The Holidays are a good time to take up the topic of Expectations. We set ourselves up for disappointment time after time when it comes to family, friends, colleagues, and lovers, perhaps never more than during this season. How does this work? I’ll share my experience of ongoing liberation from Expectations, using the Holidays to highlight the process. Your celebrations can be as lovely, or more so, if you keep it simple.
It’s okay to have a vision of how we want to celebrate the Holidays. Where I tripped myself up in the past is by having a script for how others should behave – husband, parent, children, siblings etc. And, when inevitably they did not play their part as I expected, I did one of several things. Sometimes I would over function and play their expected role as well as my own. I’m sure you can imagine how that ended – in exhaustion and resentment. Other times I would cajole, argue, and entreat to try to get things to play out a particular way. (Now, I feel tired just writing about this!)
I expected active alcoholics to be sober for me, people who had awful experiences of Christmas to love it, myself to find the perfect gift for everyone – and on and on. Now that I’m freeing myself from the burden of Expectations, I look forward to the holidays with optimism and delight. I’m safe in the knowledge that I won’t overdo it and that whomever I’m with, I will appreciate their presence and not focus on who isn’t there.
Can we plan a holiday season without Expectations? Not entirely, but we can set realistic goals for ourselves and grant others the right to opt in or out as their comfort level dictates. It starts with knowing what you are willing and able to do, where you want to be, and with whom you are comfortable interacting. The next step is to share this information, well ahead of time, with anyone who needs to know it. Realistic goals often means downsizing the scale of your decorating and gift-giving. You may find that you experience relief, not disappointment.
Do you have the fortitude to say a firm and kindly no to others Expectations of you? If someone doesn’t want to participate in a holiday activity dear to your heart, can you accept their decision with grace? Flexibility and the willingness to yield control are necessary to navigate the season with ease. I ask myself “How can I simplify this while honoring the traditions I cherish?” One way is to yield the favorite family recipe to the next generation. In other words, allow others to help when they offer. Ask them if they haven’t offered.
One of the unexpected benefits for me in letting go of Expectations has been time for spontaneous gatherings and room in my life for the unexpected joy. I’m a lot more fun to be around because I’m not stressed and overwhelmed. Kindness and compassion need space to thrive. When we over-schedule, stress out, and hold everyone to an impossible standard where is the celebration in that? If you feel yourself falling out of balance, chances are Expectations have crept in. Joy is the theme of the season, shelve your Expectations, treasure your loved ones, radiate Joy.