It is already the second Sunday in Advent, Sarah's little Christmas tree is counting down relentlessly, and everywhere I see and hear the sights and sounds of mounting panic in the face of Christmas almost present.
But dearest Tif has sent me this embroidered traycloth to fortify me in my resolve, and I have taken her advice to heart - I am going to remain calm, and carry on calmly towards the holidays, looking forward to some holiday, some celebrating, some good food ... but I am determined to avoid excess, especially on the shopping and the anxiety front.
And Floss has been encouraging us all to Pause in Advent, with which I heartily agree, especially if that pause involves a little quiet time on the sofa.
And then I thought of the words of Max Ehrmann's 'Desiderata', found on a million posters in the 1970s, but still valid and relevant and full of wisdom.
It begins with the words: 'Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.' So perhaps you may find time to take your own little pause and indulge yourself in a little silence, so that you may continue your journey towards the festivities quite placidly.
I think that it is important to remember that it is only one day amongst many, and sometimes we aim for too much in the way of perfection. And ask yourself, too, what you are really worrying about - and if your worries came to pass, would it really be so very bad?
If you are on good terms with your guests (and I do believe that it is a useful principle in life to determine on being on the most amiable terms with all guests, bearing in mind that, by definition, the presence of a guest is always temporary), then look upon it as a chance to get together and have a nice chat. And if you tell yourself it is not a banquet nor a competition, but merely a glorified Sunday lunch, then the prospect of cooking doesn't seem nearly so daunting. And if the numbers are more than you feel you can manage, ask them to help by bringing a pudding or their pinny. I also make it a point of principle not to cook (or, rather, not to instruct the Head Chef to cook) anything that will not be eaten or is disliked by the majority, regardless of invented tradition.
If the recipients don't like their presents, I hope they are polite enough not to show it, and if they do, well they can always give them to someone else who will appreciate them more, I won't mind at all. As I discussed here, I think the important thing is to give out blessings without thought of return, and that way you won't be disappointed in what you might receive. Unwanted presents can always be given to a charity shop, and that way they can do some good in the world.
And if the guests are apt to be disagreeable, why, just smile at them and make empathetic noises, and feel sorry for them in their self-induced unhappiness with life; after all, we are all the architects of our own misery or joy, and I know that my own wish in life is to spread joy, not sadness or anger.
And I am sure that the way that you can make your children happy is to be happy yourself, and teach them that satisfaction does not come from desiring what you do not have, but from contentment with what you already possess. That is the most valuable gift you can give them.
As Ehrmann writes, 'With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.'
So there ends my little homily, I hope I don't sound too hectoring: I am not really telling you how to live your life, but telling myself - I find that the more I repeat these things (yes, I do sit in a corner muttering to myself rather a lot), the more that they come true. And, yes, Pollyanna is still my heroine, as I mentioned here. And I am getting so old and wise that I feel impelled to share my philosophies (although perhaps not quite as old as Alice, for my children don't yet prepare food for me, but she gives me hope that such an occasion is imminent.)
And tomorrow or the next day I will be back to tell you about pesky squirrels, the most wonderful two dollar earrings, and the joy of buying yourself a present. I know I have mentioned this before, but it can't be recommended too much as an antidote to the stress of buying presents for other people - remember I gave you some handy shopping advice here, so you don't even have to move from your chair to do it!