I know everyone else has an absolutely perfect family and the holidays are a blissful, peaceful time for all. I adore my family, but somehow blissful and peaceful are not words I tend to associate with holidays. This is why I make a plan.
In case your family happens to lose that Hallmark sparkle, you might want one, too, for emergencies.
Here it is:
1. Go outside. Walk the dog. Borrow a dog. Steal one. Walk the cat. Ride a bike. Develop a burning need to take up running right this very minute because you are dying to see what the corner of your street looks like at high speed, even if the feeling goes away as soon as you reach the other side of the door. This works because moving reduces stress. Distance can also help, since it is more difficult to strangle people from far away, whether you are destined to be a strangler or a victim.
2. Watch out for the cookies. They are out to get you. That may be extreme. One cookie is harmless; you have to watch out when they travel in packs. They will beat you up and give you a sugar hangover that will have you haunting the cookie jar for weeks. While you eat your one cookie, you can savor the sweetness of the moment, or imagine that you are chewing up and destroying stress with every bite.
3. Breathe. So the kids wrapped the dog? It will make a good story later. So will your crazy uncle’s diatribe on the mind control aspects of the space program. Also, the kids will grow up and your uncle will go home.
4. Smile. Or better, laugh. I have an extremely sincere ornament on my tree made out of lint roller tape, glitter, feathers, and string, made by a formerly small child who will remain nameless lest I have to enter a witness protection program. If all else fails, I can smile remembering that kid’s proud face, having made something all by himself.