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I always look forward to the holiday season. I enjoy everything about the time of year between Halloween and New Year’s. I love the decorating, the cooler weather, the special opportunities for family gatherings, the cozy feeling the house has during that time of year.

I look forward to making and buying gifts, picking out things that will have special meaning for friends and family. I look forward to the great food and baking that we share.

What I don’t look forward to is the anniversary of my father’s passing on December 17. I don’t look forward to the stressful situations other people tend to create during the holiday season.

The only family we have over the holiday season is our own, my husband, son and I. This has been partially by our choice and partially the choices of family members, but for us, this works best.

The stress of this time of year tends to be a result of interactions with a person, a ‘friend’, I’ve known for 34 years. Her employment situation is strained and difficult, her relationship with her family of origin is strained as well and her relationship with her son is always tense and wrought with conflict.

She’s been visiting me twice a week and occasionally going grocery shopping with us. Each time she’s visited recently she’s been a little more stressed, a little more agitated. This past Friday she had already had an argument with her son before they came to the house to go grocery shopping with us. We had a discussion in the car about her job which she interpreted as a personal attack on her, so the rest of the trip was difficult.

After that occurred, I decided that whether she visited this last week before Christmas or not would depend on her attitude if she stops by like she usually does on Tuesday. If she’s still crabby and short I will suggest that maybe we should put our visits off until after the holidays. Once her stress subsides, once I’m not so easily triggered myself, we can resume our visits.

It’s always been hard for me to create boundaries, it will likely be hard for me to create this one… but I’ve learned I have to take care of me, have to think about my family first and my own well-being first.

Since I’m already struggling with my emotions, as a result of having lost my father the week before Christmas and we don’t yet know whether my husband will be working or his place of employment will be on ‘shut down’ over the holiday, I just don’t need additional stress brought into the house.

It seems like many situations are ‘testing’ me, since I began to make these personal changes… but I suppose I will be tested often as I have to continue to face the mistakes I’ve made in the past and reflect on what I need to do to meet my own needs.