Finally Marshmallow-Free!

Okay, so some of you really love marshmallows and don’t understand why I’d single them out for derision.

Allow me to explain.

Stay-Puft Marhsmallow Man,Maggie McReynoldsI don’t actually like marshmallows—never have. To me, they are little plump blobs of sugar and who-the-the-heck-knows-what-else. They are weird and unnatural.

But as it happens, I’m not talking about literal marshmallows. I’m talking about metaphorical ones: the sticky, gooey, unnecessary, over-the-top unhealthy stuff that so many of us pile into our holidays just as we pile them atop our sweet potato casseroles.

We don’t really like them. We don’t really want them. We certainly don’t need them. But there they are anyway, because Grandma always used them, or because we think everyone expects them or because it “wouldn’t seem like (insert holiday here) without them.”

These metaphorical marshmallows are white, fluffy La Brea tarpits of expectation and obligation, all our shoulds and supposed-tos and have-tos and ought-tos miring us in “tradition” and perpetuating guilt, shame and major blood sugar crashes.

This year, there will be no marshmallows, literal or metaphorical, in my holidays or in my life. My yams will be roasted in oil and garlic. My Thanksgiving dinner, if I make one at all, will be a white turkey chili I’ll do in a crockpot and serve buffet-style.

My focus is on writing cards of gratitude to every person I can think of (including myself), and in giving the best gift I can to myself and others: my own authentic, joyful presence, not the exhausted, faintly angry and driven creature who has showed up in my place in Holidays Past. (Think Martha Stewart on a very, very bad day—like maybe the day she got hauled off to prison.)

My other “marshmallows” that have waylaid me in the past like goopy little landmines are overspending, overshopping and overdoing, and I am, finally, over over over them. I am focusing on what makes ME happy. I consider it the equivalent of focusing on what’s inside (candles and twinkle lights, yay!), not what’s on the outside (elaborate reindeer displays on the roof).

I am cooking and eating the food that sustains me and supports my health. I am giving meaningful gifts of time and service. I am giving myself the chance to be happy at what is widely marketed as the “most wonderful time of the year” but is, all too often, a dizzy blur of power-shopping, overeating and credit card debt.

I am kicking every single marshmallow out of my life, scraping their clingy, gratingly sweet grit of obligation from the bottom of my shoes, and moving forward, lighter and happier and in the direction of my dreams. That powerful little clicking sound you hear? Those are my boots, smacking smartly against the pavement. Not a single sound of a sticky, squelchy marshmallow to slow me down anywhere.

Eating/cooking food you don’t like or that doesn’t support your health goals? I call marshmallow. Spending money you don’t have on gifts people probably don’t need or want? Marshmallow. Going to your 7th holiday party in a month because it would “disappoint” someone if you didn’t show? Big, fat, sticky marshmallow.

Got a few marshmallows you’d like to skip this year? Check out my Putting the Happy Back in Your Holidays event, coming up Dec. 5. We’ll be talking not only about how to find separate the joy from the groaning sense of obligation, but also about how to find peace amidst illness, turmoil, bereavement and even grief.

You’ll like your life better without them. Really, really.

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