The holidays can be stressful. It’s easy to feel pressure to create the perfect holiday experience. The strain of creating magical memories for your children through buying the perfect present or observing the most meaningful traditions can become overwhelming, especially when you’re bombarded by the sounds and sights of holiday bliss in the stores, online and every time you turn on the TV. There are countless cool ways to celebrate that you’ve never thought of, and there’s always someone who celebrates better than you do. But none of us is perfect.
Repeat after me, “I am not perfect.”
I can prove it.
What is the most perfect movie of all time? If you said anything other than “Mary Poppins,” then we might have to step outside to settle this. I can’t imagine a better movie or a more fabulous heroine than Mary Poppins. Mary can fly through the air aided only by her umbrella, transport herself and her charges into a magical chalk drawing, slide up the staircase to the astonishment of the children and is beloved by all. Yet for all of her accomplishments, Mary Poppins is only “practically perfect in every way.” Her tape measure could have described her as “positively perfect in every way,” but it didn’t. She is “practically perfect.”
Any student of the English language knows that “practically perfect” means “almost perfect,” or “not quite all the way perfect.” You might even say, “very nearly perfect.” But the qualifier leaves no doubt that Mary Poppins is not, in fact, perfect.
Now I ask you: if Mary Poppins herself is not perfect, why should you expect to be? Do you think you can be more perfect than Mary Poppins? Come on! The best thing you can do is to remember that there is only one Mary Poppins, and you are not her. Strive to be “practically perfect” instead. It takes all the pressure off.
So what does it look like to be “practically perfect” for the holidays?
When it comes to buying presents, don’t feel like you have to find that one perfect gift that will prove your love for its recipient. Just pick something fun, something they might like. It’s OK if it’s not perfect. Practically perfect is good enough. If you ordered gifts online and they didn’t arrive on time, don’t despair. There are 12 days of Christmas for a reason!
When you decorate for the holidays, don’t worry about perfection. If you drop your favorite candelabra and break one of the five glass candleholders, don’t panic. Just ditch the other four, set the candles straight onto the metal frame and move forward. No one but you will miss the glass. When looking for a Christmas tree, don’t stress over the perfect fit. Judicious use of a handsaw can make it practically perfect in no time. If you come down to Christmas Eve and the tree isn’t decorated yet, don’t sweat it. If you can’t get your lights hung up until after Christmas, no big deal. Leave them up until the spring equinox; your neighbors will thank you for lighting the dark days of winter.
On New Year’s Eve, if you fall asleep at 9:30 p.m. when you’re trying to make it to midnight, don’t fret. You don’t have to start the new year exhausted or incapacitated by a hangover just because of some tradition. A good night’s sleep sounds like a practically perfect way to ring in the new year to me.
If you’re entertaining on New Year’s Day and you forget to turn on the oven so the ham is three hours behind schedule, don’t despair. Mary Poppins might say that hunger makes the best sauce. Your guests will be so hungry by the time you finally sit down to eat that your feast will be practically perfect.
When you turn your thoughts to New Year’s resolutions, remember the lessons you learned from Mary Poppins. You could consider yourself to be practically perfect already, and skip the resolutions completely. No one would fault you for that. But if you do resolve to better yourself, don’t worry if you slack off. If you resolve to tidy up your kitchen every night before you go to bed, but you miss an average of two to three nights a week in the month of January, keep plugging away. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Any amount of tidying is a step forward.
When you’re celebrating the holidays, keep in mind that you don’t have to create the perfect experience. Practically perfect is good enough. Or, as Mary Poppins might say, “Enough is as good as a feast.” Wise words from a practically perfect person!
• Peggy McKee Barnhill is a wife, mother and author who writes cozy mysteries under the pen name “Greta McKennan.” She likes to look at the bright side of life. Her column runs on the last Sunday of every month.