“Last year I purchased more than 40 evergreen wreaths for the windows of the house…and affixed wonderful shooting stars, made from hundreds of little white lights to the roofs and sides of the buildings…Indoors, I go a bit more crazy – a tree or two or three in every room…one room might be decorated for a woodland scene, another for our furry friends and another just for the birds. I pull down the best table coverings from the attic and place them on tables, then add decorations on every flat surface…no opportunity is spared to embellish and get into the spirit.” (Martha Stewart)
So, funny story…I received an email this week and the sender said something to the effect of, “I can only imagine how beautiful your house looks with Christmas decorations.” She was most likely thinking that since I am in the business of interior decorating, my house would in fact be decorated. Here’s the funny (kind of) part: I don’t have a single Christmas decoration up. No lights on the outside, no garland on the railing, no stockings, not even a tree. It’s quite embarrassing actually. I wish that I, like Martha Stewart had 40 evergreen wreaths for each window of the house, a tree or two or three in different rooms. I wish that the smell of sugar cookies was wafting through my perfectly cleaned house, with Christmas carols reverberating in the background. But this is the thing: it’s my husband’s first Christmas of really being at home in over eight years, after a long stint in the oil field. We are still tired, we are still recovering, and we are enjoying laying around on the the couch by the fire with our kids at night. In the past, this would have been my downfall. I would first start comparing myself to my neighbors, my friends, even Martha Stewart (sigh). I would start berating myself and asking what’s wrong with me and why can’t I keep up with everyone else. But what I have painfully, yet thankfully come to learn and accept is this…I have limitations.
This has been a difficult lesson for me to learn, as I have always believed that if I just worked a little harder, I would be able to do everything. But my body literally revolted and I have since had to learn to not only monitor my actions, but my energy level as well. We all have limitations. For some people it is age or their health. Others may be learning how to survive as a single parent, a new parent, or a caregiver to aging parents or children with special needs. The problem, however, is that we live as though limitations do not exist. We run and push and move through life until we drop from exhaustion, only to get up and start all over again. We refuse to rest until something outside of ourselves forces us to finally stop and take inventory of how we are choosing to live our lives.
There are two faulty ways of dealing with this issue in my opinion. We either ignore our limitations, or we become them. When my son first started having behavioral problems, I tried as hard as I could to ignore the difficulties and function like a normal family, often running myself into the ground. When I finally realized that was not working, I became the grieving mom of an autistic child, floundering in my sorrow and despair. I got lost and it became my identity. It seems rather, that perhaps the best option is to simply and humbly accept our limitations as reality.
What I am not suggesting is that we robotically accept these limitations and mechanically plow through life . Very often in order to accept our limitations, we need to first grieve them. I just watched this beautiful video on Parkinson’s patients who are losing their ability to walk properly. This is their reality that as of yet, cannot be changed. But as an act of self-love and respect, their loss of freedom and independence must be mourned, almost as if to pay homage to a life well lived thus far. If we can grieve and accept our limitations, I believe that we can eventually learn to celebrate them. These Parkinson’s patients are finding joy and hope in a difficult situation. They are not allowing their limitations to define them, nor are they wallowing in self-pity.
Now for anyone that is overly concerned about my non-existent Christmas decorations, rest assured, I have no intention of actually having a tree-less Christmas. It may however be a very simply decorated one. We might take the kids skiing instead of wearing ourselves out shopping. We might enjoy pizza more often than turkey and homemade sugar cookies. But I’m okay with that. We will be well rested and happy and reveling in the delight of having my husband home this year. For me, this will be success.