Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Holiday blues

I have a friend who, when asked how she is, replies cheerfully, "I have my usual holiday neuroses" (she has good cause but that's another story). Lots of people suffer from the blues in one form or another during the holiday season--maybe it's loneliness, maybe it's remembering holidays past and fearing this year won't be as good. I suspect for too many the holidays are tinged with bad memories--sad events, dysfunctional families, you name it.
I am blessed in that I have nothing but happy memories of the Christmas holidays--from my own childhood, from the years when my children were young (we celebrated Hanukah and Christmas with four children--if you don't think that takes logistics, think again). There was the year one of the kids found the hidden presents and showed the others--they all agreed it ruined Christmas. There were Hanukah suppers with latkes and a friend's father who used to peel dollar bills off a huge roll and hand them to the children. There was that unbelievable mountain of presents under the Christmas tree every year. When the children were older, I took them to Santa Fe for several years and even after they married Christmas meant Santa Fe to us. In recent years we've alternated--Alter Christmas one year, Alter Thanksgiving the next, and we've gone different places--like a trip to Breckenridge when everyone got sick--not so much fun but even some pleasant memories out of that. And this year I have Jacob and the magic of the Elf on the Shelf, and I'm looking forwarad to being with other grandchildren.
But somehow this year I feel my old friend anxiety hovering just under the surface. Maybe it does that every year and I just don't realize it. Or maybe this year is different. A couple of weeks ago I woke in high anxiety worrying about a speaking engagement in January--for Pete's sake, why now? I can worry about that in January. Recently I had another bout with the "I can't walk from here to there" kind of anxiety following what I thought was going to turn out to be a debilitating nosebleed--I did finally get it under control, and I'm sure it was due to cold weather and dry heat. And I had in-the-night anxiety after Newtown, but who in this entire country didn't? But I figure two steps backward demands at least one step forward, and I'm working on it.
The good thing is that I find myself these days better able to deal with anxiety, to recognize it for what it is, and to know that it will pass. I'm not always sure analyzing what is behind it is a good idea, and I don't try. I'm learning to say that's how I am--other people have allergies or stomach problems or migraines: I have anxiety.
And it hasn't stopped me from enjoying the holidays--a lovely lunch at a boutique hotel, a warm and caring get-together with some members of my memoir class (and the best food--thank  you, Anne Kane), dinner tonight with Betty, lunch with old friends. My life is full, and I feel truly blessed. Get thee behind me, anxiety.


Babette Fraser Hale said...

Anxiety has been with me as long as I can remember with some very difficult manifestations, off and on, that I strive to live with. You've done a great job with it, reaching out to others. This year, my Rx for melancholy is one small puppy, acquired at least partially on account of your enjoyment of Sophie.

Judy Alter said...

BAbette, anxiety has been my lifelong companion too. I figure we've both done pretty darn well in spite of it. I find it's better to talk about it--people are more willing to help than you expect, and you discover you're not alone. It's a pretty common problem to one degree or another.