It’s the holiday season and I am reminded of my childhood living near Pittsburgh, PA (Go Steelers!!) where this time of year meant snow. Snow… the very word conjures up pictures from the greeting cards and commercials. There’s nothing like the pure driven snow. It looks so beautiful evenly placed over the ground… covering up the bumpy imperfections of the earth beneath it. Pure white flakes delicately balanced 1 or 2 inches high on each individual tree branch. It’s so majestic.
What we sometimes forget from the perspective of these images is that it’s FREEZING out there! If we want to go outside, we have to spend 20 minutes putting on 6 layers of clothes and big boots to look like the Michelin man as we try to make our way to the car. Getting to the car is just the beginning of the battle. Then you have to try to open the door that Mother Nature has so kindly iced shut in the frigid wind. Once you make your way in, you start up the car because it’ll take a few minutes before it’s ready to go. Then, you step back out into the frozen tundra with your handy-dandy piece of plastic (otherwise known as your ice scraper). Sometimes the snow is so deep that you have to remove some of it with your arm, but then the scraping begins. You debate, as your toes, nose and fingers start to become numb whether or not you’ll just scrape the driver’s side or the whole windshield. You clear one square foot in front of the driver before your plastic scraper freezes and disintegrates. So you take off your gloves, reach into your wallet for the credit card that you use the least, and try to make the area bigger before returning to the less freezing environment of your car.
Oh, the beauty and majesty of the season!
I tell you this story because the illusions of Christmas and the holidays can be just as stressful as freeing your car of the “beautiful, splendid snow”.
Hallmark and other institutions have forever painted our holiday season with joy and happiness and gifts. We’re all getting that Lexus with a big red bow this year, right? The family will get together and all sit around the 12 person dinner table flawlessly decorated with placemats and red and green napkins. The patriarch of the family is standing at the head of the table carving the turkey or ham. The matriarch is passing around the perfectly prepared side dishes… mashed potatoes with un-lumpy gravy, green bean casserole with the crunchy onions on top, and homemade cheese raviolis (my mom’s Italian, ya know). They’ll all hold hands and sway as they sing grace just like the Whos in Whoville. Then they will tuck in their napkins and politely converse over the holiday meal. Oh, the joy and happiness!
Really? Does that happen anywhere?
If you’ve read my newsletter for any length of time, you understand the dangers of fantasies and unrealistic expectations. When your brain ponders these fantasies over time, your systemic, creative brain can start to believe that the fantasy is real (or should be real). Then when your mind compares reality to the fantasy, reality stinks! Fantasy has NO parameters. Reality does. Sometimes our minds forget that. Your mind believes the fantasy is what should be and what really is must be wrong. That can create a lot of stress.
Your mind can envision the fantasy holiday table and the beautiful presents. Children are laughing and giggling with delight as they unwrap the gift you carefully chose for them. You rehearse this in your mind and then… (What happens next?) Does reality match your fantasy? If so, you’ll find joy. If not, you’ll find unnecessary frustration discouragement and other negative emotions. Fantasies can be a pleasant escape but they can also be very dangerous. These fantasies can build “shoulds” and these “shoulds” (expectations) can add needless stress – taking away joy from what was otherwise delightful.
This Christmas and holiday season I want to encourage you to set aside your expectations and simply greet each moment – in the moment – with love in your heart. As Og Mandino writes:
I will greet this day with love in my heart.
And how will I do this?
Henceforth, will I look on all things with love and I will be born again.
I will love the sun for it warms my bones;
yet I will love the rain for it cleanses my spirit.
I will love the light for it shows me the way;
yet I will love the darkness for it shows me the stars.
I will welcome happiness for it enlarges my heart;
yet I will endure sadness for it opens my soul.
I will acknowledge rewards for they are my due;
yet I will welcome obstacles for they are my challenge.
I will greet this day with love, and I will succeed.
It’s easy to translate Og’s words to our current holiday experience… I will love the cold for it brings us the snow; yet I will love the warmth for it cooks our meals. You choose your perspective. If you choose the perspective of fantasy, you are setting yourself up for resentment, disappointment and discouragement. If you choose the perspective of the “now”, you open yourself up to the possibilities of joy, delight, happiness and love.
They say yesterday is history, tomorrow’s a mystery, and today is a gift – that’s why we call it the present.
I want to inspire you to stay in the present.
I want to encourage you to find the joy in this holiday journey by choosing your perspective carefully. Don’t “should” all over your festivities. 🙂
“In the now” is the only time when you can truly experience joy, fulfillment, happiness, and delight. This holiday season try not to compare reality to your expectations and fantasies. It won’t add any value to the season. Stay in the present and enjoy the gift.