what if you're already totally stressed about Thanksgiving?

Are you sitting in traffic on Southbound I-95 right now with two grumpy kids and a scowling partner?

Are you dreading the fallout from missed naps and stretched bedtimes because you've committed to being at three family Thanksgivings, one friend Thanksgiving, an earlybird Black Friday tradition with your sister, and a church service where your kid is performing--all in your four days "off"?

Are you at your desk at work thinking about how you're going to be up until 3 a.m. making Thanksgiving lunch for the 14 loved ones who are showing up at your house tomorrow expecting clean bathrooms and a dinner table that's not overflowing with junk?

Okay, know this:  I love Thanksgiving.  I love it.  But I also know that it can be one the most stressful holidays we've got because there's so much potential celebrating in a very short time.

If you're in the bad place (or you can see the bad place coming just over the horizon) in this season of gratefulness, here's a little minimalism for you to try:

1 :: Let go of the perfect Thanksgiving.  Know ahead of time that your child is going to have a meltdown, you're going to get in an argument with your partner, and you'll probably snap at your mother.

Okay, maybe you're thinking, "This is supposed to help me?!"  Well.  Yes.  This is about admitting that things aren't going to go perfectly if you're already overcommitted.  And it's about acknowledging that your kid and your partner and your own wonderful self are going to be a little stressed.

Maybe, just maybe, if you just know that going in, you won't feel like this:  "I'm exhausted and this traffic is awful and I forgot my toothbrush AND NOW MY KID IS ACTING LIKE A TURD AND THANKSGIVING IS RUINED."  Maybe, instead, you might be able to feel like this, "I'm exhausted and stressed and not having any fun, and I'm betting my kid feels the same way.  No wonder s/he's acting like a turd."

And maybe, just maybe, you'll feel like this for a second, "I asked my partner to put the laundry in last night and she didn't do it and I have 45 things still to do to get ready for everyone to come over, AND NOW I HAVE TO WEAR DIRTY JEANS AND I'M MARRIED TO A JERK AND THANKSGIVING IS RUINED."  But then you might actually think, "I'm so irritated about the laundry, but she is currently scrubbing the tub so maybe I will just wear the dirty jeans and move on."

And maybe, just maybe, you will indeed snap at your mother--either because she pushes your buttons every single time or because she's the one person who can take it without giving it back to you.  But then instead of thinking, "I snapped at my mother in front of everyone and NOW THANKSGIVING IS RUINED," you might just take a deep breath, apologize for losing your patience, and move on with your day.

2:  Choose one thing--just one thing--that you're going to let go.

You can find one thing.  

Maybe you're going to buy cranberry sauce in a can instead of make it this year because your grocery store is sold out of fresh cranberries and you don't have time to make another stop.

Or maybe you'll use paper napkins instead of cloth ones because the cloth ones are dirty and you don't have time to do the laundry.

Maybe you're going to swing by the prepared foods case at the grocery store instead of bringing something homemade because you were up half the night meeting a work deadline.

Or maybe you're going to stop at a hotel on the way to your aunt's house instead of pushing through on the drive because your children are losing their minds in the backseat.  

You can do this.  Just pick one thing, and say, "Thanksgiving will not be ruined if I don't do that this year."

3:  Leave a little early.

You don't always have to be the last ones standing.  Somebody's gotta leave first.  It can be you.  Have a fantastically great time, and then go.  It'll give you a little extra breathing room, and your host might actually be grateful for a little extra breathing room, too.

What if you're staying at someone's house?  You can still get a little space when you need it.  Go for a walk, scoot down to the room where you're staying, or take your book and go to bed early one night.  It's okay.  You won't ruin Thanksgiving.

Alrighty.  So, I'm a big super-fan of traditions and rituals and holidays in general.  But sometimes, especially when multiple families of origin plus friends plus kids are in the picture, the These-Things-Must-Happen-Or-Thanksgiving-Will-Be-Ruined Pile gets way too big. 

At that point, letting go of one or two of the very things that might ruin Thanksgiving can actually end up saving Thanksgiving after all.