Alone for the Holidays

It’s Thanksgiving Day. There are many, many things for which I am grateful beyond words, but this isn’t a post about gratitude. Instead, it’s about being alone for the holidays.

The holidays can be particularly stressful for those people who believe the holiday is about what should be done, for people who can not be with family, for people who have had recent personal challenges or tragedies, and for people who feel alone.

This holiday season people I know and love are struggling with a variety of issues. As I prepared to write this week’s post, I thought of them and of past holidays where I have had struggles to overcome.

I have spent holidays mourning and struggling. I have spent holidays alone. It took years before I felt comfortable doing what I needed at those times. I know I would have appreciated a few tips during that time, so I’m offering these few to you.

If you are among those who are struggling with personal challenges or losses, remember it’s okay to feel whatever you are feeling at this time. I think Karen Mcfarland says it best: sometimes Reality Bites.

If you are alone for the first time this holiday, it’s time to be kind to yourself. Sheila Weinstein reinvented her life after the death of her husband of 50 years. While her blog is about the holidays after the loss of a loved one, it applies to anyone who needs suggestions on how to be kind to yourself at this time of year. Here she shares ten tips on how to Make Your Holiday a Good One.

Perhaps, you simply do not celebrate Thanksgiving or you have chosen to be alone. August Mclaughlin gives us some hints on learning to enjoy time alone. While her post is about writing, it can apply to anyone who needs a little Sweet Solitude.

Holidays have a lot of emotional baggage attached to them. Family traditions, co-workers, television shows, even commercials pound us with expectations for the holiday. Remember, there are no rules about this or any other holiday. You don’t have to give the holiday the power to make you feel worse in any way. The holiday is what YOU make it. Take charge of the holidays. Make it what you need it to be.

Whatever is going on in your life, my wish for you this Thanksgiving and holiday season is a moment of peace, a moment of gratitude, and a bounty of blessings.

Will You Raise Your Hand?

I am proud to be an American. (Raise your hand if you’re proud, too). Americans are some of the most caring, most passionate, and most inventive people on the planet. However, we’ve also become a people obsessed with ‘doing.’ We brag about how busy we are as we pass one another and hurry off to the next activity. And in all the doing, some of us forget To take care of ourselves. Not taking care of ourselves means a rising number of us are becoming diabetic. Right now we are rushing into the bountiful feast season. Raise your hand if you want to celebrate the season and stop diabetes.

Raise your hand illustration of colorful hands raised

Feasting

In the next few months, we’ll proudly fix meals that once fed the entire colony and all of their guests in 1621. Many of us will say grace, giving thanks for our bounty. Some won’t. We’ll watch parades, football games, and maybe a sappy holiday movie or two. A few of us will take an after-dinner walk. Most of us won’t. (*Raising my hand sheepishly*)

We won’t remember that the first feast came only after a tremendous amount of physical work. The early settlers suffered through a two-month journey on a ship most of us modern Americans wouldn’t step foot on. Those that survived the journey were challenged by winter weather, limited food, poor housing, and illness. Then they had to clear the land, build their homes, hunt for meat, and till the land to grow food. The survivors of that first harsh year had plenty of reasons to celebrate their first successful harvest.

Be Thankful

By comparison, most modern Americans have it very soft. But this post isn’t meant to be an “in the old days . . .” type of scolding. It’s meant as a reminder: Be thankful for the technology that makes our lives so much easier. Give thanks that our knowledge and technology has made it possible to have plenty of food. Be thankful that the advances in medicine have nearly eliminated some of the most deadly epidemics out there. (*Raising my hand, thankful for all of these*) But our bodies have not caught up evolutionarily with all of the technical changes

Some Are Forced to Change

My redheaded niece has just been diagnosed with juvenile diabetes. It’s a very difficult time for her and her family: her sister and brother, her father (my brother), and her mother (my brother’s lovely wife).

We all understand that there are worse diagnoses she could have had. (*Raising my hand in gratitude*). But childhood is difficult enough without the added stress of a medical condition. No matter what that medical condition is, it adds stress. Parents try to grasp that their perfect child is no longer perfect. They feel threatened by the disease, by the foreign language they have to learn, and by all the procedures that accompany that particular diagnosis.

The child cannot understand what’s happening. Yesterday they could eat, play, do what they want. Today, everything has changed. And the child asks why. A question most parents, even medical personnel cannot answer.

Added to that is the stress, the knowledge, that diabetes is a very serious disease that affects your whole body. Undiagnosed or poorly controlled diabetes can lead to kidney and heart disease, massive infections, blindness, and death. It’s HARD to manage diabetes around activities and illness and bountiful feasts. It is especially difficult because we Americans forgo moderation as if more is better somehow.

Be Moderate

Moderation doesn’t mean you never get to eat a treat. It means you are aware. You are aware of your body’s needs and of your psychological needs. A small treat once in a while is delightful and appropriate. But a sugary snack twice a day and a dessert every night, or a menu of nothing but fast foods — not so appropriate for what our bodies need.

I have type two diabetes, or adult onset, also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes. I don’t take care of myself nearly as well as I should. And for no good reason: I am tired, so I don’t exercise and eat a treat ‘because I deserve it.’ I am partying so I eat to celebrate. I had a hard day, I had a good day, etc. etc. I always have an excuse.

How Many Are Affected by Diabetes?

My niece’s diagnosis has made me stop and think. Because of her diagnosis, I visited the American Diabetes Association. I’d like to share the following statistics I found there:

Total: 25.8 million children and adults in the United States—8.3% of the population—have diabetes.

Diagnosed: 18.8 million people

Undiagnosed: 7.0 million people

Prediabetes: 79 million people*

New Cases: 1.9 million new cases of diabetes are diagnosed in people aged 20 years and older in 2010.

Please remember, diabetes can do damage EVEN IF YOU DON”T KNOW YOU HAVE IT.

The American Diabetes Association has a presence on Facebook also. The Association has a campaign running right now. raise your hand.  Pledge to stop diabetes.

My niece and her family live miles away from me. I can’t help her the way I’d like to. I can’t make her diabetes go away. But there are things I can do.

Raise Your Hand

So I’m raising my hand. (*Waves to Savannah!*) I’m taking the pledge to stop diabetes. I pledge to be kinder to my body: to drink more water, eat in moderation, to test my blood sugar regularly and to exercise. These are not going to be easy for me to do. It is a lifestyle change. But I’m doing this for my niece, for my family, and for myself.

Oh, don’t worry. We’ll have a Thanksgiving Day feast, we’ll watch parades and I’ll probably watch a sappy movie. But I’ve made the pledge – I’ll eat in moderation (we’ll have plenty of leftovers!) and I will exercise and I will test my blood sugar regularly. You all will hold me accountable, won’t you?

Have a HAPPY (moderate) THANKSGIVING.
*WAVES AT YOU*

But won’t you also join me? Raise your hand and pledge to stop diabetes. Get tested for diabetes. Be more active. Eat right. And learn to love taking care of yourself and your loved ones.