Fewer holiday obligations can bring a merrier Christmas season
DEAR MARIANN: Every year I dread the holidays more, especially as I have entered middle-age. The monetary expectations to give gifts, host parties, over-decorate and shop at crowded malls has become overwhelming. What can I do to regain my enthusiasm for what was once a joyous season?
MARIANN’S RESPONSE: My immediate thought and one-word response when I read your dilemma is “Simplify.” Seemingly too many of us, especially women, attempt to be “everything to everybody” during the holidays. It is almost as if our gender has entered a Martha Stewart want-to-be contest. Watching any of her past shows makes me feel hideously unimaginative, lazy and poorly organized. Between the potential of catching one of her re-runs and now the onslaught of Christmas commercials, rivaling the recent presidential media saturation, I am hesitant to turn on my television again until 2013. But I digress.
First, I would list your priorities for the upcoming holidays to focus your efforts in the most effective way. Next, keep that list with you or somewhere easily accessible and review it often. Cross off those things you have accomplished, but don’t add more items unless you absolutely must. The goal here is “manageability” and not letting a sense of obligation control you by doing more than what you have listed.
Secondly, the term “boundaries” is something I use regularly in my columns. For the holidays, the word should look like: “BOUNDARIES!” Or in simplified terms, “just say no,” (to borrow from former First Lady Nancy Reagan.) Avoid over-obligating yourself by answering with a courteous, “I apologize, but your request is just something I can’t add to my holiday list presently,” which is a perfectly acceptable answer if another obligation would increase your seasonal angst. The collective expectations have far exceeded what we should accomplish during this upcoming holiday and still remain sane.
Rather than buying gifts for everyone on your list, what can you provide to them during the year that will be even more appreciated in comparison to just giving “more stuff” that is quickly unwrapped and forgotten Christmas morning? Are you the favorite chocolate chip cookie baker? Instead of being frenzied at the mall seeking gifts, stay at home, assess your talents and access your computer. Home printed coupons stating “The holder of this is entitled to one dozen of my gourmet chocolate chip cookies upon request during 2013,” could be included with the person’s Christmas card, and a starter-dozen of your baked treats. Also, you could author these coupons on-line and avoid the greeting card counter. Or if you aren’t Betty Crocker, how about certificates saying you will mow a family member or friend’s yard, babysit their children, fix dinner monthly for an elderly neighbor or assist someone with a daunting task such as purging their closets or garage to enclose with their card?
Another idea for coupon giving is investing time in your marriage with the promise to eliminate technology at dinner or when first coming home from work. When was the last time you complimented your mate or told them how much you value their love, and that you can’t imagine life without them? Lately, have you given them a much-needed back or foot rub after a long day at work? Coupons you create promising these services, personal commitments or a monthly “date night,” might make it the best Christmas ever. Just be sure that dispensing them doesn’t meet the same fate as our soon-forgotten New Year’s Resolutions.
Here’s a thought, instead of spending days at the mall and financially abusing our charge cards, would the option of volunteering for a day at a homeless shelter, or assisting at your place of worship filling requests for clothing or other needed items be a possibility? If you have a child still in school, how about visiting the principal and ask if there is a student attending that school who is from a family struggling during this holiday? What would best assist that pupil do better in school for the remainder of the year? A new coat, shoes or glasses would improve their reading and academics, or clothing to stay warm, might be a life-changer for some of these needy children.
Yes, this is the “season of giving,” but material possessions can only go so far. It is our commitment to each other, our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors that is truly the best gift of all. However, if you do shop, today is “Small Business Saturday.” What better time to visit some of our new or already established merchants and restaurants in Downtown Delaware and other areas of town to avoid the “mall madness?” Toujours is my personal favorite.
Mariann Main is a licensed counselor and a Delaware native. Her column appears weekly on Saturdays. To submit a question and have Mariann answer it anonymously, visit delgazette.com/life-questions-with-local-answers or send mail to the Delaware Gazette office, 40 N. Sandusky St., suite 203, Delaware, OH 43015.