Expectations and the Holidays

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. For starters, the sun is less visible, causing a lower level of vitamin D and more cases of the blues, if not depression. And then we have 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.  Perhaps they’ve recently lost a loved one – 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 they sometimes portray 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 one holiday or another. 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 year, 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.

Over the past 10 years or so, my husband has been a professional Santa.  While his work can be grueling  (try being “jolly” for 6-10 hours at a time), it affords the opportunity for us to witness some great excitement and some very touching scenarios we might not otherwise be exposed to.  It helps remind me what the holidays are really about.  Love and giving. That helps me keep the expectations at bay.

I love having my family here, but as we plan for this Christmas, we are looking forward to taking our 6 year old granddaughter with us to her Aunt & Uncle’s house in Chicago, who have some pretty big surprises planned for her.  For the past several years, we’ve been able to see the holidays through her eyes, as she’s tried to figure out why Papa looks like Santa – or is it the other way around? I’m hoping this year will rank up there at the top of my “favorite holiday” list. But I’ve learned that the only way it can 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.

Hoping your holidays are filled with lots of love and fewer expectations.