I was doing okay until the turkey cake fell on its face. It was such a cute cake, store-bought, naturally (you are all familiar with my being domestically challenged). But as it was a two layer cake cut in half and frosted standing on its side to resemble a turkey, once it hit the Texas heat outside the store, the face layer was too heavy with frosting. So, to my chagrin, the turkey did a face plant just sitting on my counter.
I was going to be mother of the year with that stupid cake at my eight year old son’s school Thanksgiving feast, dammit. And my life is scheduled to the nanosecond. I have every remaining moment of 2011 planned for. Anything less than clockwork precision must result in chaos. I had NO time to go get another turkey-themed dessert. Could I swap shower time for another trip to the bakery? The feast was the next day. Second graders required cake. And thus hyperventilating began. It was starting…
I was doing what I like to call the Holiday Flap. And no, it’s not a dance I learned from Yo Gabba Gabba or The Wiggles, although that might be a reasonable inference. Instead, the Holiday Flap is an unfortunate family tradition, a snit I have a tendency to get into this time of year if I’m not careful as I am an official recovering perfectionist. And it ain’t pretty, folks.
Oh, admit it. No matter how organized you are, how many of you hop on the Panic Attack Express chugging out of Angst Station when it comes to this time of year? Planning and executing a Thanksgiving of epic proportions for dozens of family members? Figuring out how to make a beer budget pay for the champagne wishes of your children and other loved ones? Unable to produce a Christmas card photo without anyone crying in it? Will you get these cards mailed before Valentine’s Day this year? Are you navigating crowded, overheated stores, traffic, and disgruntled retail employees?
It can strike fear into the most sturdy of souls, the Triumvirate of Holidays: Thanksgiving. Christmas. New Year’s Eve. If the above description reminds you of yourself, gets your heart rate up a little bit, then you, too, my friend, can get to dancing the Holiday Flap if you aren’t careful. Because depending on your expectations, it’s possible, nay, far too easy work yourself into a lather trying to produce your “ideal” holiday season.
But I’m here to say, not unlike Prince, there’s something else. It’s not too late to get a grip whatever your budget or time limitations. Believe it or not, it’s actually possible to relax and actually enjoy this time of year. No, no, no; I haven’t been drinking. Really. Here’s some of what I do to avoid dancing the Holiday Flap:
Modify expectations. People can have some pretty rigid ideas about what MUST happen for the holidays. My house MUST be decorated as if Clark Griswold was involved. We MUST have a gigantic holiday meal exactly recreated from Gramma’s or Mom’s menu. By scratch, of course. I MUST have a professionally produced photo of my children dressed as elves, pink cheeked and smiling, for my professionally printed Christmas cards. Every gift given MUST be thoughtful, appropriate, and wrapped as if by Martha Stewart. You get my drift. Y’all. Please. In counseling, we call this “musterbation.” Unwanted emotions can only follow.
Make instead your goal that people can enjoy YOU, relaxed and at peace. They won’t remember the dinner menu, but they’ll remember your hysteria over it. Take out just some decorations, or none if it means you maintain your good mood. Feel good about budgeting appropriately. People don’t care if you give them homemade goods; in fact, it feels awesome to be so important that you are thinking of them even in the face of less than satisfactory financial situations.
When it comes to food, it’s okay to get help. I may never cook a turkey again. I’ve been emotionally scarred. I’m totally okay with catering the whole meal or asking family members to bring their favorite dish. I’m also WAY okay with eating off the every day plates (related: Getting married? Never sign up for the china with the gold band around the outside of the plate. You have to hand wash them. But I digress). I even give you permission to use*GASP* paper ones.
Don’t “should” all over yourself. The only thing you HAVE to do this holiday season, my dears, is stay the color you are and die. The rest is choice. “Must” and “should” can ruin your holidays. Because I take all my moral lessons from cartoons, I will borrow from the Grinch: Christmas Day is in our grasp as long as we have hands to clasp. Loved ones are all we need to be merry.
Avoid doing the Holiday Flap. Once I started slowing down, breathing, and identifying the musts and shoulds I associated with my now-prone turkey cake (just a few well placed toothpicks and the disaster could have been avoided!), I could tell myself: keep cool, baby. I’ll have time to pick something else up…or I won’t. But I’ll be giving me and my loved ones the best gift of all: a relaxed and fun-loving me. Oh, and upside-down turkey cake for dessert.