This is supposed to be a post about holiday tips - pearls of wisdom from me to you that will make your life easier/less stressful/more glamorous/better-looking/funnier this holiday season. When I mentioned this to Loyal Husband J., he kind of snorted.
I couldn't blame him. That was my first reaction, too. Yeah, right…if somebody can come up with some tips I can actually use, they'd better pass them on to me! And by "tips I can actually use," I mean tips that don't include setting up a new tape dispenser station in my designer wrapping room; keeping a stash of extra piping tips handy for last-minute gingerbread decorating; or saving last year's holiday cards to make unique, fluted-edge gift tags for this year's hand-knit cashmere socks.
I've got a few, I guess. I do make a holiday baking schedule, which keeps me from stressing out about whether or not I'll actually have time to get all the breads and cookies and cakes made before December 24. I shop almost entirely online these days, with my preferences set to have everything shipped directly to my folks' house so I don't have to haul it all over there before Christmas morning. And I keep decorating my own house to a minimum; just enough to be festive without taking longer than an hour or two to set up, and without making the house look like it's been bedazzled by a drunken elf.
But really. I'm no HGTV guru, I'm no life coach, and I can barely even keep my kids' socks together in the laundry. I have no business offering any advice other than this: Let It Go.
Let It All Go. Let go of the perfectionism and the misty dreams of a Dickensian holiday. J. and I stopped giving each other Christmas gifts a few years ago, when we realized that we were spending money we didn't want to spend on things we didn't care about getting anyway. Instead, we let go of the jewelry-commercial ideal of exchanging exorbitant presents under the tree, and we have a strict budget we adhere to in stuffing one another's stockings with imaginative trinkets.
Let It Go. Let go of the feeling that you have to do everything just so. I could electrocute myself trying to dazzle my neighbors with beautiful holiday lights, or I could pop a wreath on the front door and take my kids to see the free light display at a local park.
Let It Go. Let go of the pent-up stress and anxiety of dealing with difficult family and friends at the holidays. A good friend of mine shared this strategy with me: before you see someone you know will push your buttons, make a list of all the things you think they'll do to raise your blood pressure. Then, when Uncle Fred tells the same old hideously embarrassing story, pats all the female guests on the rear, and teaches the kids how to belch "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," remind yourself that it's nothing new. It cannot consume you - it was on the list. And then move on.
Let It Go. Don't fall into the trap of making the holiday preparations the center of your universe. If I focus on the baking and shopping and wrapping, I'll be up until 2 a.m., festooned with ribbon and covered in flour. If I focus on keeping our lives organized and manageable, with my attention mainly on the daily tasks that need to happen, I can enjoy being surprised by an extra hour here and there for spontaneous holiday fun. Got an hour? Bake some cookies! No hour to spare? The cookies can wait. The worst that happens is that the molasses crinkles don't make it to the buffet table on Christmas Eve - and that has never happened. If I plan for the everyday, I can make room for the holidays.
Let It Go. Your holiday will be perfect. Or imperfect, but wonderful. Or simply bearable, perhaps. But the New Year will come anyway, and it won't be handing out trophies for the best holiday celebrations. And even if it did, those who would have earned them will be too exhausted to deliver their acceptance speeches.