I once wrote that the longest part of a journey is from the sofa to the front door. This can be especially true when the short and cold days of December bear on us as if darkness had gravity and weight.
As friends revel at parties, officemates gather at the local pub after work, and families prepare for festive meals, it’s not uncommon for people with multiple sclerosis (MS) or other chronic illnesses to long for calm and quiet rather than seasonal frivolity.
Self-care goes a long way, and often, staying in is just the thing. Not always, and not for long stretches, but sometimes it’s what you need.
The social pressures to meet up, go out, and make merry can be overwhelming for some of us, particularly when we consider sensory overload, fear of falls, cognitive difficulties, and the ever-looming question: “Where is the toilet?”
Striking a Balance Is Where It’s At
Research shows that it is good for those of us with MS to get out and be sociable.
It’s part of who we are as a human animal to crave company and thrive in society. But that doesn’t mean that we all long to be social 24/7. We all need a little downtime, and some of us need a little bit more of it a little bit more often. And that’s fine.
I refer to this time of year as “mild hibernation.”
It’s not like I burrow under the duvet and remain there until the spring sun warms the meadow or anything like that. I simply find myself craving quiet space at home this time of year. In fact, if I really examine it, it’s not even that I prefer to be at home. It’s that I’d rather not leave home.
Once I’m out, I usually have a lovely time meeting and greeting on the street corners, in the shops, or even down at the local for a pint or two with friends. It’s just harder to fight the tether of a warm fire and a warmer wheaten terrier these days.
Keep Your Hibernation ‘Mild,’ Not ‘Total’
I have a couple of obligations at this time of year that pull me out the door in the evenings. Meeting those expectations are good for me, too. They not only get me out of a house I’d often rather stay in, but they also remind me why my mild hibernation must remain “mild,” as the spiral of canceling plans can lead to reduced invitations — something many of us experience not just during the winter holidays.
My hibernation days are not days of no expectations or responsibilities. Rather, they are times when I knowingly and decidedly reduce those expectations I put on myself as well as those I accept from others.
John Donne wrote that “no man is an island … ” and he was correct. We are, as he put it, “a piece of the continent, a part of the main,” and we must remain so.
When the last rays of stretched sunlight slip behind the hills beyond my front garden and the early dark of the winter night presses in, I give myself permission to be enveloped by the comfort and safety of home.
Not all the time, just a little bit more often. It can feel prescriptive. As long as we don’t “overmedicate” with solitude. Just keep your hibernation mild.
Wishing you and your family the best of health.