Secretly Dreading the Holidays?

Posted on Nov 17, 2017

cold dog

The holidays can be a mixed bag. I love Christmas music. I can’t explain it. When late November rolls around, I suddenly find myself waking up with an irresistible urge to hear Mariah Carey singing about mistletoe. On the other hand, when I try to dream up meaningful gifts for the relatives I barely know anymore, my stomach churns. Once you’re clear with yourself about which traditions you dread, a valuable and simple tool to try is Martha Beck’s Three Bs: bag it, barter it, better it.

Bag It

Are you looking forward to any part of the tradition? If not, bag it! Say no. If you’re thinking you “have” to do it, or you “should” do it, you may have landed on a thought worth questioning.

Maybe, though, you’re excited about some part of the upcoming event — like seeing the little ones in your family. In that case…

Barter It

Try swapping services with someone. Who do you know that would love to do the thing you dread? Maybe all the cooking overwhelms you, and your brother’s new wife would love to help but has never been asked. What do you enjoy that you could offer in return? (If you’re dreading any craft projects on your list, let’s make a deal!)

Better It

If you don’t want to bag it, and you don’t want to barter it, you can almost always find a way to better it. Ask yourself, what would make the situation 1% better? Or if you’re feeling ambitious, what would make the situation amazing? It could be as simple as taking a book with you to the airport. Or maybe you’ll convince your family to try something new this year. I instituted themed Christmas parties a few years back, an idea that I thought would be immediately rejected. Luckily, I was so wrong! I’ve seen my dad sport an elf hat one year, and beachwear another. Who knows… maybe you’re not the only one secretly dreading the status quo?

My absolute favorite “better it” idea is Martha’s Dysfunctional Family Bingo. Here’s how to play:

  1. Find a friend or two to play along.
  2. Print a blank bingo sheet, such as a 5×5 grid, for each player. (A template can be found here.)
  3. Fill in the squares with your unique family dysfunctions. You might have “Mom will make a passive aggressive comment about my weight” or “Someone will drink too much and pass out.”
  4. Sneak off to the restroom to mark off the squares as they happen.
  5. When you mark off a full row, bingo! Send your friend a pic. Last one to bingo buys lunch!

Best wishes for a fantastic (or at least, less dreadful) holiday season!