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Monday, November 28, 2011

Death March to Holiday Joy!

Souls who parked far from Walmart on Black Friday...
I often wonder why the holidays are so stressful and difficult...?  Every year there is too much to do, too far to go, too much to eat, too much company, too little company.

Why don't we learn from past years? 

Is it a case of better planning or is it something else?

One thought on this comes from this site on stress: Holiday stress is the result of "Fantasies, Family, Food and Finances."

We Fantasize about how the holiday should be - often with unrealistic expectations of what should be happening.  Mostly I think this is because we been sold a "bill of goods" through Norman Rockwell paintings.

Sure it would be nice if Uncle Joe wouldn't get drunk, if Aunt Sally wouldn't fly into a rage over some perceived slight, if our nosy neighbor didn't stop by and invite himself in...  But really, we know things are not going to change.

And this is probably the problem.  Though we know how things really are we always wish they were different.

Along with Fantasy is Family - often these go hand-in-hand.  Competition for attention.  Perceived (or real) differences in treatment of siblings, cousins, and so on.  Family, as they say, is what it is.  They are not going to change to make your holiday better.

Uncle Joe is still going to drink too much.

Next on the list is Food.  The issues with food are many.  There's the expectation (the fantasy too) of what it should be - was it as good as last year, did I cheat on the recipe, will mom be disappointed, that sort of thing.

Then there is the doing.  Where is the time?  What does it cost?  What if I can't find that special ingredient - will someone be disappointed.  These days with so many family members working (and with a slow economy) where is the time to do the cooking?

Finally there is Finance.  All this is expensive.  Perhaps there are "Black Friday" shopping trips.  Extra family dinners.  Trips to grandma's house.  How can you really have any fun if you have to borrow money to do it?

I would call all of these issues the "classic issues" for holidays - reasons of issues that have been around for a long time.

But these days I think that what underlies holiday misery is probably more deep seated...

One thing that I see is that many folks today seem to have to "do it all."  Whether its being "super mom" or "super son" or whatever.  So, if we have to do it, then usually what happens is A) we realize there isn't time to do it all so B) we do it all at Mach 10 in order to have gotten it done.

What's missed is that many see the process of the holidays as important.  Its not the fact that we made the apple pie its the fact that we are doing it together that's important.  So if some of the "team members" need to get the entire apple pie creation done in 17:37 minutes so they can get to the next relative's house there is stress for those hoping to enjoy the doing.

Another issue is that children find holiday's particularly stressful.  This is for several reasons.  First, and probably foremost, the adults are all stressed so this creates stress for the children.  Secondly, there is a lot of food, a lot of goodies (full of sugar), and so the kids are stressed out by that.  There is the overall excitement of expectation - particularly on holidays where gifts are given - am I going to get that cellphone I want?

Children need limits on their exposure to this stress.  Too much is simply too much - and since they have no control over what the adults do its not up to them to fix the problem.

When I was a child holiday's were different that today.

There was far less TV promoting "holiday greed" to whip children into a frenzy.  On the holiday you went to someone's house for dinner or lunch and you usually saw the same relatives you always saw because in those days people tended to live closer. 

There were no epic voyages across the planet.

You still had to behave as a child - and if you were good and you ate your "regular food" you got a slice of home baked cake or pie.  You sat at the children's table until you grew up.  Today children are fed sugar and crap as if their very lives depended on it - little wonder that when its time to eat the "regular food" they cannot.

As a child I never recall the adults being particularly stressed about holidays - sure there was cooking and you worried your specialty dish might not come out just right.  Mostly it was just dinner.

There was no "black Friday."

I think that these days we have to take the "death march" out of holiday joy.

I'd rather eat, travel and do less if I could have less stress.

I'd rather do fewer things but up their quality: only one memorable "activity" with but with far less stress.

I'd love to be able to have all of my loved ones participate in the entire holiday rather than collapse exhausted from preparations and stress just as the holiday experience begins.

All and all holiday's should be about being together.

If we can all cook together great!  But if cooking together requires such colossal stress that no one can function for two days afterward then we are doing the wrong thing.

(Of course one man's joy is another man's misery...)

So let's try and take the "death march" out of the holidays.

Sure I might need a new TV but is it worth the risk of death in a stampede?

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