Oh Christmas. It’s pretty much here. The lights are twinkling on the houses. The cars are already losing their reindeer ears. The consumers are becoming more bustly in the shopping centres. The council has erected a wonderful ‘tree’ made of recycled tyres. I’ve begun listening to Kylie’s Christmas album on the drive to work. And Trudy and I have officially opened the Christmas season by watching Love Actually. (This will not be the only time this season).
I love Christmas time. I’m one of those people who may possibly have genes derived from elves. I really come alive from during the festive period. And there’s so many things I love about it.
But there is something that I struggle with, and that’s the expectations. Every time.
I remember one of the first times my Christmas expectations were really not met in a really big way.
I must have been about 9 or so and I had asked Santa for The Baby Sitters Club board game. So the game based on the series of books. I really, really, really, really wanted this game and I thought it was going to be really, really, really, really awesome. I remember waking up in the very early light and finding my pillow case Santa sack lumpy at the end of my bed and in it - the BABY SITTERS CLUB BOARD GAME!! I was totally overjoyed! I was so happy. I remember staring at it and feeling like I was going to burst with joy! Life was fabulous! I did not go back to sleep.
So first thing in the morning – or 20 minutes later, whatever came first – I got the family together for a game. Oh dear. Unfortunately this game was a little difficult to play if you hadn’t read the prescribed texts beforehand. So for Mum and Dad and Trudy (who was about 4), they really struggled to partake. And I was shattered. The game was a dud. It required people to play with, and I was the only one I knew nerdy enough to devour books about teenagers who spend their time looking after children and dealing with the resultant minor misdeamenours.
I got over it and somehow I still manage to believe that Christmas is the most wonderful time of year. A time for me marked by family and weird traditions and thoughtful love and giving. And I try and look for the good that the Christmas can bring out in all of us.
But I still get caught up in the high expectations sometimes. Thankfully though these expectations have matured slightly. Now it’s more about my pavolva rising properly. Or the look of astonishment on the face of a loved one when I present them with the the most meaningful gift. Or fitting in time to connect with all the friends over the festive period. Or attend all the Christmas parties.
And before I know it, the shades of disappointment begin to creep back in as it’s pretty clear the season will not measure up to what I had in mind.
But there’s some things we can do when we start to notice the burgeoning of expectationsbeginning to weigh on us over the holidays. Here’s a few I’ve found helpful in the past:
Find the main thing.
From table settings and gift wrapping to the ultimate Spotify playlist and guest list, December is full of opportunity. But there can be a very fine line between opportunity and distraction. What do you want the season to represent? Is it loved ones or rest? Gift giving or food? Or is it something to do with religion? Whatever you decide, try and let that be the priority and not get distracted by the rest.
Realise perfection is not possible.
Yep, still working on this one.
Remember that everyone else has different expectations to you.
No one else wanted The Baby Sitters Club Board Game. Just me. Definitely no one else wanted to play it. Unfortunately going into Christmas Day with a universal belief that this game was going to the best ever and that everyone around me was going to enjoy it as much as I was set myself up for mammoth disappointment.
Holidays are the perfect time for napping. Trust me, I am a champion napper. Running ourselves ragged to try and achieve perfection rarely achieves perfection. It usually results in negative attitudes, short tempers and snotty noses.
If you can, try and rest your judgments too.
Totally boring I know, but knowing when to stop is not a bad thing. In general, too much of a good thing can usually turn into a bad thing from over-eating to over-drinking to over-sharing to over-spending. Celebrating within our means is actually not a high expectation.
Look for the ‘real’ good.
Instead of focusing on the ‘perfect’ images of Christmas fed to us through rom-coms (as good as they are), advertising and retail outlet window displays, that can highlight our inadequacies at Christmas time look for the heart at it all. Whatever that is for you. Regardless of our religious (or non-religious) preference, there is much more to the world that the things that are really obvious. Try and find the things that are championing the love and the hope (insert your equivalent Christmas 'good' here) that celebrate the Christmas for you.