Taking the Stress out of the Holidays by Lynn Lorenz

The Holidays.

Just those two words fill a lot of us with feels. Gets our hearts racing, and not in a good way. We tremble. Our palms sweat. Eyes glaze over.
It’s not a pretty sight.

We dread them for so many reasons. Happier times that are no more. Family. Loneliness. Family. Expectations we can’t possibly meet. Family. Gifts.
Hey, I’m seeing a trend here.

No one has a perfect family. There is no Norman Rockwell world. That’s not real life, right? Well, sort of. I remember great holidays, both Christmas and Thanksgiving, when my family gathered together at my Grandmother’s house. The matriarch of our family, her house was the place we all gathered. My mom had two sisters, who had husbands and about six cousins, and they would come from Florida and No. Louisiana to New Orleans. It was a blast. Great food, fun conversations. As a child, she taught me how to play cards – rummy, spades, poker, crazy eights, and when I was finally old enough, pinochle. (It’s sort of like bridge.)

But time passed. My mother died in 1982. My grandmother died in 1985. And that was it. It was as if my family disappeared. The connection was lost. As my aunts established their own holidays, meeting at their houses, my brother and I were forgotten. We’d lost membership. Our traditions were gone. We were young adults, with no family of our own. Orphaned by people we’d spent our entire lives with, loving and begin loved.

It wrecked both my brother and me. We were all so close. But without my mom and my grandmother, I felt as if they hadn’t really loved us at all.

I married. It was my hubs, me and my brother. We met for dinner, swapped presents, went home. My hubs’ family lived in Australia, so no holiday’s with them. We did that for ten years, and then we had kids.

I thought, now’s the chance! New holiday traditions! So, like a sentimental fool, I tried to recreate those wonderful holidays. Lots of presents. Big tree and decorations all over the house. Huge meal. It was awful. Every holiday was so stressful. I’d cook for hours to get the food right. Dressing. Turkey. Sides. That no one ate. Seriously. My kids and hub do not like turkey. Or dressing. Cranberries. Sweet potatoes. Gak! I was in my own personal holiday hell. I’d lose hair, my temper, try so hard to do it all, and when I failed, it crushed me.

You really can’t go home again.

Because those aren’t the same people. Not the same time.
We were miserable. There were fights. Crying. Disappointments.
And that was me and hubs.
The kids were great, but they hated the traditional foods. My kids are their father’s in the food category, for sure.

We realized along the years, that we had to create our own personal family holiday traditions.
So we did. We looked long and hard at what made us so miserable. The fight about the big meal no one wanted to cook, much less eat.
The presents that were never right. Spending money of decorations we used for less than one month a year.

Hubs and I decided to change what we’d been doing. Eliminate the stress points. Make our lives easier.
So we went back to going out to dinner, but we went to Chinese restaurants. After all, my hubs father’s family is Jewish. No one had to cook, or clean!
We told the kids, who by this time were old enough to know who Santa was, to make a list of their toys, from most important to least. We set budgets. And we stuck to them. When the money ran out, that was the end of the gifts.
And we each made a list of what we wanted. Where to find it and what it costs. It’s even better when they find stuff online!! The kids love those iTune cards.
We took the surprise out of gift giving and when we did that, we took the disappointment out of it too. For everyone.
Happiness! Imagine. You actually got what you wanted most!

As for the decorations? About five years ago, I asked the kids to help decorate. There was this long silence. Then they said, “Mom, we really don’t like this stuff.” I said, “Even the tree?” and the nodded. In my heart, I was relieved. It wasn’t fun, frankly, and caused so much stress. About the same time, one of my best friends belonged to a church that was robbed a month before Christmas. They took the artificial trees, decorations, everything. The church membership were crushed, to say the least, because they suspected someone from their own congregation had done it. Now this is not a big church or a rich church. They were scrambling to find decorations in time for the holiday.
I asked the family, hey, do we really want/need to decorate? They said no. It’s really a pain. It’s not what Christmas is to us. So, I called my friend and told her come get this stuff. She came over, climbed in the attic with the kids, and hauled it all way. Several trees, boxes of bulbs, bags of garlands, and a crate of nativity scenes.

Now, our tradition is to wake up, have a lovely breakfast, no rush, relax, hot chocolate, and then open gifts. We hang out, then go to lunch, sometimes with a dear friend of mine and her daughter, who are also alone. After that, we all hit the movies and catch the latest blockbuster. We’ve seen all the Harry Potters and Lord of the Rings, and those Star Wars, and now, this Christmas, we’re going to see the new Star Wars movie!

We spend a wonderful morning together, enjoying ourselves, playing video games, reading on our Kindles, and just hanging out. Then share the rest of our day with friends.

It’s not the way I used to do it. And when I think of those good old days, I get a little misty. But when I look around at my family on Christmas morning, I realize…
It’s better.

If you’re under stress from the holidays, think about what you can do to remove it. It’s just not worth the pain, the hurt or the disappointment to keep dealing with the stress. It doesn’t have to be big and it can be many small things.

What would you do to take the stress out of your holiday?

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