Red Light, Green Light

Here is a quick reader pop quiz. What major American Holiday did you celebrate last week? Any choice is valid; I won’t judge:

A.Black Friday

B. Cyber Monday

C. Football Rivals Saturday

D. Thanksgiving Thursday

Perhaps you are a competitive shopper and picked “A,” Black Friday. Last week was all about the preparation and planning required to seize the bargains. Your activities included an extensive scouting report and plan before proceeding with your hunting party. Hopefully going in for the “killer deal” did not lead you to brandish pepper spray like the woman at the L.A.-area Wal-Mart; she felt threatened by fellow shoppers who might have gained an advantage on a game console that was on sale.

If you were an employee of Macy’s, Toys ‘R Us, Wal-Mart or Target, “D,” Thanksgiving might not have even been an option since you had to work on Thursday so those retailers could open up early to get a jump on “Black Friday.”

Maybe you picked “C,” Saturday, as your big day was the snack, drink and betting line of college football games. The rest of you might be “B,” Cyber Monday seekers watching for early bird special apps that could bring up-to–the-minute “steals” to your cell phone. No matter which event you celebrated it all adds up to one thing: the kickoff of holiday stress season.

While I enjoyed a little bit of each day, call me old-fashioned, I still like to think that the main event of the four-day stretch involves pilgrims, turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie and thankfulness and I find the commercial intrusion disruptive. It appears, however, that the biggest non-secular holiday we all share has been demoted to a meal wedged between Halloween and Christmas. Without the “timeout” of Thanksgiving, the feeling becomes one of being swept up in the tide of holidays rather than riding the wave.

Most moms I know, in moments of complete candor, confess that this is not their favorite time of year. Black Friday becomes the signal to strap on the oxygen mask and begin the ascent of the Mt. Everest holiday anxiety climb with too many “to-dos” in a very short period of time. So, this year I started to strategize a way to channel the onslaught of holiday frenzy, guilt and stress. My epiphany happened while waiting at a traffic signal. While watching the three-color cycle it dawned on me I could be my own traffic cop.

As invitations, reminders, solicitations and cards have begun to flow in the house I am immediately sorting into three traffic light piles. Red means stop, don’t do it. Yellow means proceed with caution. Green means go for it.

I am already reaping the rewards of this system with a sense of calmness and happiness during the holidays that I have not felt in years. Shedding and sorting without guilt allows Ode to Joy to take up residence in December rather than the Grinch. I would have played “Red Light, Green Light” years ago had I known it would spike my holiday spirit. Bring on Boxing Day!

Carol Lewis Gullstad  November 28, 2011

permissionslips1@gmail.com

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