Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year; with the kids jingle belling and everyone telling you “be of good cheer,” it’s the hap-hap-happiest season of all. Right?
In fact, it's exactly that kind of sugar-coated rendition that promotes the phony idea that the holiday season is supposed to be all joy, and nothing but joy. It’s no wonder we get in a snit when we find ourselves in a long cashier’s line up instead of stringing popcorn with our children.
And it’s why we yell at our kids to stop bickering over who has strung more popcorn faster. “It’s Christmas for crying out loud – can’t you two just get along for once?”
We get all hell bent on achieving the Norman Rockwell Christmas Ideal. We pine for the comforts found in traditions and in keeping our own childhood wonder alive.
We know all too well how the holidays are supposed to be. But in reality, how do we really spend them? Are you sipping mulled cider and roasting chestnuts? NO! The hard, cold fact is that we are running around like a chicken with its head cut off. We are fighting for parking spots, fighting crowds at the mall, spending more than we can afford and trying to keep the house clean for company. We bake and cook the old fashion way, all the while wondering why we are not blissful.
Here is the big eye-opener: our stress is self-imposed. It comes from our fighting against the simple fact that things are not as we want them to be. We want peace and we have chaos. We want a parking spot, but we are trapped in gridlock. We want the stores to have the items on a shopping list and they don’t. We want short lines and they are long. We want our family to love one another but relationships are strained. We want to bake a moist turkey and its dry.
If we want to get rid of our stress we have to let go of our romantic images of how things should be and instead embrace reality for how things really are. Accept the situation that you are experiencing as it unfolds and see it afresh. Do not compare it to your ideal as that will only invite disappointment.
This is the card you have been dealt -- play it well, or risk eroding your own happiness.
Stuck in a line up? Start a conversation with the person beside you, he or she may be very interesting.
Trapped in a parking lot? Spend the time listening to your favourite radio station or podcast. I am sure I have listened to the entire "Lord of the Rings" trilogy sitting in my commuter traffic.
If you turkey is dry -- it's dry. You can’t “uncook it” so enjoy it as is without recalling past succulent birds. This is the only one you have so how will you eat it? With joy or misery? Wishing it were moister won’t change a thing except make you less happy. Don’t throw your happiness away!
My mother died of cancer at home over the holidays about 20 years ago. The entire family was with her. As friends came to visit while she was bed-bound, they would make small talk: moan about how cold it was and complain about the time it took to shovel their driveway.
It was good hearted, but I couldn’t help but hear it through the ears of someone who was wishing they could enjoy another cold day, who would soon miss the beauty of waking to a fresh snowfall. It changed me forever.
I am alive and I get to enjoy every day and I am thankful for whatever the day brings. Yes, I will go to the mall and shop -- but I will smile at every person I have to push by. I will shrug instead of shudder when the item I need is sold out. I will talk to the people in line around me and be thankful I had this day to live.
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: