Learning to Say No Can Save the Holiday Season
Sometimes we push ourselves so hard we lose sight of what's important
All the bedroom doors were closed and everyone was tucked in under their warm comforters. Except for me. I had taken on the 2013 holiday season like it was another full-time job. Without enough daylight hours to squeeze it all in, I was working the graveyard shift and bleeding myself dry.
For a long time, I evaluated my value based on how much I could accomplish for myself and others. Acts of service, checked boxes on task lists … but there’s a trap to this method of pleasing people.
I didn’t want to say no! I accepted every invitation. I committed to every cookie party, holiday light festival, and gift exchange. I didn’t want my kids to miss out, and I certainly didn’t want to let down friends and family.
With a packed schedule, I was up in the middle of the night bedazzling silly Christmas shirts for Ugly Sweater parties and scrolling Pinterest for drink concoctions to wow party guests. The more I took on, the less I enjoyed the things that mattered the most to me.
Doing too much and living less
Saying yes to everyone was like a paper cut: Tolerating one is doable, but after 10 or 20, they have an impact on your physical and emotional state. I was neglecting my basic needs and suffering an enormous price.
I worried my little girls would miss out on things, until I realized I was causing them to miss out on me. I had become an employee that worked in the house, baking, sewing, and prepping. Then I would be their taxi driver, shuttling them from activity to activity. The worst part? I justified it as being a great mom that gave them the best experiences.
I neglected to see the negative impact it was having on me and my relationships. Working so many side hustles left me exhausted, stressed out, and anxious. I knew I was angry and tired, but I had no clue that I was the one responsible for it. So I continued to complain about having too much to do and blaming others for whatever I could.
The 2013 holiday season was the last I had as a healthy, disease-free Lisa. And I spent it on edge while doing chores. I kept myself so busy that I missed out on enjoying the moments.
I can still hear myself telling my daughter Chloe, “I’m sorry, honey, I can’t jump on the trampoline with you. I have to finish making your fancy dress.” And I can still feel the strain in my voice when I told my then-7-year-old, Kylie, “You’re old enough to ride your bike alone if you stay on the sidewalk. I have to finish making these cookies for the party tomorrow.”
That was the last year I could jump on a trampoline or ride a bike without losing my breath or going into a coughing fit. And I let those carefree moments pass me by, replacing them instead with things I could check off a list. I don’t remember what those cookies looked or tasted like. And the dress is packed away inside a box now. All that’s left are the memories of moments I let slip away.
Things will steal moments no longer
I wish I could rewind time and experience my healthy life again yet retain the lessons I learned from living with scleroderma. I would embrace the wisdom that know no one will remember the perfectly decorated cookies, but they will remember the family snowball fight.
Learning to say no is difficult but powerful. At first, the guilt will feel too heavy to carry, but it goes away after time. It will eventually be replaced with a holiday season filled with less stress and more moments of happiness.
It’s more than OK to choose a couple parties and say no to others, or show up to the dessert happy hour with store-bought cookies — especially when living with an autoimmune disorder like scleroderma. Stress is a trigger, and scleroderma certainly doesn’t need extra help or encouragement!
It’s not how much we do or how well we do it that counts. It’s about being present and free from everything that weighs us down. We’re not guaranteed another holiday season. Use the power of no and free yourself to make memories that count.
Happy holidays to all of you reading this column!
Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.
Thank you so much Lisa. I just spent a pretty miserable Thanksgiving, making everything from scratch for my 10 person family. I was exhausted and in pain and had to lay down for part of it, missing out on the fun part. I won't make this mistake for Christmas. I love your column !