If you're like most of us, you've spent the past six weeks planning and organizing and shopping and cleaning and cooking and wrapping and mailing and decorating and entertaining until you're about to drop.
Now it's time to open these seven Christmas presents to yourself.
See that box in the corner? Open it first! It's the gift of time. Time just for you -- each day, each week, each month. Time that's set aside -- no matter what! -- for you to refill your well of emotional and psychic energy in a way that feels good to you alone.
You would give this gift to a friend, if you could -- but you can't. Only you can set aside a short, healing period of time for yourself each day.
Next, the gift of the word "No," to be used by you -- often! -- as in: "No, I won't be able to . . ." and "No, I don't have time . . ." and "No, I wouldn't be glad to . . ." and "No, it isn't a good time . . ." and "No, I don't want to!"
Next, the gift of starting sentences with the word "I," as in: "I feel . . ." "I think . . .," "I need . . ." "I want . . ." "I will do this . . ." "I won't do that . . ."
And the present with the candy cane on top? It's a handy-dandy guilt-buster -- to be turned on any time you're being plagued by useless, self-destructive working mother/ wife/daughter/friend guilt.
Next, a complicated present. It's the gift of self-acceptance. Of your hopes. Your dreams. Your fears. How you look. How you sound. What you like. What you don't like. What you want. What makes you happy. What makes you sad.
All of you -- every piece -- from this day forward must be entirely acceptable to you, for without this gift to yourself, no one else's gifts will make you happy.
The gift of time for friendship is under your tree, too -- something we working women too often sacrifice because we feel as if we just can't find time for the people in our lives who nurture and nourish and sustain us.
How will you find this precious time for friends, you ask? By refusing from this day forward to allocate even one more minute of your time to people who drain and exhaust and take from you without ever giving back!
Finally, your seventh gift from yourself to yourself this Christmas is a well-deserved, long-overdue pat on your back -- from you to you -- for all the things you did right during this busy holiday season and all the things you do right all year.
May you have the warmest, merriest, most loving new year of all. You've earned it!
Questions and comments for Niki Scott should be addressed Working Woman, Features Department, The Sun, Baltimore 21278.