Question from Lenora in Sleepy Meadow, Connecticut.: "I am 74 years old. I always make a large dinner for Christmas and bake a lot of cookies and goodies. Now it is getting a little bit "much" for me and I feel guilty if I don't do it. Is there a way I can make the family happy without making myself sick? I hate the guilt feeling!"
Fran's Answer: Some say guilt is a dish best served warm (or is it cold?) but actually I say it's time to toss it right down the garbage disposal with the other leftovers you don't want this holiday season. You've been a wonderful steward in your family, it's okay to back off the cookie detail and be gentler with yourself. Sounds good, but how do you deal with the guilt?
#1: Put your seatbelt on first
There's a line in the movie "Pretty Woman" that Julia Roberts' character and her best friend always say to one another: take care, you. That's what I want you to do. Be kinder to yourself. Sounds like you're tired of the "production" inherent in holidays, and that's perfectly okay. Your family loves you and will likely understand that you no longer feel energized by all the baking you've done over the past few decades. And there's really no need to continue to fatigue yourself mentally or physically in the name of a few sugary treats -- no matter how delicious and irresistible they might be.
#2: Telling the fam's going to be hard
There are two ways to approach this. You can have your family show up to your home expecting your baking magic and then yell, "Surprise!" when they walk through the door. Don't recommend that one. Or you can alert them right now via telephone or email with sentiments that might go a little something like this. "After 50 years of delivering the best cakes, pies and cookies this side of the *insert your favorite river* , I've decided to retire my apron. This holiday season will feature a limited menu of sweets for my sweets. I will still be on hand to sign autographs after dinner." You get the idea. Have fun but also be firm with the news. And don't you dare let those weepy eyes reel you back into the kitchen!
#3: You still feel guilty.
The old adage "get over it" isn't really appropriate here but I will say that your family, if they truly value you, will understand, so there's no need to be a martyr about it. Some of them will moan and groan, others may cry (hopefully only the ones under the age of 2), and the remaining ones will, as we say in the South, "hug your neck" and thank you for your years of service.
You deserve a break, Lenora! Take it.
With all the free time you'll now have this holiday season, check out Ellen Burstyn's book, "Lessons In Becoming Myself". I think you'll enjoy it. You can get it really cheap at http://half.com