Holiday Expectations and Interpretations

So, I had been without my own bed since the week after Thanksgiving. My husband and I were gifted a soft sided waterbed the week my youngest child was born sixteen and a half years ago, and it decided to spring a leak right after Thanksgiving. While looking for king sized mattresses, we found out that a sleep number bed was only a few hundred more dollars, so we opted for that. The catch was that we would have to wait two weeks because those beds are made when you order them. In the meantime, we have been sleeping in our oldest son’s bedroom. Fortunately, we bought our older two sons new queen sized beds last year, so while we were not in our own room, we had a better than decent bed to sleep in. Yesterday, our new bed was delivered and last night, we were back in our own room. I was so happy until our ceiling fan began to make a strange noise. It was difficult to go to sleep, and it was difficult to stay asleep, and I woke up tense and slightly irritated that my first night in my new bed wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. There was a time I would have groused about that inconvenience all day, but today I’m different. Today, I realize what a blessing it is to even have a bed. Today I know what a privilege it is to feel safe in my home. Today I am aware of what a joy it is to have a home at all. These are the things that keep me humble and incredibly appreciative of all I have.

When I was pregnant with my youngest child I spent eight weeks in the hospital before he was born by emergency cesarean section. He then spent five weeks in the hospital afterward before we could bring him home, and during that time I learned a lot about stress. I learned that it doesn’t matter whether it’s a new or expectant mom who is worrying about her baby, a mother worrying about wedding plans or a teenager worrying about a pimple on Prom night, the stress is still the same. The other thing I began to learn was that the more we stress over things outside of our control, the more miserable we become. The more we learn to let go of those things beyond our control, the happier we will be. I couldn’t change the fact that my son was born with a medical condition. I could, however, learn as much as possible about his condition and how to help him, so I did. This was before Google had all the answers to our questions but after the internet became the place to start looking for answers. I looked and learned and took care of my child the best I possibly could. I laugh now when I think about everyone saying, “See, I told you he would be fine” because even though they looked at him and saw a healthy albeit tiny baby, I knew how vulnerable his health was, and because of that, how vulnerable my husband and I were to possibly losing a child. My life became an exercise in learning to manage that stress, which I did for the most part, but who wants that life?

What letting go allowed him to be. Photo credit Jim Calloway
What letting go allowed him to be. Photo credit Jim Calloway

It took years, but at some point, I finally let go of it all. I realized that no matter what I did, the unthinkable could still happen, so I stopped thinking about that and started thinking about how to have the best life we could have every day. I learned to breathe, especially when the moments came that made me want to hold my breath, the days when he was sick and I prayed he would keep his medicine down long enough that I didn’t have to take him to the hospital. I learned to remind myself to let my shoulders fall away from my ears, to relax my neck and shoulder muscles and to release my stomach muscles as well. In the moment that I did that, I could live in faith rather than fear. I could focus on getting my boy healthy rather than how scared I was that he was sick, and it worked more often than not. It’s why, when I’m standing in line, I do my best to send positive energy to everyone near me, especially the mom with the child melting down, especially the older woman who doesn’t understand why the Apple people can’t hack her email and fix her phone without any documentation that the phone is hers, especially the Apple employee who is telling the woman for the fifth or sixth time that to do that without the proper documentation would be illegal. It doesn’t always work for them, but it certainly helps me.
The other thing that took years to get passed and sometimes I still have issues with is my own expectations. I used to envision the perfect life, the perfect holiday, the perfect day, and when I did that, I was always disappointed. Even now, I sometimes have such high expectations of what I can do in a day that I disappoint myself on a regular basis, but I started doing something to change that. In the past, I would check off my to-do list as the day went on and write a new one the next day in my planner. Now, I write my list on a clean sheet of paper and check off the items I work on and enter only my accomplishments in my planner. While that may sound counterproductive or perhaps childish, I’ve found that listing my accomplishments helps me to stay positively focused. The other day, the day my bed was delivered, I felt like I was behind all day and wasn’t accomplishing anything. As I began to write down what I had done that day, I realized I was being incredibly hard on myself. I had done five loads of laundry, helped the bed installers with whatever they needed, made a trip to the bed store to buy the mattress cover that I needed because the one I purchased elsewhere wouldn’t work. I placed an online order that took over an hour to create. I made chicken parmesan and took a call that might result in part time work for me. I cleaned the bathrooms, picked my son up from school and helped put my bedroom back together as well. I ironed a king sized bed skirt for heaven’s sake, using starch! That not productive day was pretty darned productive when I took a step back and looked at it through a different lens, and not the one that included all the things I hadn’t done on my list.

May family without my youngest on Thanksgiving
My family sans my youngest on Thanksgiving

I think the holidays are probably the worst time for expectations because there are so many variables and so many things can change. I have to admit I dove into the holidays this year with expectations of my own. I expected this to be the last Thanksgiving I would spend with my three boys at my sister in law’s house, something we’ve done all but one of the past twenty three years. It has always been one of my favorite times, and I planned to savor every minute of it. Unfortunately, my youngest son got sick and had to stay home from our Thanksgiving celebration, so my expectation of our last Thanksgiving before my son gets married next summer was dashed. I also thought I would have one more Christmas holiday with my son before his wedding, but it turns out that he and his fiancée are traveling to her hometown for him to visit with her family. I have to tell you that one was hard to take because Christmas is a big deal for me, but I knew once he was married things would probably change. I wasn’t prepared for them to change quite yet, but they did, so now there’s a new plan, and that’s the final piece of the emotional stress puzzle for me, adaptability. With three boys and a husband whose work schedule often includes overtime and sometimes includes travel, I’ve had to learn to be adaptable. It isn’t always easy and sometimes it takes me a day or two to regain my balance, but I always do. Even with this blog post, I started with one idea yesterday, and it changed today as I did four hours of paperwork and had little time to finish it the way I would have liked, but that’s life, especially during the holidays. I ebb and flow the best I can, especially on days that feel like I’m on a roller coaster in a blizzard, and I do my best to enjoy the ride because stressing over it doesn’t do me or anyone else any good.

I read an article recently from a mother to a daughter regarding the changes that are taking place in my country. The article asked everyone to focus on the “most respectful interpretation” in every situation. I thought that was a brilliant statement, and I’ve written it down to remind myself to do that very thing every day. It is what has kept me from getting into political debates, judgment of others and much eye rolling. It is a quality we could use much more of in this world from everyone, including me. It’s how I plan to get through the rest of the holiday season and beyond and it helps me feel peace in a sometimes chaotic world. I know all is not right in the world. I understand all is not right in my country, my city or even in my home, but when I can be at peace, only then can I help right the wrongs in any of those places. I’m not always there, but even when I’m not, it is the place I’m always heading back to. I wish you all peace as we head into the last days of this holiday season. I wish you adaptability. I especially wish you the most respectful interpretation of whatever situation you’re in, and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

Happiest Holidays

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7 thoughts on “Holiday Expectations and Interpretations

    1. Posting today, and my theme tends to build on the same idea of perspective, so I hope you enjoy today’s post as well.

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