When Happy Times Cause Stress…

…they cease being happy.

This sounds like common sense. Too bad there are too many who don’t understand this. So, since the holidays are near, I need to share my usual bah-humbug perspective.

Christmas is not everyone’s favorite holiday.

It’s my least favorite. I’d honestly rather work than be part of it most years. Wait, that’s not exactly true. I’d rather be refreshed enough to go to work….but I am always completely spent after weeks of hurried preparations, battling a little inclement weather, staving off germs, shopping, cooking, crowds, dressing up, making nice to those who love the time of year, and listening to Jingle-freakin’-Bells for the 800th time since mid-October. In order to have enough energy for all the holiday obligations, I need to opt out of most of the usual holiday traditions. So, what I really want is quality time in a variety of forms. I want to be relaxed and refreshed enough to try to enjoy the little moments of the holiday that I do like. And, yes, by the time I get to the actual holiday, I’m tired/grumpy/miserable and would rather be almost anywhere else.

Christmas is supposed to draw family/friends together, not create feelings of guilt.

It’s much-too-often about the gifts. No matter what I do, I leave the holidays with big pangs of guilt. Is that what it’s supposed to be? I don’t think so.

Guilt comes in many forms.

  • Self-induced Guilt: “I should not have eaten so much” combined with “What do I have to show for the year?”
  • Family Guilt: It’s a complex puzzle, the holiday calendar. Cut your kids/in-laws/friends some slack.
  • Present Guilt: I work very hard to get things I think people can’t/won’t get for themselves. Sometimes that means they have to try new things. (gasp! the horror!). I am often met with, “this just doesn’t work for me.” When I dial it back to traditional, I get “they don’t need any more of that” or “I don’t use those anymore.” It’s not fun to shop for ideas/nothing; in fact, it’s very stressful. It’s not fun to give (or receive) presents they don’t like or want. It’s not fun to have to return anything you thought was just perfect for them (a risk I willingly take on when I look for an original gift idea). Requests for a Wish List are met with little-to-no action.
  • Party Guilt: Every flippin’ group, company, etc. has to have a “Christmas” party. This, more than just about any other aspect of the holiday, pisses me off. For the reasons listed below, I have sworn off almost all holiday parties.
  1. Unless this is a church event, not all of the organization’s members are Christian, so the organizers need to at least have the courtesy to call it a Holiday party and include, Jews, Muslims, SBNRs, etc. instead of excluding them. Shocking fact for those with that tunnel vision: Christmas is not the only holiday at that time of year.
  2. There are eleven other months of the year. Why must you compete with every other entity by having your party at the same time? Did you know February is the least-utilized party month? It has 3+ perfectly good weekends that don’t conflict with any major holiday or even the fundraiser season.
  3. Do not ask for more than one contribution. Guests can be asked to buy a ticket, or bring a dish, or bring a toy for charity, or bring a gift for a game/exchange, but do not ask guests to do more than one of these things. Asking for 3-4 is just rude. We aren’t guests anymore, at that point. We are co-hosts, so put our names on the invitation.
  • Game Guilt: I don’t do White Elephants[1]. I’ll play other kinds of gift swap games, but not that one. They are never fun for me, so don’t argue and tell me that I’ll love it. I hate them and spend the whole time with my stomach in knots. I do not take some sick pleasure in making fun of people for whatever stupid thing they happened to open. I do not attend parties where this is part of the entertainment, even when the boss tries to guilt me into thinking it’s mandatory.

Guilt causes stress.

…and stress makes for unhappiness.

… … and being unhappy defeats the point of any celebration.

Takaway: Less is More

In a nutshell: less is more. Less expectations, smaller requests. Don’t hold everyone else to the same ideals to which you subscribe. It may be your favorite time of year. You may adore all the parties and errands and baking and music. But give the rest of us a little breathing room and respect.

[1] I used to work for a micro-manager with a super-detailed personality. She truly didn’t understand the big picture of anything unless she first understood every, single, little, detail including all the exceptions. Too bad we were in training and the rest of us worked from the big picture down to the details. She insisted that I’d like the White Elephants gift exchange at one of our three (yes, 3!!!) work parties. I tried to be polite at first and then became a little more stern. I finally had to be a bit bratty to her to make her understand and said something like, “You need to tell me if my job is on the line if I don’t go to this party.” She back-peddaled, then, but it took that much? Why? Crazy old [2] loon.

[2] I actually don’t think she’s old by her age. She’s old in her mind. And, she’s bitter. I don’t know if you are really as “young as you feel” but she was definitely as “old” as she acted.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *