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Posted Tuesday, December 14, 2010, at 10:39 AM

By: Lisa Earle McLeod



For every person looking forward to spending the holidays with family, there's another one, or five, who are dreading it. For some, time with extended family is practically purgatory.

I'm lucky. I like my family; in fact, I love them.

Yet as I listen to people grumble about their awful in-laws, crazy sister or cheapskate uncle, it strikes me that some people aren't happy unless they have something to complain about.

In the spirit of generosity, I've complied a list of things you can do to make yourself, and everyone around you, absolutely miserable this holiday season.

Here are seven tips guaranteed to make spending time with your family pure torture:

Drink as much as possible - Now is not the time for moderation. Start drinking early in the day so that you're sloshed by dinner. This ensures that you say something totally inappropriate, and it also increases the likelihood of getting angry and having terrible table manners.

Ruminate about past hurts - Forget grace and forgiveness: it's the holidays. Start stewing about past injustices now so that by the time you see your family, you'll already have worked yourself up into an awful mood. Just because it happened a long time ago, or was entirely unintentional, that's no reason for you to let it go.

Insist on having everything your way - Other family members' traditions are irrelevant. What's really important is that you make everyone conform to the perfect picture of Christmas you have in your head. If they like ham, and you're a turkey crowd, don't even think about compromising your values.

Refuse all offers of help - Let's face it: other people just don't do things correctly, so why bother asking them? Besides, how can you play the martyr if you don't get yourself all stressed out? It's easier to resent people if you never give them the chance to do anything.

Rehash old arguments - If you've festered long enough (see Tip 3), you should be ready to blow by Christmas Eve. A mental list of old grievances is handy, but since you might be drunk (See Tip 1), I recommend compiling a written list of all the things anyone has ever done to make you angry. Use it as a guide during your tirade.

Be cheap about sleeping arrangements - If you're visiting out of town family, don't waste money on a comfortable room in a nearby hotel. An old sofa bed with a skinny mattress and a thick metal bar in the center of it will ensure that you wake up cranky from day one. Plus tossing and turning all night will help you relive all those past arguments and hurts (See Tips 2 and 5).

Judge every gift - Graciousness and gratitude are passť. Evaluate your gifts based on how much money they spent and how well they know your personal preferences You may only see them sporadically, but if your family really cared about you, they would know that you like vanilla scented candles, not cranberry ones.

Being miserable takes work. But if you put your mind to it and follow my tips, you too can have a horrible holiday.

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Angst is in the air: Be careful it's catching
Lisa Earle McLeod
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I can't take any more. The economy is tanking, the election is endless, and now it looks like I might have to sell my blood if I want to keep my kids in mac 'n cheese. Oh, and did I mention that, thanks to falling house prices, I probably owe more on my home than it's actually worth? I want to go back to bed, pull the covers over my head and have somebody wake me up when my 401(k) bounces back. I don't know about you, but I'm finding myself so jittery about, well everything, that it's all I can do to surf the net. Kind of ironic, isn't it? I should be working more, but I'm so anxious about my finances that I'm actually working less. Alas, such is the world of grown-ups - stress, anxiety, depression. And to think that I wasted much of my childhood wishing I could be in charge of my own life. Why in the heck did I ever think that was a good idea? Give me a few cookies, a blankey and a nice place to lie down and I swear I'll never complain about an early bedtime again. These are tough times indeed. Even if you're still OK, you'd have to be one cold, hard, rich person to stay immune to all the angst in the air. So how do you cope? How do you get through today when you're so worried about tomorrow that you can't see straight? I overheard a news commentator say that people are thinking twice before they go out to eat or buy new clothes. I'm guessing that those are the people who still have jobs. Because the people without jobs aren't spending a nickel on anything except cheap carbs and keeping a roof over their heads. Yet as depressing as our collective and individual situations may be, the last thing we need to do is let our fear get the best of us. If you spend all day quaking and anxious, guess who wins? The fear. Yes, I know FDR had a roof over his head when he said "we have nothing to fear but fear itself," but he was right. Every moment you waste paralyzed with fear is a moment you could be doing something, or resting up so that you can do something tomorrow. It's been said that there are only two emotions, love and fear, and all the other emotions are derivatives of those. So I'd like to make a suggestion. Let's chose love. Let's decide to love each other and to love ourselves, no matter what happens. And if you're really a Pollyanna, perhaps you'll join me in deciding to love the fact that this crisis is serving as a call for us to become our better selves; a call for us to look within and rid ourselves of consumerism, greed and the need to keep up with the Jones; and a call for us to have more empathy for those who are struggling. Maybe this is a chance for all of us - and I include myself - to decide that we love our country and we love our fellow human beings more than we love our stuff. Yeah, I know it sounds hokey. But you don't change your circumstances until you change the thoughts that created them. Cowering under the covers in fear may feel safer. But in a crisis, the truly powerful response is love. (c) Copyright 2008, by Lisa Earle McLeod. All rights reserved. Lisa Earle McLeod is a keynote speaker, author and nationally syndicated columnist. Her books include "Forget Perfect" and "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear." Contact her at www.ForgetPerfect.com.