Most of us, no matter our religious preferences, were raised with some traditions. This especially holds true, at the holidays. As adults, we often cling to these traditions (even the ones we weren’t too crazy about in our youth). We watch as they are passed from one generation to the next. We smile. We laugh. We share. These traditions become, in an odd sort of way, comfort food for our heart and soul. But when a Chronic illness enters your life, it can change a lot of things — even traditions.
Personally, I have wonderful childhood memories of cookie baking … my grandmother, mother, aunt and cousins were all included. It was marathon baking, at its finest. Batch after batch. The kitchen was filled with warmth … laughter … sweet, aromatic smells … and cookies. Of course, we had to nibble a few. Taste-testing was (and still is) required. Then, the cookies were carefully tucked away in air-tight tins … only to reappear on Christmas Eve. It was pure magic. And this tradition still continues. Despite the loss of family members and the miles that separate us, my cousins and I still bake cookies. We text. We talk. We laugh. We share recipes. And we bake. Chronic illness has found all of us, but it hasn’t changed everything in our life. Moderation, in part, is how this tradition and others endure. We bake, but not all in one day. Once upon a time, I baked 8 different cookie recipes. Now, I bake 4 or 5. And my husband (no typo there) helps me with the Royal Icing. Times have changed, folks. Cooking shows have actually made it cool for guys to have fun in the kitchen. So, don’t be afraid to recruit a little help. You might be surprised at who wants to assist!
Some Chronic illnesses require dietary changes, i.e. diabetes. If you have hypertension, you need to avoid certain foods, i.e. salt, alcohol, saturated fats. Yet, there are many nice and healthy options for your holiday menu, i.e. lamb chops, pheasant, wild duck, turkey, cuts of lean beef, or salmon. If you take a moment to visit a few healthy-eating websites, you might be surprised to find that your culinary family traditions aren’t even effected by your disease. But if they are, again, moderation could be the answer. If not, choose wisely — choose healthy.
Mobility is often impacted by Chronic illness. Dexterity can be another issue. And both can make some traditions difficult (if not impossible) to enjoy. When this occurs, it’s time to find a new tradition that everyone can share. Or you can maintain your old tradition by delegating your duties to another? There is no sin in passing the torch. So, focus on what you have and can do. Share. Love. Laugh.
Unfortunately, some treatments and medications can impact traditions, i.e. chemotherapy, radiation, etc. If this is your new normal, there’s nothing normal about it. Fatigue, nausea, etc., can quickly take the joy out of you. Do what you can, when you can. Communicate your needs. Focus on the positive, at all times. You might even create a new tradition — one that is easier for you to take part in.
Last, but not least, be good to yourself. Keep realistic expectations. Make changes if necessary. Manage your disease. As wonderful as traditions can be, they can never replace you or your loved one. It’s people who are the heart of every celebration, dinner, festival, outing, etc. Without them, our traditions would have less meaning. They might not have any meaning at all.
*Photo by Rebecca Wiggins on Unsplash