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It is one of the toughest times of the year for many people… the holidays. Throw a little 2020 chaos into the mix. Add a dash of pandemic. Twist in economic collapse. There’s nothing peaceful and easy about this ending.

Currently, I live in America. This is the season (pretty much October through January) of giving, getting, and celebrating. In the before times, these months were filled to the brim with parties and events. Everyone was expected to attend and participate in various forms of socializing. From work to family and friends, there was rarely a week that went by without a calendar reminder jolting you into getting ready for your next obligation. 

Alongside immense amounts of energy, these gatherings typically took a hefty financial toll. Generosity is expected this time of year. Spaces are supposed to be gilded, food should be decedent and abundant, fashion matters, and gifts get handed out with abandon. But don’t forget: Rent and mortgages are still due! Bills still need to be paid! Groceries need buying! Transportation still has to happen!

While the socialization aspect of the holidays has screeched to a halt, the metal, emotional, and physical expenditures have skyrocketed. 

For those of us with chronic conditions, stress triggers flares. It aggravates symptoms and places a clamp on otherwise relaxed bodies. Many of us know how to navigate opting out of an in-person event, but how do you claim to be too busy for an online party? Which excuses are effective for getting out of a virtual work gathering? How do you tell people that you are financially strapped and can’t buy gifts or donate to a worthy cause? At what point does, “I can’t” or “I don’t want to” become acceptable and not hurtful answers.

I’m trying to be more honest with people about my holiday abilities. Saying things like, “I just don’t have the emotional capacity to talk to people.” and “That doesn’t work for my schedule.” It’s not a tactic that is always met with understanding. Especially, by folks who don’t understand that coping with pain is a 24/7 job. With those people, I go above and beyond with details. I bore them with the tedious nature of my daily routine and the process that goes into being social. Of course, there are exceptions. I had a stretch, recently, where I had to attend multiple socially-distanced functions. Day after day, I had to put my own needs aside to meet the needs of others. 

Here’s the thing, it was worth it. The massive migraine and additional day of not being able to get out of bed, was a small price to pay for the emotional salve we shared by being in each other’s presence. Because of my firmer boundaries around attending endless online festivities, I knew that I could give all of myself for those handful of days.

I’ve also found that making my home cozy is extra important in this 2020 holiday season. In between frustrating and exhausting moments, I slip into my comfiest hoodie. I put on a soft lamp or light a few candles. There’s usually a silly or sappy show on my television. I’ve treated myself to a handful of new books. My cupboards are full of tea and baking supplies. I take slow walks by the water on beautiful days and come back to a space that beckons me to sink into my favorite chair. Finishing a workout, my shower is already prepped with relaxing smells and soothing lotions. 

Every part of me believes that the small expenses involved in making your home comfortable and cozy, are worth it. This year, spend a few dollars that you would have spent on others, on yourself. A few “No, thank you,” RSVPs and pieces of chocolate under a weighted blanket later, you might actually be able to enjoy these last few weeks!

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