We all have so much to do around the holidays, and it can be hard to prioritize. But I have a secret weapon that you might like, too, so I'll fill you in:
My secret weapon is guilt.
I no longer try to free myself from guilt. Instead, I welcome guilt and put it to work for me. I built myself a Guilt-O-Meter with a 1-to-10 scale, which I consult whenever a task presents itself. If it's a task I'd feel too guilty to ignore, the needle on the Guilt-O-Meter goes to 10, and I do it right away. For example, work scores a 10 on the Guilt-O-Meter, so I work a lot. This is good for my mortgage payments, if not for my social life, but whatever. Life is too short to live with guilt. I say, do what your guilt tells you.
On my Guilt-O-Meter, all housework scores between 1 and 3, except for ironing or cleaning my closet, which are both 0. Recycling is a 10, but rinsing the bottles first is a 2. Working out is supposed to be a 9, but it's secretly a 5. Accumulating late fees at the library is a 7, but at Blockbuster, it's a 2. Why? The former is guilt-inducing, and the latter merely annoying. This isn't a column about the Merely-Annoying-O-Meter.
Of course, you don't have to agree with my scores. Use them as guilt guidelines. Feel free to customize your Guilt-O-Meter.
Pimp your guilt!
My Guilt-O-Meter malfunctions during the holidays because there are too many tasks for its sensitive needle. There's no guilt like Christmas Guilt. Just ask Ebenezer Scrooge. And it's not only Christmas Guilt. I grew up in a Jewish neighborhood, and when my friends told me they got Hanukkah gelt, I thought they said Hanukkah guilt. Now I have Hanukkah Guilt, too.
During the holidays, my work guilt conflicts with so many other guilt options. Not-Sending-Out-Greeting-Cards Guilt is a 6. Cat-Hair-In-Scotch-Tape Guilt is a 5. However, Gift-Wrap-Without-Ribbon Guilt is a 0.
Let go of the ribbon thing, people. We can only do so much.
My Guilt-O-Meter failed me recently, and it was all because of the holidays. One morning, I woke up in a paroxysm of Gift Guilt because I hadn't bought a single present yet. A paroxysm is off the Guilt-O-Meter, scoring a 283,949. Paroxysms are usually reserved for Forgetting-Your-Mother's-Birthday Guilt, which I don't have, or Accidentally-Cutting-Your-Dog's-Ear-When-You-Clipped-Her-Fur Guilt, which I do.
Anyway, when I woke up in the paroxysm, I knew I had to get to the mall immediately. I hurried to the bathroom, where I noticed that the toilet flushed too slowly. I needed to get it checked, but calling a plumber scored only a 1 on the Guilt-O-Meter. I made a mental note to call him later, then clean my closet and iron something.
I dressed, hurried downstairs, and got a drink of water. Oddly, the garbage disposal was backing up, so I took another Guilt-O-Meter reading. A broken garbage disposal rated only another 1. I figured I'd call the disposal guy after I called the plumber after I cleaned my closet and ironed something.
So I went to the mall, shopped all day, and bought so many presents that my Gift Guilt fell to 0. My Credit-Card Guilt upticked to 3, but that's comfortable for me. I left the mall happy, or in any event, much less guilty.
But when I got home, there was bad news. I'll try not to be disgusting, so I'll just say that the toilet had exploded and my first-floor hallway was awash in human waste. I called the plumber and told him what happened, and he asked:
"Is it an emergency?"
Hmmm. I knew why he asked that. Because he was taking a Guilt-O-Meter reading of his own, and Exploding-Toilet-On-A-Friday-Night Guilt was only a 2. Especially when it was Somebody-Else's-Toilet-Around-The-Holidays Guilt.
I bet I reached him at the mall.
For a crazy minute I was stricken with Asking-For-Help Guilt. My Guilt-O-Meter needle shot up to 8, and the wimp inside me said, "Lisa, you meanie, you're asking him to work on the weekend."
Then I flipped it.
I work on the weekend, so why shouldn't the plumber? Work = 10. His Guilt-O-Meter was clearly on the fritz. And anyway, I was pretty sure that if you looked up emergency in the dictionary, you'd see a picture of my first-floor hallway.
I told the plumber, "You're darn tootin' it's an emergency, buddy." Then I put on my galoshes, grabbed the Clorox and a mop, and started cleaning.
So take a lesson from me. This holiday season, let your guilt be your guide.
Except when it comes to plumbing.