Work is important, and so is play. Often times it feels like even leisure activities manage to become a new source of stress and complexity.
In this post I’m not referring to large scale or important events like traveling overseas, weddings, graduations, funerals, and so on. These all do require massive planning, coordination, reservations, and cost sharing.
Don’t Make Fun Events Stressful
In short, don’t make otherwise fun events, stressful ones.
Growing up, my parents would make me and my siblings all wear matching outfits and pose for our annual Christmas photo. There was always a rush to get dressed, a rush to the photographer, a lot of yelling, a lot of tension, a lot of my sister and me getting grounded for – gasp – not having authentic smiles.
Then stress would manage to sneak itself into the holidays themselves. Every year without fail my siblings and I were rushed to open our parents presents, then immediately whisked off to Grandma 1’s house, and then plucked out and flung over to Grandma 2. There was never any breathing room and the experience sucked the life out of the fun.
Traffic accidents, funerals, IRS audits, cancer in the family, and Piers Morgan evoke negative emotions, and rightfully so. But not everything needs to be a stress fest.
Your family’s annual Christmas photos should not be stressful. Christmas and Thanksgiving should not be stressful. A trip to Disneyland should not be stressful. A vacation should not be stressful. Camping, road trips, beach trips, going to the movies, parties and casual get-togethers should not be stressful.
If you’re stressing out over something that’s supposed to be fun, you’re doing it wrong.
Don’t Over Plan
I’ve witnessed people of all walks turn leisure activities into stressful activities, and simple days at the beach into overcomplicated logistical nightmares.
As a kid in the 90’s I didn’t have a cell phone or social media account, but miraculously I was somehow able to hang out with my friends after school, on weekends, and during the holiday breaks between semesters.
My mom did have a cell phone, but not everyone did. And before texting was popular and Facebook was even a whisper, somehow her and all her friends and relatives managed to coordinate parties just fine, without the endless game of ping pong that we now call planning a party.
These days, planning a party or social outing requires no less than 87 text messages, satellite imagery, and four carrier pigeons. Where are we meeting? Can we move it back? Whose car are we taking? Who’s driving? Who’s coming? Where are you parking? What are you bringing?
Having fun yet? Remember, keep it simple, stupid.
You Only Need One Chief
Democracy sucks sometimes, especially when it comes to festivities. A lot of people like to weigh in or change something about an event for no other reason than they get to feel like they were in control. If you schedule something for Saturday they’ll ask to move it to Sunday. You schedule it for 2pm, they’ll insist it get pushed to 4. You plan on everyone meeting at your house, they want to get picked up. You already have a static plan in place, but they insisting on altering it in some way. There are always going to be people who attempt to swim against the tide. Don’t let them steer you off course.
I remember the good old days when planning went like this “This is the time. This is the place. We’ll find out who’s coming when we get there. I’m leaving my place at 11 if you want to hitch a ride. Hope to see you Saturday! Oh, and bring some friends!”
Don’t be uncompromising where it’s easy and convenient. 15 minutes here or there won’t kill you. But once the original planner is feeling like this is no longer what they wanted to do, it’s gone too far. Pick one chief to lead all the Indians.
When it comes to hosting a party, especially at home, here’s a simple tip. More is better. Expecting 10 people? Prepare for 20. People may bring a friend, or at the very least an empty stomach. My mom and dad are notorious for running out of red wine at their house parties and I always get stuck on a liquor run. You’d figure after all these years they’d learn we have a family of alcoholics and simply double down in the wine department.
When you throw a party don’t be conservative. Expect to throw down some mullah and don’t expect to make it back. You wanna be the host with the most? It’ll cost ya.
If someone’s friend or significant other decides to tag along, it shouldn’t throw a major wrench into your perfectly planned watermelon-slices-to-people-ratio.
Besides, if you over purchase anything, there’s no reason you can’t eat hotdogs, artichoke dip, and red wine for the next two weeks. The meal of champions!
Bringing a little something to take the pressure off the host is always appreciated. Of course what you bring depends on the nature of the party, and if you’re sticking around or simply poking your head in for a quick visit to show face.
Whatever it is you bring, make sure it fits the party. Go with the flow and bring something that would please the crowd. If you aren’t sure just call ahead of time and ask what the host is running low on. For summer parties you can never go wrong with beer, ice, and chips.
Don’t be RSVP Hell-bent
This isn’t me saying that people should never expect others to RSVP. Sometimes there is a place for it, sometimes it really doesn’t matter, so pick your battles.
In my humble opinion, people are too RSVP oriented nowadays. This means that with any social gathering, regardless of the cost, scheduling involved, nature, formality, or urgency of the event, they fully expect everyone to affirmatively say “Yes, I am going.” Or “No, I am not going”. The days of “Hey we’re throwing a party, hope you can make it!” seem to be long gone.
It used to be this is what we’re doing, when we’re doing it, and whoever shows up shows up. These days you have some party planner up your ass and around the corner “Are you coming? Well are you?! LMK! Did you RSVP? Did you get my evite?! LMK ASAP!” As if your attendance will make or break the plan.
If someone can’t make it or doesn’t show up, miss them, but don’t harass them. There will always be a next time, and it’s not worth souring friendships over party attendance.