Stresses of the Season

janet-stressedYears ago, my friend Judy invited me to drop by for a visit the day after Christmas. When I arrived, I found her draping wet laundry around her kitchen and wiping away tears. She wasn’t crying about her dead dryer.

On Christmas Eve, she and her husband were helping her recently married son and his wife prepare dinner in their new home when her son said, “Why don’t you let Mom fix the gravy, Bev. She knows how I like it.”

In response, Bev burst into tears and said to Judy, “I’m sick of hearing about your perfect Christmases, your perfect cooking, your perfect dinners. Why don’t you go home? Here, take my car. I’m sure you’ll drive it perfectly.” Then she grabbed her keys, threw them at Judy and ran from the house, leaving an open-mouthed family, a half-cooked turkey and a doomed merry little Christmas behind.

“I felt like I was in a country-western song,” Judy told me, “It was terrible.”

More recently, friends and I discussed the anxieties of gift giving: “I need guidelines,” said one, “What do you buy for the grandchildren you loved when they already get too much for Christmas? What do you give babies who have no concept of Santa and would rather chew on a cardboard box? Or teenagers who have demanding taste in clothing or want specific, expensive technology?”

Another friend added, “My husband and I buy things for our children and grandchildren throughout the year, when they need it; we also help finance school trips and events, and we’re happy to do so. We spent a lot last year, so we gave less expensive gifts for Christmas. And I felt guilty the entire season.”

Fortunately, we have media experts who tell us how to glide gracefully through the holiday without exploding into hysteria, eating a pound of peanut brittle, or crawling under a bed. Their advice flows freely: Get enough sleep. Make a list of tasks to be accomplished and stick to it. Stay within your budget. Relax in a bubble bath before your guests arrive.

Right.

They also warn if we deny ourselves the foods of the season, we’ll binge later on stale marshmallows or stray chocolate chips. Instead, we should enjoy the goodies that come our way by sampling them: take half a brownie and a taste or two of ice cream.

Seriously? Might as well ask a flea not to bite.

Despite such expert advice, most of us experience some stress during the holidays. We over-schedule our lives and become cranky as we rush about. We grow too weary, or drink more than a sip or two of eggnog and then say things we regret. We wonder about gifts we receive — elf house slippers or salt-and-pepper shakers from Branson — and worry others won’t like the gifts we chose for them.

We also wonder why we don’t feel the joy of Christmas we did when young: everybody happy, everything beautiful, each moment perfect. Experts answer this one correctly: the wonder of childhood Christmases cannot be duplicated; nor were they perfect.

I remember seeing a photograph taken by my aunt when I was eight — the year I asked Santa for a red-headed princess doll — that shows me using a blonde baby doll to bludgeon Bob as we battle fiercely in front of a tree tilted awkwardly to one side as though trying to escape.But, in my memory, 1950 was a perfectly joyful Christmas; and I wish the same for you in 2016.

Advertisements

72 thoughts on “Stresses of the Season

  1. Oh, I’m laughing at the thought you bludgeoning anyone:). Can’t picture it! And I’m with you on those awful holiday advice articles. They state the obvious–what we would be doing if it wasn’t completely against human nature:).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve always thought bludgeon was a powerful word, and when my aunt showed me the photograph many years ago, I realized the bludgeoning described exactly what I was trying to do to my pesky brother; but he was holding his own, believe me.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. So, can Bev and I become friends???? I’ve already started my “holiday rash” and am counting the days until New Years! As usual, I adore your cheeky sense of humor! …..”Might as well ask a flea to bite!” LOL! You’re too silly. mate! ;0 (Damn! I’m talking with Annie too much these days! Next thing you know, I’ll be calling football, “footy”!!! 😉 Hugs! Lucie ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My husband’s family have a tradition of only giving gifts that can be drunk or eaten. That way they are enjoyed for the moment but don’t last, so nothing to feel gulty about or have to dispose of later as inwanted. I wish that would apply to my own friends and the parts of my family who celebrate Christmas in some way.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What a grand idea, Val, one that would ease much of the stress around Christmas gifts. I’m going to suggest it when conversations turn to the difficulties of choosing presents, or, perhaps, in my Christmas post next year!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Memories past oh so true Janet. Even retired I still find myself rushing around with too much to do making cards to get in the mail and going to all those Christmas end of year functions. My family has shrunk and we have no small children now so it does not really feel the same but we gather for a shared meal once the big decision is made as to where! In New Zealand we have the added pressure for young families of school finishing for the year and the 6 week summer holidays starting …. Still I wish you all the joys of the season and know you will make more memories this coming year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can’t imagine dealing with the end of the school year and the beginning of summer vacation along with Christmas festivities. Still, as you said, there is joy to be found in the season; thank you for wishing them for me. I hope your Christmas is filled with laughter and love, Lynne.

