Just a few random observations on how to make yourself nuts this holiday season:
1. Buy into the myth that the goal is to make THIS year the BEST YEAR EVER! Feel obligated to top everything you've ever done in the past - more presents, bigger presents, presents given to people you've never thought to gift ever in the past, twenty different baked goods for everyone else all presented in intricate homemade packaging that lights up and sings when you open it. If you ever did anything better and flashier than you can this year, you have FAILED! No make up test allowed.
2. Make the mistake of thinking that putting your family in debt this holiday season is a sign of economic upswing. Put all those news reports telling you about how shopping is through the roof in spite of the economy into your mental trash can - people shop for a lot of reasons - guilt over being broke, as evidence that they aren't broke, as compensation for the fact that their credit debt is so high that they can't afford field trips for their kids... if you go into debt to buy presents the kids will then have to help you carry for months or years, you're creating poverty, not abundance. Do what you can afford. Better yet, help your children learn how to give without excessive spending - that's a gift they'll keep forever.
3. Live by the philosophy that a good parent will exactly mirror every gift each child gets - if only one of them wants a diary, buying four so it will be 'even' is silly. Years from now, when your grown children are arguing about whether or not you should budget the grandchild expenses by child or by family and otherwise treating you like an ATM machine, you'll realize that this one thing will pay off in years and years or making yourself into a holiday lunatic. Focus on great gifts each person wants and train them to regard counting items and comparing as Grinchlike behavior that will lead to gifts of household chore helpers next year.
4. Waste lots of time trying to find the perfect gift for a person who makes you feel rotten everytime you offer them a gift (by complaining, making their first response something about how they'll go about returning or regifting it, forgetting to acknowledge they even got it in the first place). If you want to end the crazy - CUT THEM OFF. By the same token, if you get gifts from people who then try to hold you hostage emotionally as a result, let them know you're no longer exchanging gifts with them, and if they must donate to the charity of your choice. None of this is what giftgiving is about - and if it's not making you OR them happy, the only people benefiting are the stores. Never let someone make you feel that a gift is an obligation or a referendum on your relationship.
5. Feel obligated to do things you hate. Feel guilty for taking time to focus on the parts of holiday tradition you actually love. Yes, tradition is important. Tradition done with heavy sighs, rolled eyes, and muttering under your breath isn't making anyone happy. Hanging out with people you don't enjoy because this is the season to be together and happy all the time - well, that is the definition of making yourself nuts.
6. Forget that odds are, they will not remember the gift in later years. They will remember the board games played, the trip to look at the lights at night, the cookies baked together. Emphasis doing rather than getting.
7. Declare that you have no time for quiet. Grab a mug of your favorite hot beverage, bundle up and step outside while its snowing early in the morning, or late at night - breathe in winter and silence. This is what its really all about.
8. Believe that the holidays magically will fix every relationship conflict you have. If you all don't get along the rest of the year, it's not all going to be magically solved by the light of a decorated tree - keep expectations realistic. Plan tactics for keeping civil, rather than deciding that if you aren't allowed to get it off your chest about how pissed off you were when your 2 year old sister scooped out your goldfish and killed it, so now you can't go anywhere near the ocean and nothing will be right unless she admits how foundationally evil she is, then the holiday is going to be ruined for everyone!
9. Feel obligated to taste every single goodie co-workers bring to work, even as your feel your year long efforts to keep your weight under control sinking in a gooey mess that is going to make it so you can't allow yourself to eat the goodies you really look forward to (the one your mom makes). Here's the thing - they bring them to work so that THEY won't eat them. Don't haul around someone else's calories.
10. On the other hand, dieting over the holidays is totally crazymaking. Look... you're not going to drop ten pounds this month, ok? Trying to do so and making everyone around you crazy by proclaiming you CAN'T HAVE ANYTHING GOOD right now, and pulling out your little baggie of carrots and celery while they're noshing on fudge is annoying to them, and to you. Just don't feel like you have to eat the entire plate of fudge, be as moderate as you can, and get back to your weight loss program in January, when everyone's tired of cooking anyway. Totally depriving yourself now just leads to binging, and a lot of people giving you disgusting sugar free candy as gifts.