We’re in the season where millions plan and gather for dinner, drinks, and gifts.
That’s right, the holidays.
While this sounds warm and fuzzy, and like angels getting wings left and right, it can actually be down and dirty with relatives arguing on the left and right.
We are assailed with messages on television and in movies that this is the most wonderful time of the year, but let’s be honest, it can be the most stressful, too.
One of those stressors can be a conflict with our nearest and dearest. People you’ve unfollowed on Facebook are now in the family room and maybe in your face.
Can I manage holiday stress? Is there a way we can keep things jolly? Or is that thinking folly?
I am the oldest daughter. I am the oldest granddaughter. I have been a mother for more than half of my life. I have been a wife for slightly longer. All of this is to say if there is a fight during the holidays, I’m the one trying to diffuse it or, better yet, divert it before it even starts.
This coping mechanism began long before the current climate of woke vs. uh, what’s the opposite of woke? Unwoke? I don’t know. What I know is that it is getting harder to diffuse that simmering rage that sits next to the gravy boat.
Here’s how I’ve managed to keep family holidays happy in years past: a Bloody Mary the minute Santa leaves our house! No, kidding. I usually have wine the night before and the Bloody Mary for breakfast. Okay, seriously, I was supposed to give you tips on getting along with others, tested over years of accommodating everyone and their brothers over the holidays. That’s what moms and daughters do. But this year, I saw the Barbie movie, so guess what? I quit.
Somewhere in my programming and in the DNA of millions of other moms, peacemaking, pleasing people, and smoothing tensions became our responsibility. It’s not enough to decorate the house until Joanna Gaines herself is impressed. We have to ensure everyone else is happy at all times while inside it.
But you know what? It isn’t my job to smooth over an abrasive comment or make sure my ultra-conservative relative stays away from my ultra-liberal relative. It isn’t up to me to make a Browns fan see eye-to-eye with a Lions fan. It’s not your job either.
I vacuumed up the dog hair and iced the cookies. I made sure the time we gather over multiple days works for everyone. I’ve provided a lovely casserole, cookies, gift bags, and all the libations one could want. I’ve decorated my home, flocked my tree, and tuned the radio to classic Christmas songs. I am wearing a Christmas sweater, for Frost’s sake. And in another clutch move, I’m married to a great Ken who loves to concoct delicious Christmas entrees. (This Ken’s job is brisket.)
This is not to say I am in the midst of a rude or unfeeling family. It’s quite the opposite. They’re all really lovely people. But they’re still people. Diverse people. Outspoken people. Intelligent people who like to share their world views. This is all wonderful! But, combined with holiday stress, it can be a recipe for more holiday stress.
The English monk and poet John Lydgate is credited with saying, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” The ultimate stress comes from trying to please all the people all the time and, in the process, forgetting your holiday joy.
I overstated a bit. This Barbie isn’t quitting. I’m still in it, decking the halls and making merry, but as Gloria in the Barbie Movie said, “We have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we’re always doing it wrong.” It’s a lot.
Here’s the advice part for you, fellow Barbie. You can’t make other people happy. You can make cookies and have your Ken make a brisket. That’s it. You’re doing enough.
Forget holiday stress! Stop stressing about stressing out and have yourself the happiest of holidays. The rest of them will figure it out. Probably.