When you least feel like a party is when you need one most. I’m tired. My sons are worn out. The holidays are here with family expectations to fill. Sounds like a nightmare! So what am I doing? Planning a party. Have I lost my mind? Maybe, but here’s what I’m thinking…
It’s been an unusual year. I lost my mother. With that my sister & I inherited 3 tenants and numerous properties to clean up and oversee. I inherited my 96-year-old cousin’s care. Soon after, she broke her leg. She’s been to the hospital, rehab, temporary long-term care, rehab, and now to permanent long-term care. Add her house to the properties I’m maintaining — all of which are 3 hours away from where I live.
My ex-husband lost his mother. My kids lost two grandmothers. One son got married 1700 miles away just a month after the other had a baby. I had to be at each place for each event. One son starts finals today for his 5th semester in law school. The other one is working 18 hours a day to please some difficult clients.
I’ve traveled many times, accommodated extended family, sorted boxes of papers, dealt with appraisers, lawyers, and bankers, gathered information for 4 tax returns, and now keep my 4-month-old grandson two to three days a week. Oh, and I work.
Blah, blah, blah. The point is, we’re all stretched so thin physically, intellectually, and emotionally, we’re not much help to each other. In order to keep our sanity, we all have to be focused on self-care and being patient with each other. I won’t say it’s easy. I certainly won’t say it’s fun.
Which brings me back to the party planning. In my previous job, I had lots of people contact. In my current job, I have very little. Most of my people time is spent with the helpless. While I’m not a full-time care giver, I am experiencing some of the isolation that can result from overwhelming obligations at home. I recognize that I need more lighthearted moments, more joy, more fun!
I am not alone. In the US, about 43.5 million people have provided unpaid care to a child or adult in the past 12 months. About 75% of those are women. Unpaid caregivers report that positive activities in their daily lives are reduced by 27.2% as a result of caregiving activities.(1) And the truth is, when you’re emotionally and physically exhausted, it’s harder to enjoy anything.
I have no patience left for immature or selfish behavior. I don’t even have the energy to get mad about it. It just reduces me to tears which makes it even harder to socialize. I feel like I have to have my guard up or I might start crying. I have plenty of tears. I hold them in when I’m encouraging my cousin to overcome her fear and try to stand. I hold them in when the long-term care facility staff tries to push me into changing doctors. I hold them in when the facility staff can’t find the time to call me when the doctor’s orders change, but can call and email me repeatedly over internal staff gossip. I hold them in when we have to remain on the waiting list at a better facility for months and months.
Aware of the sheer number of tasks I must accomplish and the stress they bring, I regularly prioritize eating healthy, exercise, and rest. I recognize I must or I’ll be consumed by the weight of the responsibilities. What I haven’t done as well is spend time with people who renew me. While it may be lumping them altogether, a party seems like a good way to spend some time with my friends and have some fun. With a little planning, I think I can pull off an event that leaves me more energized than exhausted.
First, I’m carefully choosing the participants. I only want to invite people with whom I feel I can be myself. I am including those who leave me feeling upbeat. I am leaving for another time, friends who require emotional support themselves, special treatment to avoid offending them, and anyone who leaves me feeling drained for any reason. I’m not hesitating to include people I don’t know well, but who I feel good about. This can help me expand my circle of support.
Second, I’m partnering with some friends. My house is filled with baby stuff and I don’t have time to decorate for the holidays. A friend has agreed to host at her house. That eliminates clean-up and decorating time for me! The other friend travels for work, so she can run by the liquor store and provide drinks. Both are inviting their friends. I have an opportunity to meet new people who may turn out to be new friends.
Third, we’re throwing this together the week of the party. That means no time to build it up in my mind into something big. It also means I’m texting the invitations and not worrying about who can or can’t show up.
Fourth, I’m choosing food I can prepare in advance over a period of days. With one friend hosting and another bringing the drinks, much of the food falls to me. I’m keeping it simple. Party mix, sausage balls, and individual panna cotta topped with leftover cranberry/orange relish. I have milk and cream left from Thanksgiving so this is a great chance to use it.
I can supplement with a relish tray, some Wholly Guacamole with chips, and fresh veggies with hummus purchased from the store. Since I’ll be providing the food, I know there are plenty of gluten-free choices. That means I don’t have to worry about pre-eating or carrying food for me in my purse.
Finally, I intend to be mindful and present at the party. I want to fully experience the friends who show up. And, I intend to be open to receiving. If someone compliments me, I will take a moment to feel and appreciate the compliment. If someone offers assistance, help, or relief, I will accept it. If something is funny, I’ll laugh. I will not make anyone else’s enjoyment my responsibility. I will express appreciation to those I appreciate.
Yes, it can feel like a stretch for me to plan a frivolous event right now, but I know it’s important to my long-term mental and physical health and my family isn’t available to help at the moment. If I can shoulder the care of helpless relatives, I can undertake some self-care on my own behalf. It is not selfish. It is necessary.
If you have a caregiver in your family, please give them a break this holiday season. Don’t complain if the house isn’t decorated, a large meal isn’t planned, your present isn’t exactly what you wanted, or if they don’t want (or do want) to discuss how things are going at the dinner table.
Instead, do the dishes, take a shift with the person for whom they care, express appreciation even if it’s just for the effort it took to get you a gift and wrap it, invite them to a party or, better yet, plan a party for them ’cause when they least feel like a party is when they need one most.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”