Any client who has worked with me knows I talk about expectations a lot, because they affect everything in our lives – our relationships, our jobs, how we view our lives in general. . .
The holidays are no different. My office is busier this time of year than any other. Most years, the sun is less visible, causing a lower level of vitamin D and more cases of the blues, if not depression. Some of us have lost someone close to us, and are trying to decide how to make a holiday work in the midst of the pain and emptiness. And then there is the anticipation of celebrations that we fear will not measure up to expectations, or the letdown when they didn’t – but mostly I hear the awareness that it won’t actually come close to what it’s “supposed to be”.
In fact, there may be more expectations wrapped around holidays than any other time of year. The media throws romanticized versions at us, dictating what is “traditional”. Many people believe holidays should be spent with loving family where everyone smiles and laughs and gets along wonderfully. If it doesn’t turn out that way – or if their family doesn’t look like that, they feel upset or down that their family is so dysfunctional. And some are just depressed because they don’t have family to spend the holidays with – or can’t be with their family, and feel they have nothing to look forward to at all.
The truth is holidays were seldom, if ever the way the media portrays them for most of us. Movies, TV shows and songs are forms of art. Art is supposed to evoke emotions, so it often portrays things more extremely to reach that sentimental place within each of us.
My husband and I had a few years where we couldn’t connect with any family for the holidays. What we did was to start a new tradition. A couple of Thanksgivings were spent in a Bed & Breakfast at a tourist location where there was lots of shopping and interesting restaurants. One Christmas, we went to a different movie each day for 3 days. The point is that we spent time doing things that we enjoy doing, but seldom have time for.
I love having my family here, but once again this year, our Christmas will be a little empty because we won’t be able to have our son and soon-to-be daughter-in-law with us in person. But our 4 1/2 year old granddaughter is constantly reminding me to stay in the moment and to be in awe of everything that shows up! I’m planning on this Christmas being a very quiet, peaceful day. I’ve learned that the only way it can be is if I go into it without expectations of how everyone should behave. I love them for who they are, not who I want them to be. l don’t have control over them.
But I can be responsible for preparing myself by allowing time for excercise, meditation and eating a relatively healthy diet. I know those things contribute to a better mood for me, and I’m less impulsive and reactive when I do those things.
Finally, I prepare by remembering that (for me) Christmas means giving to others, remembering with love those who are not here in the same way as they once were, and feeling gratitude (and yes, awe) for all the abundance that is in my life.
I wish each and every one of you that same abundance and peace.