So? How’d it go?
This was the year you were going to buy less stuff, stress less in traffic, eat less junk, fight less with the ex, laugh more at your mistakes, and embrace your brother-in-law’s Duck Dynasty beard. Remember?
But this being the holiday season and we being humans, things probably didn’t go quite that smoothly. As a member of a religiously blended clan, which offers equal parts joy and oy, I’m kicking myself, too, about good intentions that escaped like steam evaporating into the winter air.
Here’s some cheery news. Less than a week from now, we all get something called the New Year, a perpetually forgiving opportunity to kick-start our lives and reassess our goals. Somebody was really thinking when they devised that concept.
So, before we forget and make the same mistakes next year, let’s make a list and check it twice — a month — until Black Friday returns.
1) Pick one word, and one word only, to describe your emotions after all the gifts were unwrapped.
“Delighted” with the joy your thoughtful choices brought?
“Resentful” that your carefully selected gems were unceremoniously tossed into a heap?
“Guilty” for raising children afflicted with “affluenza”?
If you answered “delighted,” please stand over there by yourself for a moment.
The rest of us? First, remember that gift-giving is fraught, at no time on a larger scale than this. It’s just stuff. Don’t take reactions too personally. Second, secretly buy yourself something you really want. It helps. Third, tally up your gift budget for 2013 (you DID have a budget, right?) and promise to spend one-third less next year. Give that one-third to charity, which reminds me:
2) Give away stuff all year long.
Minnesotans are a generous bunch. What other state can brag of being a victim of its own success on Give to the Max Day in November, raising $9 million before noon, when computers were shut down temporarily by technical difficulties?
It’s good to teach our kids about red kettles and toy drives. It’s better to explain to them in language they can understand that children their age go hungry every day in this state. Many of them have nowhere to rest their heads at night. This night.
With new gifts covering bedroom floors, consider filling up a few bags of gently used or duplicate toys, games and books to donate.
The New Year also is a nice time to check out yearlong volunteer opportunities, especially with kids. One of my favorites is doinggoodtogether.org, a national nonprofit based in Minneapolis, whose sole aim is making family volunteering easy and fun.
3) Slow down. That goes for driving, judging others, drinking, and constructing the 400-piece Techno Gears Marble Mania Accelerator.
4) Buy local next year. No matter how that ungrateful receiver responds, you’ll have made the day of the gift’s creator.
5) Baby, it’s cold outside. Please make a note to thank your mail carrier and that newspaper delivery person, if you still get that paper thing at your door. On the latter front, let me take this opportunity to thank you.
6) Consider using paper goods. Still washing the crystal while everyone else went out to a movie? I once interviewed a woman on Christmas Day who told me, “There’s so much hype around what you’re supposed to do. Dinner in a certain way, use your special china. I just want to erase that and use paper plates and be with family.” She was all of 18.
7) Mend when, and what, you can. Sometimes I’m a columnist, but mostly I’m a professional listener. I find it sad that people in this community turn to me and my colleagues because they have no one else to call.
Last week, I spent quite a bit of time talking with a heartbroken woman who wanted just one thing for Christmas. That was a visit from her estranged brother who lives in another state. He’s the only family she has and he has shut her out. I have no idea about the back story here and I do know how complicated family dynamics can be. I also know that the pain in her voice was real.
If you’re on the fence next year about whether to give a family member another chance, please consider dialing their number.
8) Lastly, for clarity and comfort, look around. Behind us is the winter solstice. The days are getting longer now and the thought of it certainly is lifting my mood. And today begins the brilliant seven-day African festival called Kwanzaa, which honors seven principles: Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
A year from now, it will be hard for any of us humans to top that.