Do the Holidays Have to Make You Crazy?

(From the archives . . . )

The Christmas holidays have always been my favorite time of year.  As a child, I spent much of December making decorations out of things nobody wanted and baking anything I could put red and green sprinkles on.  I created homemade gifts for family and used saved-up chore money to buy candy canes and ribbon to decorate them.  Everything felt magical, and the anticipation of joyful gatherings and everything Santa Claus made my heart wildly happy!

. . . Until I grew up and became a stress-out, overachieving perfectionist.  There’s nothing like impossible goals and expectations to put a damper on the magic of Christmas. 

I mean, OF COURSE I can handle my work week and volunteer for the school party, baseball pizza night, piano recital, 6 dance performances and cub scout holiday hike.  I’d LOVE to bake ALL the cookies, head ALL the fundraisers and shop for the perfect gifts for 97 people, including a 4ft 9″ scary nun with an over-sized rosary and ruler . . . AND I can look damn good doing it!  CHEERS to all you losers who can’t handle the ride!  I’ve got MY Christmas sh*t together!!

I was Corporate Jane meets Martha Stewart without the pencil skirt and insider-trading.  By the time the holidays were over, I needed a 12 step recovery program.

Does this sound familiar?  Different pressures but same story line?

I don’t buy into the perfectionism thing anymore, mostly because I’m too g*dd*mn tired, but I still buy into the magic.  It happens much more easily now, because I hold myself to only one standard:  If it makes me happy, benefits others and I want to do it, I do it . . . Amazingly, happiness on the inside creates happiness on the outside, so all my peeps are happy, too!  Go figure!

No matter what your beliefs or traditions are, make this month less about getting everything perfectly perfect and more about creating wonderful memories with the people you love.  Perfection spoils the really good fun.

Here are 3 things to remember when you’re trying to DO it all and BE it all:

Who asked you to?

Every time you get stressed-out about decking the halls, or creating the most darling cookies, or getting the best gift, or sending the perfect card with the perfect picture of your perfect family, or any number of other “critical” tasks, ask yourself “Who asked you to?”  Do you really HAVE to do it or are you putting a gun to your own head?  Pick and choose what you have time for and what’s important to you and be realistic about what’s important to your family.

Choose relationships over stuff.

Do you think anybody on their death bed is really going to remember OR give a flying fig whether you got them the green reindeer hoodie or the red mitten flask?  Is it really going to matter if your extra rich, double-thick brownies turn out not so thick?  What matters is people – your relationships and the time you spend together!

It’s fun to buy wonderful gifts for wonderful people but there’s no need to sweat bullets over it.  It’s great to make delicious holiday treats for your school, team or family but if you’re going to turn into a raving, drink-straight-from-the-bottle maniac because you’re so overwhelmed, BUY the d*mn things!  Store-bought cookies are fine and your family will still love you even if you’re not June Cleaver.  Enjoy time with your loved ones and stop trying to be super-human.

Break traditions if they’re killing you or you’ve hated them for 30 years!

I’m a lover of traditions, but sometimes you have to let them go.  Be a rebel!  Don’t send the 300 Christmas cards.  Don’t buy the 10ft tree.  Don’t have the Annual Holiday-Open-House-Open-Bar-Passive-Aggressive-Family-Game-Night.  Don’t attend eccentric Aunt Gracie’s annual one-woman show “Bethlehem, The Musical”.  LET IT GOOOOO.  Create new traditions or ratchet down old ones.  Traditions should bring love and joy, not panic attacks and alcohol poisoning!

Remember what the holidays are truly about.  Remember the pleasure you took in them as a child.  Notice when you’re feeling the anxiety rising in your chest and pressure to perform and inquire within as to why it’s there.  Are you trying to please everyone?  Are you trying to create something “perfect” instead of something fun?  Are you worried you’ll disappoint others if you don’t make the magic happen?

It’s not your job to mind everyone’s holiday happiness.  Everyone is capable of minding their own.  When you do your best and give with love, and that means to yourself too, that’s enough.

Let go of perfectionism and create lovely, spontaneous, imperfect, ridiculously messy memories this holiday season!  Those are the kind you’ll never forget!