Dec. 21, 2010 -- Annie Zirkel from Ann Arbor, Mich., is a finalist in the Dear GMA Advice Guru Contest. Read her response to a viewer-submitted question below!
Question from Lenora in 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!"
One of the best things about getting older is that it often brings wiser along with it. In this case you are wise enough to know that it is time to change part of your family's Christmas tradition. So let's see how to move you there while replacing your guilt with some new thinking along the way.
First, consider rethinking how you see your family. While you feel bad about letting them down, consider replacing that guilt with a vision of a resilient and creative family that cares enough about each other not to want to see anyone, let alone you, get sick for the sake of tradition. Give them an opportunity to care about you. Then appreciate them for it.
Once they have had a little time to absorb the news focus on ideas for what can replace your efforts. Perhaps there are other culinary talents that can now have room to shine. Is there someone in the family you can pass this torch too? Remember your stepping back gives others an opportunity to step up and try new things. Make it easier by being supportive and open to input for the new traditions waiting to be born.
Also, remember you don't have to make it an all-or-nothing change. In fact this might keep you from having to miss a part of the tradition that you enjoyed. You might want to start by dividing some of the tasks. Perhaps some guests could bring the appetizers, or everyone could bring a side dish. Even consider just giving away the tasks you're tired of and keeping the good stuff. You've earned it!
As for those special cookies and goodies, if you still want a hand in them but it feels overwhelming, why not start a new tradition? How about inviting some grandchildren or grand nieces and nephews into your kitchen to show them some of your culinary secrets? What a great opportunity to pass on new skills, old stories and waiting memories that can carry forward for many years to come.
Whatever ends up feeling right for you, remember this. Another great thing about age is that you can choose to become impatient with things like guilt. It really can zap your good energy and, sadly, be an unhappy ending to all of the wonderful contributions you have made to your family over the years.
Change can mean loss but it is also the only way for new possibilities to find their way into your family's story. Sure it won't be done the same. Maybe this year will even be the year of the burnt cookies. But hopefully it will also be the year of love and laughter and awesome family togetherness which is the most important part of the meal anyway.