If stress is the difference between what we want and what we have, we could easily feel like sitting ducks this holiday season.
We all have a story about what we want in life, but we tend to paint more detailed pictures around the special occasion chapters. And those pictures, or expectations, leave us wide open to being disappointed — or stressed.
So why not get rid of our preconceived notions? We stop believing in Santa Claus, but cling to destructive beliefs: All the good wives have diamond rings. Our kids should have what other kids have. We have to get these decorations up before it’s too late!
We’re more programmed than we realize, though. We might think the sweater has to be red, the gifts start at midnight, and somebody has to find us irresistible under the mistletoe and under the covers before midnight. And when real life calls on us to ad-lib, we can get flustered. There we are on stage and everybody’s watching; we want to run off and cry, only the curtain never really falls. The show must go on.
Ah, but we can always blame somebody else, or have another drink, or suck it up and try again to do better next year!
There’s another option, though. We can rewrite our stories, making them more flexible (and more happy). We can leave room for the magic that only happens without a plan. Then, when there’s an opportunity to be creative, we can wave our loving wand, rather than bemoan another failed plan.
We can use this economic climate as a chance, an excuse, a dictate or whatever you need to remember why we celebrate. Regardless of your religious beliefs, there’s an intangible quality inside of you that is enlivened by the holiday spirit … because the holiday spirit is that same intangible quality, love. And it’s not what stresses us.
Truth is, all we really want is to be loved. But we got it in our heads that when everybody loved us, they’d fall in line and act out our story! That won’t really conjure up the feeling we want, but we don’t get a lot of opportunities to prove it. Seems our stories never quite play out as hoped.
We’re smart, though. We can still figure out that the story is not what it’s purported to be. It doesn’t ensure the happy ending we want.
So, if you’re still holding on to a story or fragments of a story thinking, “If only I could pull this off … ,” let go of your preconceived notions. The feeling you want isn’t something you can plan; it’s something that happens when you get in the spirit.
Think about what might irritate you this holiday season. Your mother-in-law could make a snide remark, despite the last 12 years of your wishing she would stop those little digs. Well, what would happen if you didn’t give her comments any power over you, and you stopped wishing for her to be different? What if you couldn’t blame her for your being disappointed?
What if you changed your story so that it didn’t matter how many gifts you bought or how many the postman delivered? What if you took the time you’d spend shopping to get in touch with your spirit, so that you could dole it out freely (without another drink)?
What if when you stopped believing in Santa Claus, you continued his tradition of loving instead of trying to do the work of 30 elves? It’s tough to fill the shoes of some guy who knows what everybody wants and drops it down the chimney on Christmas Eve. Most of us have budgets and time constraints … and it seems like they often fall short!
Love doesn’t, though. And given center stage, it makes for a delightfully real story … and as close as you can get to stress-free holidays.