The gods don’t ask for human sacrifice anymore, do they? Then why do millions of women turn themselves into burnt offerings each winter?
It hits about mid-November: Obsessive Giving Disorder. Turning ordinary women into Nurturing Ninjas. Hopped-up on hospitality hormones, they launch into a frenzy of baking, shopping, decorating, crocheting, hosting, serving, costuming, shopping, wrapping, preserving and worshipping madly at the altar of Toxic Traditions. It becomes a Superbowl of Martyrdom when every shred of selfhood disappears into the Bermuda Triangle of Holiday Obligation.
Is there a cure?
Not yet. Whatever drives this compulsion-whether it’s ancestral memories of hoarding for winter, internalized domestic programming or the ultimate holiday horror: the fear of disappointing someone-Oh my god, the pony didn’t make her eyes light up! -OGD has to run its course. A chemical, seasonal, cultural imbalance, in December it becomes the alpha motivator: The Big Dogma. BE ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE it commands.
SO YOU’RE SINKING IN HOLIDAY DOGMA-DOO.
“Well, maybe if I just get organized, ” you say. “Put my to-do list in order. ”
Careful-that’s the disease talking.
The Holiday To-Do list has a life of its own. It grows faster than a B-Movie mutation. Forget trying to contain it. A need-meeter’s brain is a warm moist incubator for this fungus.
The only hope of surviving the Curse of Caring Too Much is to leave the monster alone and attack the lesser demons: the Beta stressors-those second-string compulsions.
You can start by turning your imagination around.
USING YOUR WHAT-IFS FOR GOOD INSTEAD OF EVIL
We’re great at imagining the family unit will go supernova if we don’t live up to our over-doing reputations. In retrospect it’s always obvious: holidays never meet everyone’s expectations. And does it matter? Are lives lost?
Imagination can be an ally when we ask:
Would the world come to an end if I made potatoes from a box?
Would the dinner table turn into Lord of the Flies if I didn’t sculpt every family pet out of marzipan this year?
Would Charlie end up in therapy for abandonment issues if I didn't crochet his name onto that videogame cozy?
Congratulate yourself every time you let go of omnipotence.
But when you’re up against Toxic Traditions, you’ll need more in your arsenal than just what-ifs.
Dogma-doers must minimize their exposure to the needs of others.
Remember Little White Lies? They spare the feelings of others. Pink lies spare your own as well!
Need-meeters are obligation magnets. They cannot screen out the pleading eyes or the passive-aggressive demands. Excuses that buy you a little time out are crucial because absence is an anal accommodator’s only defense.
There are three basic categories of Pink Lies:
Why you have to leave early.
Why you have to come late.
Why you have to leave in the middle.
THE MEDICAL STAND-BY: I have: (pick one: allergies, female troubles, New Guinea Flu or if necessary: “some kind of oozing pussy rash”)
THE BIG GUNS: “I have to go in for a pre-surgical consultation and I won’t be able to fly out that day”
THE POOR ME: “I made two huge pots of my favorite ginger Sherry pumpkin soup and then I set it on top of my car and drove off. Maybe next year. ”
THE I’LL BE RIGHT BACK: “I forgot to get the sour cream—No, it’s a special l kind and I am the only one who knows where to find it. ” When you return after three blissful hours, bravely recount your wretched Odyssey to twenty-six 7-11’s.
THE NOT MY FAULT: My husband decided to go find his birth mother, we’re leaving for the Philippines tonight. (Always use someone else as your excuse whenever possible. )
From the banal to the sublime, migraines to court-ordered community service, the Pink Lie buys you a little separation from your demanding fans. But don’t forget you need to stay one step ahead of your internal Perfection Police.
SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR FAILURE: SWEET BLESSED FAILURE
It’s important to set yourself up for failure. Yes, for failure.
For falling short of your massive potential. Not an easy task for an OGD. You must plan carefully and remain vigilant.
MAKING YOUR TO-DON’T LIST
An anal accommodator is incapable of limiting the guest list to three digits or stopping at sixteen sets of meringue crèche figures. She cannot spend less, do less, coddle less, say yes less. So she must look for something that she can eliminate. Naturally, it will be a non-holiday related task since the whole Yule area of the brain has been taken over by MARTIAL LAW.
Ask yourself: Where can I economize my energy?
If you were devoting extra hours to anther kind of winter disaster like clearing mudslides, housing the homeless, you would probably lighten up on routine domestic chores at home. Cut yourself the same slack.
Try out this delicious TO-DON’T LIST SAMPLER
Don’t change clothes for three days.
Don’t cook anything but microwave food on Fridays and Tuesdays.
Don’t help your son with homework on Mondays.
Don’t clean the refrigerator.
Don't volunteer cupcakes.
Don’t change the sheets till New Year’s.
Be sure and WRITE DOWN your To-Don’t List
And when you have not done them, check them off proudly! You stole back a little time. That’s a rare achievement for a compulsive Dogma-Doer—truly something to celebrate! =
Joan Bechtel @2005 All Rights Reserved
Resource Box: Joan Bechtel, award-winning comedienne, early childhood educator and author of MOTHERHOOD CONFIDENTIAL, is a Personalized Parenting speaker, helping women out of the dogma-doo to find their own personally-correct answers. For free tips: When Motherhood Tears Friendship Apart-7 way to Keep It Together, 10 Antidotes to Toxic Taboos, Guide to Creating Your Own Internal U. N. go to http://www.MotherhoodConfidential.com