Harmony for the Holidays

A quiet winter evening.

It’s been a long and busy year. Winter, spring, summer and fall have kept me busy with work, family, friends, travelling, and, as always, battling the ongoing whims of disease. The beginning of 2018 started out with several goals and aspirations, and although I accomplished some of them, I found life, or more accurately my disease, got in the way and clogged the flow of a few other projects. Before I knew it, winter had come around again.

The winter solstice is about taking a rest, recharging in the darkest part of the season, and preparing for when the light returns with longer days. It’s a time for inner reflection and calm, when nature falls into a peaceful slumber to repair and rejuvenate. It’s a bit of a paradox that this phase of restoration falls amid the feverish rite of a frantic holiday season that gets more demanding every year. There are more family and social obligations, shopping, wrapping up the last bit of work, school or deadlines for the year. Holiday stress encompasses so many aspects of our lives, I can’t even begin to describe it – and stress, inevitably, brings out the Scrooge in RA. The only way we can prepare for it is to plan.

Holidays and chronic illness forces us to review the weight of every invitation, organize our tasks, and choose the ones that are most significant to the moment. The biggest gift we can give ourselves is to diminish the pressure of doing everything and being everywhere all at once. We need to learn how to create our own sanctuary, to take moments out of the day just for ourselves – escape in a hot bath, retreat to a quiet spot to read, breathe, or nap, and allow the feverish heat of the holidays to chill for a few moments in the proverbial champagne ice bucket. It’s okay to say no, even at Christmas. Not everyone has friends or family to spend the holidays with and that brings a new kind of stress. If you know someone who is alone, reach out, offer them a bit of kindness, and let them know they are valued.

2018 was a bustling year and a challenging one for my disease. I’ve made the last couple of months my own personal hibernation. I’ve slowed down, I’ve stayed home more often, said no to invitations. I’ve taken a break from my usual routine. 2019 is already a busy year, and I’ll need as much of myself to get through it. Self care should be at the top of the list for things to do this Christmas. It’s the best present you can give yourself.

The holiday season will come and go as it always does – it will rush up to us like a rogue wave and then retreat quietly behind us as we embrace another year. The holidays aren’t supposed to be about extra stress – they’re supposed to be about celebrating, and whatever that means to you is how you should express it. I wish you all a happy, healthy, pain-free holiday season, for however you choose to commemorate this time of year.

Christmas tree at home.





  1. Rick Phillips on December 15, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    Oh J.G. I am so glad I can leave all this up to Sheryl. she runs the social calendar, mainly because I am all that social. So someone gets,,, ahh has,,, to do it. I do help shop on Amazon. Does that count? I know not really.

    Sheyrl nd I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season as well.

    • J.G. Chayko on December 16, 2018 at 10:20 am

      Thanks Rick. We wish you a very happy, healthy holiday and all the best for 2019. 🥂

  2. JULIA on December 15, 2018 at 10:39 pm

    Hello Julia,
    We recently chatted via email. 🙂 Great post. I appreciate your insight and encouragement!
    I cannot believe how fast this year flew by. It is easy to feel disappointed for not achieving the goals/projects I had in mind or being where I want to be in life. I am known to be hard on myself. However, thinking back from the beginning of the year, I see the turn of events had a lot to do with the disease. It’s not an excuse, it is a reality that I am finally accepting! I feel good that I can recognize that now and appreciate more than ever the importance of self care. I look forward to 2019 filled with hope. What a lovely Christmas tree photo!
    Merry Christmas,

    • J.G. Chayko on December 16, 2018 at 10:25 am

      Yes, 2018 certainly flew by and like you, I am looking forward to a 2019 filled with hope. I wish you a very Happy Christmas and a
      wonderful New Year. Cheers 🥂❤️

  3. Pamela on December 16, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    Wise thoughts, Julia. Thanks for this as I grapple with new diagnosis.

    • J.G. Chayko on January 1, 2019 at 9:29 am

      Thank you Pam. Hope you had a wonderful holiday in spite of your new challenge. All the best for a New Year.

  4. Irma on December 31, 2018 at 11:55 am

    So true, we should put ourselves at the top of the list, but somehow we get busy and forget. Every year I say I will start the holiday preparations early, to lessen the stress on my aches and pains, and hopefully, this coming year I can follow through! Wishing you the best, and rest, for this new year.

    • J.G. Chayko on January 1, 2019 at 9:28 am

      Thanks Irma. I had a fabulous break for a few days in the desert. Now it’s back to rehearsals and back to school in a Writer’s Studio Program through one of our universities. But I will make sure to give myself the breaks I need to get through. I wish you a very Happy New Year with lots of happiness, wellness and new adventures. Best, Julia

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About me

J.G. Chayko is a writer, actress, and international arthritis advocate who’s been involved in theatre for more than 30 years and has published poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction.