Dropping Expectations: The Holiday Gift We Give Ourselves

Holiday lights.  A landscape blanketed with snow.  Hot tea, cozy sweaters, and a fireplace.  Time—time alone and time with those I love.  Cooking, baking, and eating.  A good Christmas Eve service with lots of carols and not much sermonizing.  Gifts of experiences rather than things.  This spells Christmas for me.

The Christmas I enjoy today is miles away from what I knew in childhood.  Time, change, and age has taught me that much of the stress that people feel this time of the year comes from two things: their own expectations and the expectations of other people.  Too many times we try to recreate a mythically perfect past Christmas, or work like mad to manufacture one for someone else.  But things change.  People die, kids grow up, families drift apart, and if we don’t let go of the fantasy and embrace what is, we’ll make this time of the year miserable for ourselves and everyone around us.

The greatest gift we can give ourselves is to stop trying to do and be it all, release what is no longer relevant, and embrace what brings us joy.  We can choose to spend, eat, and drink in moderation.  We can choose to drop other people’s expectations and reexamine our own. It’s in our power to forgive other people, to set boundaries as needed, and let go of bitterness.  We can choose to take a break from outrage and discord and gift ourselves and others with kindness and gentleness.  

Whatever this festive season means to you, I wish you the biggest gift of all: the freedom to drop the “shoulds”, the “musts” and the “have-tos” and keep only those things that hold meaning for you.  

Happy holidays