Holiday Survival: Don’t Stress Over “Perfect”

The qwest for holiday perfection is a losing battle that robs the season of its joy. The perfect family picture for the holiday card, the perfect holiday decorations, the perfect Christmas tree, the perfect holiday meal, the perfect family ensembles that “go” but don’t “match”, the perfect presents… it’s not going to happen. It’s just not. So be like Elsa and “Let it Go!” Enjoy your perfectly imperfect holiday just as it is.

The struggle to snap that idillic family photo is a goal bound for failure. The more people — especially young ones — in a picture, the more likely it is to flounder. One kid will have an awkward smile, another will be crying, you’ll have a double chin and dark circles, hubby will have an unexpected lazy-eye, only one person will be looking at the camera… something will go awry with each snapshot. Accept the photo as an illustration of reality, laugh, and move on.

Aiming for that cozy Hallmark card holiday home look is adorable. But do you know what Hallmark card homes don’t have to withstand? Kids, pets, life. Those heirloom ornaments, the overpriced luxurious fresh garlands placed just so, the flickering glow of candle flames beside glittering crystal… invitations for disaster. Dial it down to less breakable decor and you’ll save your own sanity and holiday happiness. Aim for “merry” instead of “mishaps.”

The holiday tree is natural which means: flaws. You can spend hours agonizing over a hole-free, perfectly lush pine or you can nab the best one you can, turn the hole towards the wall, and decorate with abandon. Enough ornaments and lights can hide just about anything. And if not, it’ll be a funny tale for later years.

Holiday meals can be planned, cooked, and prepared with the goal of perfection or with an eye for enjoyment. Don’t overtax yourself or you’ll be too stressed to truly experience the meal you toiled to create. Don’t create unattainably high expectations of picturesque family gatherings or wrack your mind with drama dread. Instead, aim for an enjoyable gathering and accept that reality — both memorably good and woefully bad — will ensue. Then, choose to laugh.

You can put hours of online shopping and weeks of Pinterest perusing to develop your perfect family ensemble collection. You know the one that is precisely coordinated without matching. You could also then promptly lose your holiday-dazed mind when one kid smears jelly across that pressed shirt, another refuses the itchy taffeta dress, and the littlest has a devilishly timed diaper malfunction. Lesson: lower your bar and have backup options. When you look back at this holiday will you be thinking, “Ahh, that was the year of the perfectly coordinated outfits! That pattern precision really made the day.” Or, instead, would memories of  the day’s quirks and smiles stick in your mind? “Remember when Timmy got his arm stuck in the new toy? Oh, Timmy! Good times.”

Fretting over getting everyone’s present just right, agonizing over eliciting that glow of enjoyment from each wrapped purchase, is a lovely but maddening goal. Thoughtfulness is always admirable. Other-centeredness is praiseworthy. Spending your holiday season stressing and spending yourself into ruin all for a gift is not going to be your healthiest holiday venture. Be thoughtful and generous, but be reasonable… your happiness matters too.

The holiday season is equal parts fun and frenzied, sentimental and stressful, maddening and memorable. Lower your bar to a comfortably livable level and enjoy the people, memories, and life around you. Appreciate the reality you have instead of pruning it to appear otherwise. Your real-life imperfection is perfect just the way it is.

 

 

 

 

 

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