“Was it everything you dreamed it would be?” she asked.
And she was serious–not an ounce of sarcasm in her question. She sounded so sincere in fact, I hated to let her down with my answer.
“Well, not really.” I quietly replied. “It was good. Don’t hear be wrong. Great to be away and see all these amazing things we had always dreamt of seeing. But, the truth is, I always kind of forget about how tiring travel can be, the realities of sleeping in hotels, eating other culture’s food, and . . .”
I could see her eyes glaze over in disbelief as I continued to explain how even dream trips have an enjoyment factor that is limited by one huge variable: Me.
More accurately, the problem rests in me and my expectations of me.
It’s true. Things seem to be a whole lot better in my head than in reality and that gets me into trouble. A lot.
Especially during the holidays.
I picture smiling, happy family members around a Thanksgiving table—all savoring turkey, and asking for seconds in between recounting the blessings they are thankful for.
Instead, it starts with children complaining that they are starving– third-world country child level hungry–because lunch is taking so long to make. Arguments between adults over the best way to make turkey gravy and who can use the oven next carry over to the table. Children say “Eww!” to stuffing and green bean casserole and ask why it’s taking everyone so long to eat. And, I spend the meal looking around at all the China that has to be hand-washed, dreading an afternoon filled with dishes.
And then there’s the guilt. The food guilt. For me it starts right around October 25th. The day I usually purchase, and then secretly break into, the Halloween candy. The holiday eating continues through the turkey feast and all the way through a Christmas cookie ladened December.
Is it possible to really and truly enjoy the holidays? I think so. But we have to get a firm grip on reality first.
Here are some ways to enjoy an imperfect holiday:
First, remember that no one’s holiday is perfect.
Let go of that pressure in your head. It doesn’t matter if her table looks perfect on Instagram—know that she likely didn’t post the picture of the burnt pie or the snot running down the faces of her three sick children.Free yourself from the damaging consequences of comparison. Just enjoy each celebration for what it is: time together with loved ones.
Second, remember that Super Mom doesn’t exist.
If you can’t do it all, that’s okay. (Maybe even better!) If you serve a beautiful Turkey dinner on the nicest disposable plates you could find . . .who cares? Taking shortcuts isn’t a sign of weakness, rather it’s indicative of the fact that you know what’s most important in your life.
Third, take a social media hiatus.
They had what looked like a wonderful evening of looking at Christmas lights wearing their pajamas. They went to dinner at a really nice restaurant on Christmas Eve. They had the biggest Thanksgiving spread I’ve ever seen. If you compare your holiday to everyone else’s Facebook holiday you are sure to keep yourself in the land of misery. Remember, the Instagram photo doesn’t capture the whines of the pajama-clad kids driving the neighborhoods looking at the lights. Neither does social media show you the video of the mom who cooked all that food sweating her skin off in the kitchen and yelling at everyone to stay out of her way because she had a full day of cooking to do.
Fourth, either ask for what you want from your husband or don’t expect to get it.
If you have a secret hope of receiving a certain gift for Christmas, make sure you’ve actually told someone what it is, within a sixty-day period of that holiday. Friends, expectations kill our joy. Your man is likely not a mind-reader, and although your mom may still be able to find that perfect gift that is just, so, “you!” He may not have that (stereotypically female) talent. Send him a photo, a link, or a direct hint of what you want so you don’t open the box expecting to find the lovely new writing journal you showed him last February only to find a “Recipes Men Love” cookbook.
This one probably should have been first. But, did you ever notice how in all the holiday busyness our time with God gets pushed to the side? If you aren’t connecting with Him each day you are sure to stay more stressed and anxious. So, let making that extra dozen cookies slide if it means that you can spend more time reading the Bible and connecting with him. It will keep you grounded through Christmas and all next year too!
Great post Heather. I’m guilty of inflated expectations, and I’m learning to let them go. Thanks for the practical wisdom!