MY CHRISTMAS WISH LIST: LESS STRESS, LESS WHINING
"Many of our choices have led to the predicaments we are presently complaining about."
Why do we often turn the most joyful time of the year into the most stressful?
Christmas should be a time of great cheer. But if we're not careful, we can suck all the happiness out of the season with an inflated list of to-dos and bloated expectations.
This tendency to over-program the holidays is similar to the mistake many families make on vacation at Disney World, the so-called "happiest place on earth." Well-intended parents push so hard to "get their money's worth" that they make their children and themselves miserable. Trust me, there's nothing happy about dragging hot, exhausted youngsters to yet another ride or attraction when all they really want is to take a nap or go swimming in the hotel pool. I learned firsthand many years ago that relentlessly driving a bunch of whiney children to "see everything" is not the way to enjoy a Disney vacation.
In the same way, pushing ourselves to make the most of the Christmas season can make us tired, cranky, and ungrateful. For example, take the issue of shopping for presents. Gift-giving should fill our hearts with delight. But when we overdo it, we end up missing the whole point. We spend all our time stuck in traffic getting into or out of the mall. We race from store to store or website to website looking for "the perfect gift." We completely blow our budget and max out our credit cards. For many, gift-giving is a major source of stress - the relentless commercialism, the whining demands, the financial pressure.
Consider the matter of holiday parties. What could be more fun than joining friends and family in light-hearted merriment? That is, until we find practically every spare moment jam-packed with yet another event. What were we thinking when we accepted that invitation? I just want to stay home tonight. Do I have to go? Can I find a gracious way to back out?
Then there are the holiday decorations. Some folks act like they're in an arms race with the neighbors, throwing up more and more lights, wreaths, blow-up Santas and snowmen, and those green and red projector things that are all the rage now. And inside, every square inch is filled with all sorts of knick-knacks. These gung-ho, competitive holiday decorators are so exhausted when they finally get it all up, they collapse and can barely enjoy the view. They try not to think about the daunting task of later taking everything down and putting it away.
The most unfortunate part of the season is the people who have shopped or partied or decorated themselves into a frazzle and then go around complaining about how hard the holidays are. They gripe about how much they've spent or how their feet hurt or how they don't find the same enjoyment in Christmas as they used to. Puh-lease!
Here's my advice: focus on quality, not quantity. Trim the size and cost of your gift list. Pare down the number of invitations you allow yourself to accept. Reduce the holiday decorating. Build some quiet time into your calendar. Reflect on the reason for the season. Sit a spell, share some stories, and enjoy the people in your life.
And whatever you do, if you do overdo it, please spare the rest of us all the whining.