Kind promise: I will love without keeping score.

This is Thanksgiving week (in the United States). It’s the time of year when we begin to drive ourselves and each other a bit (or a bunch) crazy chasing the dream of the perfect holiday. We want beautiful surroundings, delicious food, loving companions and feelings of goodwill. We try to engineer our thoughts and actions to produce those outcomes and often end up frustrated and stressed.

The “fix” for this is quite simple: renegotiate expectations to focus on what brings you comfort and joy.

Yes, it’s one of those “simple, but not easy,” solutions.

rudzillaSuppose we dared to boil down our holiday expectations to their essence. What would remain? I suspect it would be something as simple as Omar Khayyam’s “a jug of wine, a loaf of bread-and thou.”

Traditions, at their best, enwrap us with comfort and invite us to relax into them. When, instead, we put pressure on ourselves to, for instance, meet every requirement of a 27-item menu, tradition has become a monster.

Together with the people with whom you celebrate holidays, name the holiday monster in your midst (“Rudzilla” might be a good monster name), give it a pat. Say, “there, there, Rudzilla. I know you’re just trying to give us a special, lovely, holiday.” Give Rudzilla a hug, a cup of warm milk and send it to bed, wishing it visions of sugar plums in its dreams. Now the grown-ups can make plans.

Thinking about this holiday celebration: name one thing that brings you comfort and one thing that brings you joy.

Arrange to get those two things (or a reasonable facsimile of them) in your celebration. Give yourself (or, if you are working as a group, yourselves) permission to let go of everything else.

Rudzilla may come toddling out now and then during the holidays, whining about how you are doing things differently this year. Not to worry. Pat. Hug. Milk. Send.

May you experience comfort and joy this holiday season.