Ann Brenoff, a writer for Huffpost Healthy Living recently shared some secrets she has learned over the last 60 years that have helped her to deal with her own unrealistic holiday expectations. She writes with wisdom, humor and a dose of pragmatism that we may all find helpful this season.The following are some of her observations:
For years, I blamed my unrealistic holiday expectations on those vanilla pudding sitcoms I grew up with. While Robert Young spewed pearls of fatherly wisdom to his little “Princess” on “Father Knows Best,” my own family just never measured up to those never-screaming, always-nurturing Andersons. Never did the Andersons have an uncle who showed up drunk to Thanksgiving nor did Father Jim Anderson ever find himself scrambling for gifts in the open-til- midnight drugstore on Christmas Eve. For years well into my adulthood, I always exited the holiday season feeling that Mother Margaret Anderson would have pulled off another Hallmark-perfect holiday and mine surely wasn’t.
But there’s a new me in the saddle these days, one who benefits from the lessons learned over six decades. If I may share:
Push some social obligations into January. People always feel the need to throw holiday parties in December, a time when everyone’s social calendar is crammed to the rafters. I’ve learned to say no instead of trying to juggle three events in one day. And please don’t contribute to the madness by trying to hold your own party and then get upset when people can’t come because they have other events to attend. Why not throw your dinner party in January, when nothing is going on?
Give generously to yourself. A healthy dose of selfishness is the real cure for holiday stress. Accept the fact you can’t be all things to all people and treat yourself to some me-first time. I know it runs contrary to the expectation that this is a time of giving. Think of it as giving to yourself. Go ahead. You deserve it.
Give generously…. to those who need it. Charity is good for the soul. It feels much better to give to someone with nothing than someone with everything. So do that. Write a check to Mr. I Have Everything’s favorite charity.
Traditions change. Sure everyone has gathered at sister Sue’s house every holiday since the beginning of time. How many times have you said to yourself: “Self, just once I’d like to spend the holiday in my own house.” So what are you waiting for?
Shortcuts you take will be noticed only by you. One Thanksgiving, a friend showed up with an elaborate tray of wonderful moist cookies, beautifully wrapped in colored cellophane. Her dessert was devoured by all to rave reviews; my made-from-scratch apple and pumpkin pies went largely untouched. It was one of my kids who outted her. “Mom, can you buy more of these cookies? I had them at Rayah’s house last week and her mom got them at Ralph’s.”
Do things because you want to do them, not because you are expected to. The only obligations I feel nowadays are to my family, my close friends and my job. I need all of them. Every other demand on my time falls under the heading of “optional.” In discovering this course, I know I’ve hurt some well-intended neighbors, co-workers and acquaintances. I’m sorry for that, but with just 24 hours in a day, I can’t please everyone. I’m down with that….. Huffpost Healthy Living 11/26/12