Christmas expections, maggie mcreynolds blog

Changing Your Tune for the Holidays

Oh, the weather outside is frightful—but the fire is so delightful.

Well, yes, they are. But only if you think so.

Snowy weather can seem awful if you’re a commuter with bald tires who’s running late for work. But it’s likely a pretty cool thing to a kid, a skier, or that lucky dog with a good book and a day off.

A roaring fire in the hearth? Great with good company, or said book, or a cup of something comforting. Not so awesome, perhaps, if all you can think about is your heating bills soaring up the open flue or you’re having a hot flash.

Weather is just weather. Fire is just fire. They are observable, uncontestable facts. It’s the thoughts and stories we pile on top of them that give them meaning. And the holiday season is one of the biggest storytelling times of the year.

When our thoughts and stories cause us pain or discomfort, it’s usually because they’re in conflict with reality—or the way we perceive reality should be:

I shouldn’t have to put up the tree all by myself.

The holidays are about family, so everyone needs to get along.

I have to buy my kids everything on their wish list.

Uncle Zedekiah shouldn’t pee off the back deck.

We don’t always have control over our circumstances. We might be alone on the holiday. No one will help us put up the tree. Our cousins squabble. We don’t have the money for everything our children want. Uncle Zedekiah will, inevitably, get a little drunk and let fly in full view of the neighbors.

But we do have control over our thoughts and stories—our response to our circumstances. We could volunteer so we’re not alone or make peace with solitude. We could skip the tree, hire it out, or take pride in our own strength and artistry. We could teach our children an important lesson about expectations. We could disinvite our uncle—or put some strategically placed inflatable Santas outside to block the view of the deck.

Better yet, we could preempt much of the internal strife by noting when a painful thought comes up that conflicts with reality (you’ll recognize them because they often come up with expectation-related imperatives like “should,” “ought to,” “have to,” and “need to”), jettison them, and replace them with something kinder and more accepting of our circumstances.

In other words, whatever story you’re telling yourself, whatever expectations your holding, whatever thought is causing you so much pain? Let it go, let it go, let it go.

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