The Holidays: MS and Compromise

You know how fresh snow looks beautiful when it happens early in the season? I saw it this morning and now it is gone – there was just a little dusting of the snow outside to make the ground sparkle. The first measurable snowfall is always such a treat for me to see, even though I don’t like winter or the cold weather. The novelty of snow wears off quickly as the season drags out and I have to maneuver in the winter weather.

I get that same feeling with the appearance of holiday decorations and lights strung on homes around our neighborhood. At first, they are beautiful to look at and I appreciate the splash of color and looking at something different. But then the novelty wears off. The season of the holidays and all the accompanying celebrations and merriment can turn to drudgery and dread as we make our way to January 2, when the hoopla will subside.

This sounds like I am a Scrooge and am proclaiming ‘bah humbug!’ to the holidays, but all it really is my declaring publicly that all the celebrating wears me down. And it does it quickly and is hard to recover from. This is another one of the many ‘gifts’ multiple sclerosis has left at my doorstep. Thanks to my MS, our holidays look quite different these days.

Not so many years back, I would relish the opportunity to decorate my house in every bit of free space with symbols of the season, especially Christmas trees in all shapes and sizes. I would even have a small one in the bathroom. Dragging decorations out of the attic is a challenge that I am just not physically able to tackle. These days we are lucky to have one small artificial tree propped up in the corner – if it appears out of the box before December 20th or so, I’m doing well.

As for holiday time in the kitchen… I love to bake and holiday cookies are the perfect opportunity to experiment with the latest recipes featured in all the glossy magazines. I would begin baking a few weeks in advance and share cookies with anyone and everyone. Now the homemade cookies are a bit sparse and in their place are a few of some fancy chocolate coated or shortbread cookies that I can purchase at a great price at the local warehouse store. Hanging out in a hot kitchen is not so good for someone with heat sensitivity and baking takes time and energy – I have plenty of time, but the energy is something I am a cup or two short of, thanks to my MS.

Don’t ask me if I saw The Nutcracker last night or made it through Home Alone. Watching the classic favorites on television as they rotate through the December nights used to also be a part of the tradition – who can resist Christmas Vacation with the Griswald Family or Charlie Brown’s search for the perfect tree? I don’t live on 34th Street but it would still be a miracle if I could stay awake later in the night to watch these cinematic treats in their entirety. At some point, there will be a 24 hour marathon showing of A Christmas Story, and the good part of that is I can doze off and then wake to watch Ralphie and his dysfunctional family over and over. Sleep is important every day, but especially during the holidays.

I start the month of December, all excited to be sharing and celebrating again in so many traditional ways, but it doesn’t take long for my reality to set in – managing fatigue and energy levels when you live with multiple sclerosis is especially demanding during the holidays. The changes I’ve listed above are a few of the compromises that I make… much fewer decorations, less baking and more attention to sleep will help me make it to January 2.

Please remember to find ways to conserve your energy reserves and fight the dreaded MS fatigue so the twinkle of the holiday lights don’t lose their beauty too soon in your eyes. Happy holidays!!

Wishing you well,


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