We’ve entered the season of giving — that time when we try to focus on others. On family. On friends.
It’s also the season of guilt.
I’m fortunately in place where my holiday plans are pretty easy (I know, don’t hate). That’s what happens when your mom dies and your dad runs off on a 90-day cruise around the world. Half of the pieces on my chess board have been eliminated.
But I hear still it everywhere from everyone else: Where are we spending Thanksgiving? Who’s traveling to whose house? Why isn’t she hosting this year? They got them last year. Oh no, don’t mind me, I’ll just be here, all alone…
The holidays are like the rest of the year on steroids. A little microcosm of opportunities for you to screw up and offend people in a period of 6 weeks rather than 6 months. Someone will always feel left out. Someone will always feel slighted. Someone will always feel forgotten. And you know what?
You should just blow it off.
Now I say that breezily as though blowing people off and not caring what they think is the easiest thing in the world for me. It isn’t. I’m constantly stressing over making everyone happy. Worrying that I’m not checking in on friends who are having a hard time. Beating myself up at night because the sympathy cards I was supposed to send three weeks ago are still on my nightstand. Flipping out because I haven’t called this relative or that one because I can never seem to find a 15-minute window when the kids will talk.
But yeah, we just need to blow it off. It makes a person crazy. The fact is, there comes a point when the people who truly love you will understand — will have to understand — that you’re doing your best. Or at least doing what you can (and sometimes, that is your best).
And if you’re one of those people who’s on the other end of this — if you’re like my grandmother, who actually used to keep track of who failed to send her a Christmas card and then spurned them the next year (classic, right?) — then maybe ask yourself why. Why are you’re doing what you’re doing when you’re doing it. Ask yourself if you’re only giving with the expectation that you’ll be getting something back. And if that fits into your definition of love.
I have a good friend who believes in friendship without guilt. Every time I try to apologize for not being in touch for so long, she shuts me down. She’s running around like a chicken with her head cut off. She’s pretty sure I’m running around the same way. We give each other a pass.
Because that’s what true friends do. So if you want to be a really, really good friend this holiday season, give the gift of “no guilt.”
And don’t forget to include yourself on the list.