The winter holiday season has always been a huge challenge for me, and this year is no different. My mother-in-law is declining. Her mind is slowly receding to a place long ago, where she and her sister sat on her girlfriend’s stoop reading magazines, where an older neighbor girl took them to the public shower to bathe and where her mother made illegal moonshine during prohibition to fund her piano lessons.

She takes great joy from eating chocolates, and so that’s what everyone gave her. Eating candy all day long caused her already-swollen ankles to balloon and her already-dehydrated body to itch. Every movement she makes is labored and is filled with tremendous pain. The mere act of going to the bathroom is a journey, fraught with potential danger at every turn.

The overflowing candy in the house did me no good either. I spent the time feeling ill, sluggish and depressed. During one of my attempts to calm myself by meditating, I thought about how, when I travel, I suffer so much. The challenge for me is to bring my spirituality with me when I travel and not to leave it at home. It usually works for the first day or two, but I have yet to be successful at maintaining it, so I slip into my old ways.  Along with the stress returns my back pain.

Rather than expect myself to be completely transformed, I should set my goal to be to continue to make forward progress, even if it’s only a tiny fraction of a millimeter. If I can just get through the holidays without regressing, then it will have been a successful season for me. When I emerge on the other side, then I will concentrate on bringing myself back to health and my road to recovery. I’ll be the turtle, and all the hares around me can race past me, that’s ok. I just need to keep going in a positive direction in whatever way works for me.


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