Expectations and holiday cheer

My only criteria for having a successful holiday is that I remain a sane and likeable person throughout. I start holiday preparations early. I keep them simple. I set the expectation for myself that holidays are not about the gifts, the decorations, or the food. They are about creating connection and good feeling. I keep in mind that my family is going to be exactly who they are on that day, just as they are every other day. Maybe the best self will show up, maybe not, we cannot know. But there is not any reason to believe that all will be perfect: the decorations, the food, the gifts, the people. It will be what it is and I will enjoy whatever it is, because…..why not?

So, this season, I thoroughly enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday. All four days. I did not begin any Christmas preparations in the middle of Thanksgiving. I just fully enjoyed the first before even thinking about the next.

At the beginning of December, we got out the advent calendar, the stockings, the nativity set. We read Christmas books at bedtime. The kids played with their nativity set. We made plans about what goodies to bake for Santa. We began crafting, making gifts for our friends and family. We spent a week or so in blissful creative mode together, loving every moment. It felt really good, like a little taste of holiday cheer.

Then there was a week that it seemed every morning when I woke up to check in with the world via email or facebook, I would be in tears. A mama friend received a cancer diagnosis. A friend’s infant son who had been ill his whole life, passed away. A friend, a single mother, lost her job two weeks before Christmas. A friend going through divorce, facing Christmas as a single parent for the first time. Reading the news, which I can just barely stand to read even on good days, became entirely unbearable that week. I became overwhelmed with sadness and found myself saying, “No fair! And seriously, at Christmas time?”.

Which reminded me that it isn’t just in my little corner of the world that small things may not be perfect for the holidays. It’s everyone, it’s everywhere, and sometimes it’s really big things. Holiday cheer……it is real, of course, but there is so much more.

This year, this season, I am feeling this complicated jumble of grief and sadness and “no fair”ness and hopelessness and hopefulness and gratitude and compassion and love. It’s a lot all at once. It really is. But if I can hold it all at once, all of it, it is a full and rich experience. True to life. True to every season, holiday or otherwise.

Sending love and warmest holiday wishes to all! See you next year!

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