There is always plenty to do in preparation for Christmas. Our family, however, does life this way – not just in December, but through-out the year. Living on different continents to our children and siblings mean that weeks of being apart culminate in times of coming together for intense, fun and food filled days that fly past too quickly.
Not finishing with a sense of disappointment seems a critical component to planning time together. Sadly, I have learnt that being fully prepared with lengthy “to do lists”, pre-cooked meals, planned activities doesn’t always hold off the feeling of regret or dissatisfaction at the end of happy days spent in each other’s company.
Consequently, as I have gone about preparing for Christmas I have been wondering what might contribute to a sense of discontent at the end of holidays and my thoughts have had me asking the question:
“Maybe holidays lead to disappointment when prefaced by unrealistic expectations; and so perhaps it’s better to anticipate them without a required outcome?”
The Webster definition of the adjective expect is: to think that something will probably or certainly happen or to consider (something) to be reasonable, required, or necessary.
i.e. a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
And the definition of anticipate: to think of something that will or might happen in the future; to expect or look ahead to (something) with pleasure.
i.e. a feeling of eagerness.
Whether these two words are enough to convey what I think might be one of the secrets of enjoying holidays and family time I am not certain, but I cannot find better ones that indicate the subtle but critical difference.
I have got to a point in my life where I am happy to be fully prepared for times together, but no longer feel the need to try and control the outcome of every day and activity (ok, not as much). I have precooked meals and plans on offer but I am more open than ever before in waiting to see how things unfold. I now consider time with my loved ones more important than anything else and I am not concerned about what form that takes. I want to spend my energy on being present: watching, listening, as well as participating and not on worrying about where we are or what we are doing. Said another way: I am as happy with the PROCESS of being together (with some of its mess) and less worried about ticking anything off my list or what the actual activity is.
The joy of ‘being together’ is the reward.
Disappointments will still happen and none of this takes away the chance of pain and mess but it does allow me to receive rather than dictate outcomes; which involves my heart being far less fraught both during and when thinking back over the holiday.
Lisa Jo Baker said it this way in her Tired Mother’s Holiday Creed … “I shall not be intimidated by how the holidays, the turkey, the tree or the memories “should” be celebrated but love the people I’m celebrating with instead”. See: http://lisajobaker.com/2013/11/the-tired-mothers-holiday-creed/