Saturday, November 17, 2012

Another Mean Season

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends
We're so glad you could attend
Come inside!  Come inside!
- Karn Evil 9, Emerson Lake and Palmer

Welcome back to the Mean Season.  For anyone who may be new, that is the term our family therapist coined for the holidays and how it can be perceived to individuals suffering from eating disorders.  We are sold the concept that holidays are about connecting with family, having good times and making lasting memories.  And there is that.  Sometimes.  But, the holidays have a darker side for someone with an eating disorder.  The entire season beginning now through the end of the year focuses on food.  And lots of it.  Cookies and eggnog, rich dishes in an overwhelming number.  I wrote a piece last year about the holidays that, if you're hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, I would encourage you to look back over.  It was on my mind last night as we were sitting around the restaurant table hashing out the Thanksgiving menu.  My mother-in-law is in town for the holiday and wants to stay in, rather than travel down to my cousin's.  That is fine, we anticipated as much, but between work, two blogs, an NHL lockout to protest as loudly and as frequently as possible, and a seriously injured quarterback to worry over, I had not given the actual menu much thought.  So, I petitioned everyone for their menu preferences.  Probably a large mistake.  Greg's mom is lobbying for green bean casserole as opposed to a simple fresh vegetable.  On top of mashed potatoes with a lot of butter and sour cream, stuffing, bread and dessert, even I was beginning to be triggered by the richness of the food choices.  The lesson I learned is that I probably should not have asked, I should have just fixed what I was comfortable with.  Likely that no one would have noticed, everyone would have found something they liked and the focus would have stayed where it should be:  on spending time with family.  Oh, and watching lots of football.

We as a society have laden the holidays with so many expectations that any real meaning has been completely trampled by the trappings of excess.  Not just food, but gifts and their quantity and value.  Don't get me wrong, I like to buy gifts for people but I'm so scatterbrained that if you didn't put me on a set schedule, like Christmas, I wouldn't be disciplined enough to get them bought and sent with any regularity.  But, the expectation and the disappointment when those expectations aren't meant can be daunting.  I hate to disappoint people, it's crushing, but I certainly have.  And, I have to confess, I've been disappointed.  Last year for our anniversary, which is three days before Christmas, Greg presented me with a Troy Polamalu ornament.  I like it, but a friend had given me the exact ornament for Christmas the year before and it was very prominently hanging on the Sports Tree in the Sports Cave right at the foot of the stairs.  So, I knew it was a last minute gift that he ran down to the Hallmark store about a mile from the house and grabbed with little thought, and it upset me.  A lot.  Looking back on it, I'm not proud of that reaction, particularly since he had spent the months leading up to the holiday occasionally showing up with little surprises for no reason at all:  the Yoda mug I'm drinking my coffee out of now, a book about Rin Tin-Tin, the Super-8 DVD (love that movie), my fleece lined Pens hat, among other things.  So, I am a leading example of the things I seek to criticize.  And me, of all people, should know that the only thing that really matters about the holidays is being together as a family and loving one another.  But sometimes that can be the absolute meanest part of the holidays...

...more on that next time.

Charlie trying to serve himself up as Thanksgiving dinner


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