Which mashed potato recipe should you follow?
Paper plates or the good china? You want the ease of paper plates but your mom did give you the china…
What if Aunt Edna drinks too much, the turkey is too dry, or the cable goes out during the football game?
What if the holiday isn’t perfect?
Seriously, let’s all just get over it. If you invite actual people to your holiday dinner, you can also anticipate a bit of uncertainty, chaos even. But, we certainly don’t need to add more stress or drama by serving up a helping of unrealistic expectations.
Really want to make the holidays happier? Then, set the tables how you want, serve the meal when you choose, and invite whoever you feel like then Let. It. Be.
Stop Micro-Managing and Let it Be
Let be what will be. Let go all the judgments, expectations, and attitude. Lead with acceptance and compassion for yourself and others. Do this and the holiday will be interesting, authentic, and dare I say it, enjoyable, instead of a series contrived moments filled with disappointment when people don’t measure up to your expectations, or they diss your sweet potatoes.
Many of us attempt to create a great holiday by micro-managing details and people and place settings (yes, my husband has been the victim of this strategy). We try to control every outcome so that nobody feels left out or stressed out. We strive for really good, perfect even — instead of good enough, authentic and fun. And by doing all this we create a set of arbitrary rules and behaviors and expectations that we ourselves and our guests must live up to.
The Danger of Secret Expectations
Often, we even keep these expectations a secret – I mean people should just know that you always pass food to the left, right? And how dare you take a bite before I sit down. And seriously, do we really need to go into a discussion about how you feel about your ex, now?
While we are imposing our secret little judgments, we talk about the importance of coming together as family and friends to share time and food and gratitude. We talk about love. And we believe, deeply and sincerely, that family is the most important thing. Just as long as that family behaves, fosters pleasant mealtime conversation, chews with its mouth closed and doesn’t offer up any “liberal” views that will get the father-in-law going. At this meal, we are all going to be smiley, happy and grateful. And everyone, yes everyone is going to eat the Brussels sprouts without fuss. Dammit.
Sound fun? Of course not. Instead of enjoying the afternoon, we are vigilant, constricted, making sure the husband doesn’t say anything off color, checking off the Rules of Thanksgiving Comportment in our head, evaluating whether the expectations we’ve set for ourselves and others are being met.
Stop Trying for a Happy Holiday
This year, stop trying to make the holidays happy, stop trying to make the perfect meal, stop trying to make others get along – heck, the only thing you should be making is your favorite recipes (and that’s only if you want to) and be curious about whatever does show up. Be engaged, alive, grateful, open.
This year, let’s create a gathering that is interesting, meaningful. Let’s strive to stay aware and open; accepting and compassionate to whatever occurs. The result of all of this is you might actually have a good time no matter what happens.
Start by releasing all outcomes and expectations. Drop the rules. Let people be who they are. Let things unfold as they will and be open and present. Of course some crazy will come out. Don’t judge it, just notice, respond consciously and deliberately with compassion instead of reacting emotionally with anger or disappointment. The subtle shift will take the stress out of the day leaving you and your guests feeling better.
Wednesday, I’ll offer up some other tips to help you actually enjoy the holidays no matter how they turn out.
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