A tradition I can manage and actually enjoy.

My husband and I have tried to begin several food related traditions at Christmas, or so he says. Anxiety and depression can contribute to memory loss and I don’t remember these efforts he remembers. Apparently, we attempted to begin a sugar cookie tradition and a pancake breakfast too. I vaguely remember getting him a cookie press as a gift, but not any conversations related to baking every year. I remember pancakes, but not as a Christmas specific event. It’s possible that this is another misunderstanding, reinforced over years of shared holidays. It’s possible that these memories are yet another thing that my pregnancy related emotional health issues stole from me. The first seven years of my life as a mother are bright and clear in some spots and muddied and blurred in others. Still other spots seem to be completely non-existent. It’s as if I wasn’t present at so many things I was supposedly at. Other people remember me being there, doing that, saying this and this and this…. I see my myself in photos and there is no connection in my head, other than to be disturbed and uncomfortably impressed by my ability to look happy on demand. I have zero poker face when playing the actual game of poker, but in the game of life, I seem to fool everyone, including myself. One of the suggestions for dealing with anxiety and depression is to hold onto the good memories and replicate them when possible. If it sticks, keep it, keep it over and over and over again, and maybe those good moments will begin to have more weight than the others. Cling to the things that make you feel something more like contentment or satisfaction or joy, or even just something that isn’t numb, bitter, sad, or angry. I guess, hold tight to the things that make you feel like it’s not a poker face, but maybe a little bit real. When your brain is wired to forget, overloaded by nearly everything and going between fight and flight continually throughout a day, being intentional about memory matters. We don’t have to hold all the memories and many of us can’t. But, we can hold what we loved and fight to keep it. I loved making these little cinnamon roll trees last year. I remembered them this year, just like I remembered the carrots for our reindeer and cookies for Santa. Just like last year, my kids thought the trees were the best thing ever, especially with extra bacon and bananas. Again, they helped me make sure that Santa had milk and two cookies and our reindeer were so hungry that they needed two pounds of carrots to sustain them on their epic journey. I sang making these rolls and enjoyed the green coloring and sprinkles. I was excited to order the supplies and I didn’t feel resentment over the dirty dishes. In other words, this is a tradition worth keeping, a memory that wasn’t lost to emotions that defeat me. When other parents have elves on shelves, wrapping paper specific to each child, themed holidays with coordinating ornaments, and more, Christmas can feel like a race I’ll never win with sides of judgement all around. It’s like those of us who don’t feel happy at Christmas get assigned seats outside in chairs too small with food just a touch below lukewarm, watching everyone else through the windows of our brains, struggling to remember what is real and what is a perception our anxiety tricks us into believing. We didn’t put up our tree this year for various reasons, and to my surprise, this didn’t matter to our kids. Society and consumerism has taught me to believe they need this, but they haven’t yet been convinced. When I realized that the things I remembered- the cookies, the carrots, the trees- were the the same things they liked doing, the same things they wanted to do with me, I felt some Christmas clarity and some liberation. If it’s stressful and the celebrations won’t be less without it and possibly even more celebratory because of the resulting reduced stress, well then don’t do that stressful thing!

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