Ah, the Holidays!
A time for families and friends to come together in the spirit of the season. A time to relive old memories and build new ones. A time of warmth and joy. A time for grand feasts and what were once called “Kodak moments.” A time to tap into personal and longstanding cultural traditions for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa. Remarkable, magic times! Solemn, momentous times.
And for young men and women with PD, a time of stress.
Holiday stress is common for everyone. People with PD may struggle for precisely the same reasons as their friends and neighbors: Unobtainable expectations and a frenzied effort to obtain them anyway. There are cooking, decorating, and shopping to do. There are trips to crowded churches, synagogues, shrines or masjids. Lengthy trips may be in store. Rushing and multi-tasking become the first order of business.
Holiday expectations are typically fueled by our recollections of an earlier day when the world seemed more predictable and fair. We hope to recreate that sublime experience for our loved ones by having a holiday season that is just right in every detail. The pursuit of this experience is very labor intensive, at times pressure-filled.
In contrast to the larger world, PD cares not one whit what season or holiday it might be. The rhythms of PD are unique and demanding. Attempts to crowd more activities and preparation into any day, holiday or not, are bound to be marked by frustration and fatigue.
How does a person with PD respond to the challenges the disease brings to the holiday? Moderation, planning, and realistic expectations.
• Moderation. Accept that there are physical and emotional limits to what you can put into and take from the holiday.
• Planning. Decide before the holiday arrives what is important to you. Create an importance hierarchy, from most to least important activities. Make a list, written or mental and stick with it.
• Realistic expectations. Our memories are quite selective and it is very likely that this process makes us forget that holidays past had their share of things that didn’t quite work. Strive to enjoy the moment rather than to recreate the past.
In a recent Tweet (#PDpsych), I noted that “PD writes the symphony; people touched by the disease interpret this score. The art of living w/PD? Play one's part w/gusto.” You have limits but within the boundaries of those limits, one can experience a life, well-lived. I think there is no better time to apply this thought than the holiday season, whatever time it may be for your family.