Ah, holiday traditions.
Familiar customs. Annual events.
Like that nephew who always breaks something valuable. The uncle who tells everyone what’s wrong with this country.
And the great outdoors with slippery roads, impaired drivers, impaired guests, slush, or relatives fleeing the slush and sleet.
Who doesn’t love spending hours by a warm fire sipping a hot toddy? The perfect reward for spending hours at the mall waiting for the toddler ahead of you to stop crying on Santa’s lap so they can get a decent photo. At which point your child is hungry and cranky.
And the food, which is ‘not as good as last years,’ from the watery gravy and dry turkey. Then, there’s the excitement of Boxing Day sales that turn into wrestling and brawls.
Sending out colorful cards…Unless there’s a mail strike.
Shoveling the driveway. Then re-shoveling the snow after a passing snowplow pushes an icy moraine that plugs the end of your driveway.
Wandering the vast asphalt jungle, pressing your car’s remote, hoping to hear the beep so you can find your little car among all the SUV’s?
Coming up with excuses to bail on parties. Figuring out which colleague was your Secret Santa.
And of course, attending your place of worship to thank the almighty that the check didn’t bounce.
The holidays are a time to let go…
… of our hard-won exercise regimen, our sobriety, our spending limits, and our dreams of family harmony. You know, that impossible vision of a gathering that’s free of passive-aggressive sniping. One that doesn’t lead to yet another round of, “Fine, we’re leaving.”
This is a time to pause and remember where you left your keys, wallet, the scissors, tape, ribbon, icing sugar, your spouse, and all the gifts you hid so no one would find them and peek… including you.
What To Do About Holiday Stress?
Since my previous 7 suggestions were so popular I offer a few more.
- People don’t need more stuff. Give a gift certificate for a spa day, yoga class, meditation class, an ADHD coach, art classes, writing class, quilting class, gym membership, museum membership, gardening classes, obedience classes for their dog or kids, or a vasectomy.
Give theatre tickets, as in real, live theatre! I’ve seen hundreds of movies in my lifetime. They’re a blur. But I remember every theatrical show I’ve attended.
- Avoid malls, frequent small, local shops. Everyone I know hates the big box stores. And almost everyone I know frequents them. Frequently. Including us. Small, local stores are awesome. They are run by the owners. They earn the profits and hopefully make a decent living, able to afford to buy things and contribute to the local economy. As opposed to paying staff minimum wage and sending the profits to a head office and share-holders a thousand miles away.
- Give an online magazine subscription. I love the Economist, Scientific American, Psychology Today, and everyone’s fave, Model Railroader. One year, my friend gave me a model railroad catalogue. Brilliant. I may not know what a friend who loves gardening needs, but a huge gardener’s catalogue is perfect.
What do they love? Woodworking? Quilting? Cats? Tennis? Travel? Get a catalogue.
- If hosting an ‘open house’ is frustrating because you end up spending 30 seconds with everyone, chunk it up. (One of my favorite strategies from ADD & Mastering It! )
One huge event becomes several smaller, warmer, more intimate ones. Invite four or five friends for a potluck. Then invite other friends over another night. And a few more another night. “But, Rick, that’s three whole parties…” We’ve found three small gatherings are far less work and more fun than one huge bash.
- At a food bank. At a charity. A not-for-profit. A woman’s shelter. A suicide hot-line. A hospital. A charity shop. Shovel the sidewalk or food shop for a shut-in neighbor.
Nothing you buy or give will feed the soul as deeply.
In this spirit, my wife Ava and I have decided that instead of selling our kid’s old Playmobil toys online to collectors, who would store them away on a shelf, we’re donating them to local schools where they will be enjoyed every day.
A teacher I know, a good friend who actually taught my kids, assured us the donations would be hugely appreciated by schools that are strapped for cash. Where we live, teachers often buy toys and supplies for their students out of their own pockets.
I just dropped off the first batch, a bunch of construction vehicles, figures and accessories. The school staff were delighted. So was I.