      Like

  5. Thanks for another great insight into life. In Sydney we have the stress of hot summers, battling to get a parking space – then fighting the crowds in shopping centres ( malls). Gift vouchers -are becoming popular – but often using them before they expire at the end of December becomes another stress. And th charities encourage us to buy a virtual present by donating to them. Enjoy more than half a sip of egg nog , brownies and all the other good things of Christmas.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your Christmas season sounds as hectic as ours, but we battle snow and ice instead of heat. Sadly, I think for many folks, Christmas is turning into a gift card exchange, which might lower the stress, but also limits the thoughtfulness of a well chosen gift. I will enjoy the goodies that come my way, Sally, and hope you do as well.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I can sympathize with Judy and Bev. Husbands should just never make those comparisons. I was OK with most of the stress free guidelines except “…half a brownie and a taste or two of ice cream” ‘cuz, what the heck? Who eats half a brownie?

    If spending too much is going to stress you out, spend less. If it doesn’t matter, spend more. Eat the whole brownie, have a bowl of ice cream and don’t schedule that physical until April.

    I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, Janet.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love the spirit and traditions of Christmas I enjoyed with my parents and
    Siblings although we never were in a place for more than one Christmas.
    It was very important that my grandparents always came to celebrate
    With us no matter what part of the world we were living.
    My parents instituted xmas rules after out grew the Santa phase.
    The rules were we were only allowed to give two kinds of gifts.
    One was that we made the gifts ourselves or we could save our
    Allowance and purchase either a books or art supplies as gifts.
    At first we all complained about these rules but then over time
    We began to look forward to planing what we could make. We spent time
    Trying to figure out which books would be special for each person.
    We all learned skills which have enriched our daily lives and gift
    Making. We all became reading addicts and still find special books
    For each other. My brothers still make fudge and pecan pies every
    Year.
    My grand children are learning to make my grandmother’s special
    Pie crust recipe. They enjoy making cookies and pies to give to
    Their friends.

    Sure the kids still get to much stuff for Christmas but I think the tradition
    Of making gifts and thoughtfully choosing books each of the people they
    Love has helped them understand that our holiday is as much about
    Giving as getting. I am so very thankful for this tradition.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I enjoyed this detailed, positive comment with a wonderful suggestion for those of us who suffer gift giving stress. I love the idea of exchanging gifts you’ve made or books you’ve chosen for one another. And the all-important visit from your grandparents. Your parents were wise.One of my relatives told me a few years ago that, because her children get so many presents from grandparents and other relatives, she limits Santa Claus gifts for her children to one present from Santa, a game they can play with others and a book. She’s done it from the birth of her first child and her three children know that’s what they will get from Santaand look forward to it. I hope your Christmas is filled with laughter and lough, Shawn.

      Like

  8. Give the gift of beets, and within two years no one will bother you at Christmas any more. Give the gifts of peace and hope, and have it returned threefold. Great post Janet,I’ll write soon…

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Gift giving is truly a tricky track. My rule of thumb is to give something I want the person to have. If they don’t like it, that’s on them. It is especially difficult to give a gift to someone you barely know, like a nice or nephew that you haven’t even seen in years. As children, we were probably not aware of the nasty undertow that was happening with the adults. That’s why the memories are so special.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t thought about it before, Troy, but I think you’re right that the joy of childhood Christmases flows in part from lack of awareness of all that is required of adults. I also like your approach to gift giving. Sounds sensible to me. If I were related to you, I’d want to have some of your woodwork.

      Like

  10. Enjoyable post Janet. Tis the season! Since we recently visited the kiddos, I have an idea of what to get them. When they were growing up we made it a point to not go overboard on gift giving. We wanted it to be more of the joy of being together. I think we have succeeded. This year it will be hard to get gifts for JL and I. We don’t need anything and I would just be happy with no gifts at all. I do realize that the kiddos enjoy giving to us (I felt the same way with our parents, who said that they didn’t want anything. Now, I understand!) So, we give them suggestions that are cheap on their pocket books and don’t involve dusting. Have a wonderful Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your last sentence surprised a chuckle out of me, Janice. How wise and funny you are. I also like your thought, “I do realize that the kiddos enjoy giving to us,” because I think it captures the true spirit of Christmas, the joy of giving gifts to loved ones. And finally, I have always thought your family exhibits the joy of being together, and that you and JL are responsible for that.

