It’s not too early to prepare yourself for the November-December embers. You know what I mean. The time of year when the expectation is for happy, merry, and thrilled-to-be-alive from all the family members. A few of them have permission to play that out a different way and others do not.
It’s a vulnerable time of year for a stepmother because she’s expected to show up and pay attention, but not too much. Pssst, it’s a vulnerable time of year for most, but not everyone is willing to admit it. It is expected that a stepmother will act happy, but not be too involved. She is expected to witness. almost like an audience member, but not show her emotions. She is not one of the family members with permission to behave other than happy, merry, and thrilled-to-be-alive.
And, there’s plenty of pain that she might feel and see. The pain around where a child is on a certain day and at certain special times. The pain of a dad not having time with his child. The pain of keeping silence because you really don’t need or want to add more pain to the child’s pain, and the child does have pain.
No matter how much a stepmother mentally or physically prepares for the non-stop six-to-eight week bandwagon that is the Thanksgiving/Winter Holiday, she needs some alternatives to the go-go-go that carries the season. It’s during this month and a half of the year that I recommend you take on the behavior of a cat.
Consider the cat. My cat has passed on, but if he was here he’d be sitting on the back of the couch looking out at the world in his calm and dignified manner. He was never overly-ruffled unless he went outside where the young cats came to challenge his authority. When he had too much of them, he’d come back inside and have a bath and a nap. For a cat, there is no humility in taking a break or retreating to regroup and rejuvenate. For a cat, this is what life is, one long nap interrupted by breaks to play and check things out.
I’m not suggesting you nap all day, but you can intersperse being ready 99% of the time to participate in family activities with a daily nap or rest time to bring yourself back to level and steady.
Depending on where you are in the process of integration into your stepfamily, you might need or want more or less of the cat experience. This doesn’t mean you can’t behave like the dog (allllwwwaaaaays ready for a walk or a fetch, see this post) and go out looking at Christmas lights and have a great time. But, if you keep connected to your cat-like needs, when you get back home it’s okay to slip away for a cup of tea. Or, you can sneak away for a scan and some time to balance your sensing, feeling, thinking, and doing (remember this post?).
Hopefully, it’s not just you who can get some cat time? Maybe your guy can also have his moment to lick his paws and take a nap in front of a football game. And you? What would give you that feeling of sitting on the back of the sofa basking in the sun with a regal countenance? When you know what it is, you’ll have yet another tool for your self-soothing process.