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Opting out

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month.

Mother’s Day is this month.

The BBQ’s start.

The pools will open.

The sun is finally staying around longer than sunrise.

I know that what I’m about to talk about isn’t a privilege for everyone for one reason or another. It’s not lost on me when I talk about mental health or health in general for that matter.

Last year, I opted out of Mother’s Day. I didn’t even know it was an option.

At Christmas a few month’s prior, JP and I sat down and talked about the upcoming events of the holiday. I know bouncing from party to party isn’t unique to us, but one thing that may be is my anxiety. One thing that may be partly unique to me is my experience with the holiday and family interactions, and how I want to engage.

Does this mean I’m the only one who has ever felt like they didn’t want to up? No. Does this mean I’m the only one who has a hard time at different times of the year? No.

But what it does mean is that I prefer to make a plan of attack so I don’t feel attacked.

Our plans usually consist of making a breakfast that is relaxed and gives us a chance to start the day off well. When we’re running around, we usually make a stop for tea or coffee. I get mine at a “kid’s” temperature so I can actually drink it before arriving wherever we’re going. I’ll take breaks periodically to go to the bathroom – I’ll set a 5-minute timer so I can give myself a structure limit of how long I want to be gone for. I’ll usually text JP to let him know where I am.

That particular Christmas, I wanted to lessen the running around because I don’t get to enjoy the holiday. I also didn’t want to blindside anyone, so I told JP I thought we should have an open conversation with his mom about it.

During the conversation we made plans for Christmas Eve day, Christmas Eve night, Christmas Day, Christmas Day night, New Year’s Day. Surprisingly, we made plans for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day the upcoming year.

As a kid, I never understood these two holidays. My dad wanted chocolate chip cookies that he didn’t have to share and to be left alone. My mom got coupon books and later, my step-mom wanted flowers and breakfast and date night.

I just knew as a kid that these were days that friends couldn’t play, but I didn’t understand why.

In college, I had friends who treated their parents like shit to put it nicely. Complaining when spending money wasn’t sent on time or being upset that there wasn’t enough on a gift card. But graduation fell on Mother’s Day every year and as we would pack up for summers and eventually to graduate, tones would change, and the pedestals would break out.

I acknowledge my relationship with my family has been nonexistent for the past five years, and I can see where it started to breakdown in high school and then more in college before finally imploding after I started my health journey. Let me say though, my gripes are about things deeper than spending money or gift cards.

I have friends who are parents or want to be parents – being 30 does that to you. I celebrate them every day – to them and silently. I celebrate them for worrying that they care too much about themselves because they took a longer shower. I celebrate them because they encourage their children to really reach and explore their creativity. I celebrate them for being concerned about their education, the lunches, their playdates, their poop.

Holiday’s like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have become so commercialized (like all the others) that for some it’s less about celebrating the generation before us and more about how much stuff can be passed around. Maybe that’s a generalization, I also don’t care.

These are holiday’s that remind me of the things I don’t have that I actually cherish because at Christmas time when everyone asks for my list (because they do) I have to really think of things because if I need it – I buy it, and if I want it – I scrutinize over it before deciding if it’s necessary then buy it. My cell phone bill and Barnes and Noble gift cards are becoming more common list items.

I celebrate these from afar. Last year, I bought customized cookies that were shaped and decorated like tea cups and flowers for JP to bring to brunch.

This year, I’m opting out again. I’m baking an apple cinnamon braid that my mom used to make and having JP bring it for his mom, aunt and grandmother.

Is this selfish? No. and fuck anyone who says otherwise. It’s not my day, it’s theirs and by staying home I know that they can celebrate the way they want to, and I can go on the rest of the day the way I want to.

Opting out was actually an idea his mom had. She said she was always shocked that I came each year. I looked at JP and looked at her and said it was because of him, he – and we to a degree, thought it would be a problem if I didn’t come. She agreed with my above statement that this let’s us each celebrate the way we want to.

If you find yourself battling this week or upcoming weekend because of Mother’s Day for whatever reason, remember it’s not selfish to take time for you if it means that you can be a healthier you and continue to participate in life fully.

If you can’t take time for you like I am able to consider what may be helpful for you.

  • Is a longer shower helpful that morning?
  • Will making your favorite tea help?
  • Is there a book that is comforting?
  • Can you get to bed a bit earlier that night?
  • Put in a movie?
  • Listen to a podcast?
  • Can you go for a walk in the middle of the day?

Whatever your thing is that is helpful, I hope that it is healthy, I hope that it is satisfying and allows you to continue on.

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