Christmas and I need couples advice.
I would tell the therapist how I come from a long line of crazy holidays. One of my parents recovered a tree that she did not like very much: he removed the ornaments, put them in the trunk of the car as if a crowd had hit him and returned him, with locks of tinplate in the hair.
Another loonie in the family kept his artificial tree all year just because.
The fact is, no matter how much you like it, Christmas can look like a layered reenactment of an old war. We make the same tactical mistakes, stay wildly lagging, collect, attack the mall, fail, and then come to feel a bit of the season – fatigue, the senseless obligation, the same emotional mud year after year.
So, when I urge you to start your holiday shopping a little earlier, it's the positive change I'm looking for (as opposed to the negative change, which covers most of the changes).
I want you to leave the gift shopping behind you. So, when tree lighting starts and rinks go up, you'll enjoy the season more than ever.
Ready, ready, snow!
OK, so no snow. But boat parades and fathers on the surf … illuminate the Long Beach canals. SoCal has many holiday traditions and you will not have to worry about getting through the whites and the black ice. Here, roads are rarely frosty, like the Stockbridge Highway in Boston.
After all, Christmas is about birth and rebirth. Like California. Like America even.
If you shop early, you will not spend mid-December fighting for a spot in the Zombie Parking Garage From Hell. Instead, you'll be on the beach, meditating on the glow of a sunset log on the Pacific.
Think of the winter songs that you will have time to enjoy. The children's voices. Pentatonix promotions. And perhaps the best holiday visual of all: a televised football game played in a snowstorm.
Instead of making you groggy with an Amazon nightly session on December 23rd, you'll either bake, bake or hold small meetings. You're having a party, attending a Christmas party in Monrovia, taking a stroll through Montrose's lights, giving a glass of grog to Manhattan Beach.
Start here with this gift guide, your holiday checklist, your gateway to a better and more satisfying Christmas.
If you remove the panic of shopping, you could even offer a better gift, a little more thoughtful, a little more engaged.
For years, I've been a lousy donor, and it started to wear me, looking disappointed, or worse, the false enthusiasm for some kind of lame. In 40 years, I'm pretty sure I never bought clothes where the recipient did not think, at least indoors, really?
Yet they held him, smiled, said thanks. This can really be about a guy.
I'm still not very good at gifts, but for improvement, because I started to dork with lists on my phone – new clever writers or great upcoming shows. I found that the tickets are a great gift for teens and 20 year olds. Or ski passes. Or surfing lesson.
For older children, think about experiences, not things.
Whatever you do, do not tell your friends about your early bird purchases. And do not be proud – they will hate you for it, suggesting that you have abandoned your procrastination and long-standing dysfunctional principles. They will feel like they do not know you anymore.
"What child is it?" They ask.
To be sure, you might want to look a bit tired, moan about traffic.
Hey, no matter what you do, the holidays will never be easy. But by finishing early, you may be able to offer the best indulgence of December:
A nap under a soft blanket, next to a snoring dog.
Find the work of columnist Chris Erskine at latimes.com/middleages