Posts tagged ‘simple change’

November 11, 2014

A Simple Holiday Hack – Ditch the Expectations!

A Simple Holiday Hack – Ditch the Expectations! Long before you cook the food and set the table, the holiday pressure begins. Will your pie crust turn out flaky; will your flaky aunt Jill embarrass you; will your grandmother act insulted (again) when you don’t eat her rolls? It’s enough to make anyone want to crawl under the covers and skip the whole thing.
Holiday Table Setting

Holidays are so fraught with confusing and conflicting emotion that many of us divorce ourselves from our feelings and numbly stumble through as best we can. Some of us show up out of obligation slightly angry, out of sorts, and ready to snap when someone smiles at us too cheerily. Others of us feel exhausted from stuffing our feelings under three pieces of pecan pie. None of us want this. We want our invisible expectation of love, joy, and wonderment…and we are certain we will not get it.

Today’s simple holiday hack fixes that. Many of the things we view as awful, horrible, exhausting, hurtful, annoying, tiring, or wrong are magnified because of our expectations. The fastest, simplest way to improve our experience of the holidays is to remove those expectations. Let them go. I promise it will be freeing.

So how does letting go of expectations look? It can look like choosing to be kind to yourself in spite of your family’s fussing.
For instance, let’s say your husband’s family is local and your family is 3 hours away, you’ve been working 10 hour days, the kids have been sick, you just finished remodeling and have boxes to unpack. Your mom expects you to come home because you’ve ALWAYS spent Thanksgiving together. She just can’t imagine it without you. And you know how she loves to remind the family of all your missteps. Instead of caving to your mom’s pressure, you choose to spend a few hours with your husband’s family, some relaxed time with your kids, and still have time to make a dent in the unpacking. You choose this option because it is best for you and your immediate family rather than expecting yourself to sacrifice your well-being in order to be the “perfect” daughter.

It can look like allowing the Thanksgiving table to vary from the vision in your head.
You love the tradition of serving the meal on the same china your grandmother used when you were small, but you can’t afford to buy the tablecloth you want. Let go of the picture in your head in which the china sits on that particular tablecloth. You can save up and serve on that tablecloth another year. This year, cover the table with brown kraft or butcher paper, scatter some of your kid’s crayons around and encourage everyone to write or draw things they’re thankful for. You never know what you’ll learn when your family is faced with a blank canvas.

It can look like allowing your children to do what they need to do without repercussions.
No matter how much you may want to be surrounded by your kids and grandkids on Thanksgiving or Christmas, you know that what’s most important is enjoying time together. If your children are not available on the actual holiday, let it be okay. if you really need an “event”. Have it another time. Plan for it. Make it playful! There’s nothing wrong with Thanksgiving in June or Christmas in January!

It can look like taking the time to create a different sort of memory.
Thanksgiving doesn’t have to be focussed on food. Perhaps you rent a house on the beach, build sand castles, and grill hamburgers. Perhaps you take your family shopping for food to donate to a local food bank or shelter. Maybe you meet your parents at a point halfway between your houses to see an art exhibit or in New York City to see some shows on Broadway and eat at Joe Allen.

It can look like setting limits on the time you spend with your family.
If you come from a dysfunctional family, it is okay to limit the amount of time you will spend with them. If they trigger feelings of danger, fear, or sadness, but you feel you should show up, you can predetermine the amount of time you will stay. During the time you are there, if you gather the courage to sit with the feelings that get triggered without taking on your traditional role, you may discover that those triggers are actually revelations of areas that need healing. You are not required to heal the family. You are not required to heal in front of the family if they do not provide a safe environment. It is a true gift to yourself to allow yourself to heal. You deserve it and you deserve to feel safe, whole, and loved. You CAN feel these things even if your family expects something different for you (which may be that you continue to play the role you’ve been assigned in the dysfunctional system). If your family hampers your healing, it is okay to choose to be away from them on the holidays and any other days. You do not owe anyone the suppression or destruction of the amazing person you were put here to be.

Whatever it is you value most about the holidays – food, family, football, shopping, or gratitude can be reflected in the choices you make when you let go of expectations in favor of being genuine, authentic, and loving.

If this simple change sounds daunting or overwhelming, just think of it as doing someone else’s dishes. Doing your own dishes can feel daunting and overwhelming when you see the stack of dirty pots and pans in your peripheral vision and you’re tired or you’d rather read a book. Doing someone else’s dishes never seems like a big deal because you just get in there and do it without thinking about it.

I encourage you to get in there and enjoy this holiday hack – let the expectations goooooooooooo!