One of the things that I grappled with as we headed into the holidays this year, was not knowing how to set my expectations. I knew what NOT to expect - large family gatherings, holiday parties and no little getaways like we normally do.
But I had no idea what TO expect. When you are so used to doing things a certain way for years you become a creature of habit, falling into the same routine year after year. I really had know idea what this year would look like.
And I knew I had to try my best to roll with whatever it turned out to be. To release myself from my expectations built on years past. It got me thinking about an email I sent out last year about unrealistic expectations, and how those can create what I call a ‘joy suck’. One of those things that can suck the joy out of any moment with a giant whooshing sound.
One of the biggest joy sucks during the holidays is unrealistic expectations. You know the ones – expecting your 3 year old daughter to sit quietly smiling on Santa’s lap for the family photo, your college-aged son to somehow magically clean up after his late night snacks in the kitchen or the beautifully set table that taunts you from the glossy pages of the Williams Sonoma catalog.
Personally, one of the things I used to struggle with is getting our Christmas cards out in a timely manner. It was one of those things that I (mistakenly) felt was a measure of how good a job I was doing as a mom. It was such a process – taking/picking the photo, selecting the card, ordering them, addressing them, getting them out – for something that in most cases will just get tossed in the trash! That, on top of all the other holiday stressors nearly pushed me over the edge.
Then, one year I decided ‘Enough. I’m going to send them out after the first of the year’, and the Belden family New Year’s card was born. What a relief to take that off my plate! And guess what? No one really cared – they just wanted to see the kids.....and then toss it in the trash.
It's a vicious cycle of events: When you have unrealistic expectations, those end up turning into unfulfilled expectations which leave you disappointed, which makes you unable to be present to the gifts that are actually there. I hate to think about the number of little moments of joy I missed out on because I was so obsessed with getting the silly card out.
When you’re in a ‘lack’ or ‘scarcity’ mindset, focused on what didn't happen, you’re not present to all the abundance that is happening. And that is the hidden danger of the notorious joy suck.
Choose to roll with what 'is' instead of what 'isn’t'. You might be surprised at what you find! You could end up with a hilarious family photo of your 3 year old red - faced screaming daughter that brings teasing laughter for years to come, or the joy at having your son home at all. And as for the perfectly set table? Who really cares anyway.
Isn’t it more about the people sitting around it?
Despite the fact that this year has been nothing like year’s past, I believe this message is even more relevant than ever. In January of this year, I looked ahead and really believed that 2020 was going to be a great year. I mean, not only was I excited about the trips we planned, my son graduating from college and the growth of my business. And not only that, it’s such a beautifully round number right?
Yes, my expectations ran high!
And then, well, you know.
As it became evident that our trip to Italy in early April would NOT be happening (despite my now laughable optimism that maybe they would be able to contain the virus within 2 weeks of being shutdown), and all our other plans started to fall apart.
And like the rest of the world, I had to adjust those expectations.
Things like missing out on celebrating milestone events like graduations, weddings or big birthdays; learning how to work from home while also teaching your children, or having your adult children move back in because of shuttered schools or a tough job market, slowly started to become the ‘new normal’.
And just like that, all of those expectations we had for the coming year flew out the window.
And the dreaded joy suck was poised and ready to pounce.
But as always, we have a choice when faced with challenging circumstances and unmet expectations - to focus on what is, and learn how to adopt, and what we can learn from it. Or to focus on what isn’t and stay mired in the scarcity or lack mindset, missing those little magenta moments that might normally slip by unnoticed.
It’s hard to know what the coming year holds, but one thing is certain: this year has sent the message loud and clear - it doesn’t matter about the perfectly set table - it really is more about the people sitting around it.
May your holidays be filled with magenta moments filled with laughter, joy and good health.