      Like

  11. More and more I have come to realize that time is the best gift I can give someone I care about. They won’t remember the latest video game I gave them. Ten or fifteen years in the future, they will remember the time I gave them. To me, that is the best gift we can give each other. Especially in a time when our lives have become consumed with the latest game or gadget or social media.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don, your comment captures my feelings about gift giving as well. When our grandchildren were very young, Joel and I decided to give them experiences we could share with them rather than gifts: a trip to an indoor water park or a trampoline jumping house, an overnight stay at a hotel with a good swimming pool, bowling together, etc. We feel it was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made, because it resulted in shared memories.

      Like

  12. I now see why a friend’s mum refuses to do any household chores or cooking when she visits her children. She always says it will cause fights, except if she really needs to e.g. the daughter-in-law is ill. I hope Bev and Judy will manage to have a healthy and happy relationship.

    Like

  13. The winter festivals long ago were designed to lift the spirits from the long dark nights and bitter cold. There wasn’t all that much preparation to them either other than getting food cooked that would never be eaten raw. It was more about the songs, dancing, and storytelling then. But that was before central heat, gas and electric stoves, and inside plumbing. Now it’s one big long headache.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your last sentence gave me a rueful chuckle, Glynis. I would love to go back to the time of songs, dancing, storytelling and eating. In other words, being together and having fun with loved ones without all the trappings required by the Christmases we have now. (Sounds a lot like Thanksgiving, doesn’t it? My favorite holiday that is increasingly intruded upon by Christmas.)

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Thankfully, I don’t have family hassles, so I’m free to butt in and add to the stress of my neighbors by asking, “When you going to put up your lights?” in front of their wives. Then I hit them again on January 2nd with, “Bout time to take them lights down eh?”
    Merry Christmas, Janet.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. A fabulously rich with memories and beautiful joy too, recipe, with just a touch of pain added to the mix so that once stirred and turned then backed at 170 degrees for 45 minutes, cooled on a cooling rack, then finally tasted … one ends up with a family cake. With all the fruits and nuts set in it, as they should be, and with a hint of spice which is there to spice it up a little for those who need it to be so.

    Love your posts, and you too, Aunt Beulah.
    Happy December ~ Cobs. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a delightful comment: clever and true. I love the idea of a family cake full of fruits, nuts, and a bit of spice; it describes every family I’ve been a part of — and I’ve always wanted a second serving. I’m so glad we’ve become blog friends, Cobs, and I hope your December is filled with love and laughter.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Oh my yes! How come “the most wonderful time of the year,” has to be full of so many pitfalls and Eeeeeks! and worries?!?!?

    I think it is partly the fault of the adds, which push their product, to produce “The Perfect Christmas”. There is no perfect Christmas! And their product will not produce it.

    But we keep on buying and reading the articles and hoping… Bahhhh-humbug!!! -grinnnn-

    Luna Crone

    Like

    • Luna, I agree with you about the marketing that is everywhere during the Christmas season urging us to buy happiness. Thank you for finding my blog and commenting. I’ll visit yours soon.

      Like

  17. Remember that Folger’s commercial—the one where on Christmas Eve the extended family arrives at the ranch by horse-drawn sleigh? Then everyone meets and greets on the porch of the giant log home in Montana, enjoying a cup of coffee while gazing at the mountain view?
    That would be my perfect Christmas. Sharing good times and good coffee (not Folger’s) with family and friends.

    Instead though we’ll be arriving in Philadelphia by jet along with masses of other holiday travelers, sitting in traffic snarls on the freeways, wondering where to buy last-minute gifts, and hoping for no family drama. Ah, the joys of the season.

    Here’s to a Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do remember the commercials, Rita; and I understand your consequent dream of a Christmas enjoyable in its simplicity. I think most of us yearn for that scenario at the same time we feel we must enter into the sort of scene you describe as your reality this year. Travel safely, be happy, and remember that soon you will be back on cross country skis or snowshoes with Tim surrounded by the natural beauty and quiet of winter.

      Like

  18. Oh poor Judy and Bev, what an awkward situation! I think as children we view the world differently. We don’t know the hardships of adulthood, everything is just provided for us. And while some of us had to do more as children such as chores, our worlds were always quite predictable for the most part and it just didn’t make sense to not enjoy things. I saw that in Raiden this year. Of course at five months he had no clue what was going on, but he enjoyed playing with the paper that Mum had carefully wrapped his present in (a duvet for his cot) that he would be able to open it himself and he enjoyed the attention of his uncles, Nana, cousins, Great Aunties and if course Grandad. For him it was a great day. For me it was exhausting. But I still loved it 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • As usual, you are wise beyond your years, Katie. I, too, think children enjoy things without a lot of thought when they live in a predictable environment as you and I did and as raider will. It made my day to see a comment from you. Happy New Year.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Happy New Year to you too Janet. I have been slowly catching up on my reading, it’s been a rough then busy few months but I’m getting through it 🙂

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s