appears, and my week gets thrown into confusion. Now I must anticipate what I will leave undone as I re-prioritize tasks and alter my schedule to allow for other obligations. Simple tasks can loom like specters and harass my peace of mind. This translates into fretting and worry, which fatigues me perceptibly, and THAT has a whole different set of challenges.

Communication is a challenge, and small talk is the hardest form of communication. It is hard enough for me to say what I mean; it is doubly difficult to say what I don’t mean. Polite and proper conversation, breezy good humor, and disingenuous dissemblance converge to lay a minefield of gaffs. How many times must I apologize and “play the brain injury card?”

And the toughest requirement of all is being thoughtful. Of course, it’s not a requirement, and yet it is. It betrays how much someone means to you. The touching part of every holiday is when someone gives the perfect, and perfectly unexpected, gift. Then there are the tender moments when someone says just the right thing, at just the right time. That’s about as likely an event for me as medaling at the next Olympics!

Add to all this the inevitability of being surrounded by groups of people, with everyone in animated conversation and activities, activities from which I feel there is no escape, and you can well imagine why I do not look forward to the holidays. Oh, and these groups of family and friends may very well consist of several people who I do not see very often and whose names cannot remember, and who always seem to know things about me, but for whom I can’t recall the slightest detail, or what details go with what person. Who got the new job, as opposed to who lost their job? Who just recovered from a broken leg, and who just got diagnosed with cancer?

I still go to all these holiday celebrations. I’m grateful for family and friends. Yet, I am loath and filled with trepidation at the same time.

Still, let me smile and wish you all, “Happy Holidays!”

Posted on BrainLine July 24, 2018.