Welcome to the first post of 2018. In this post I am going to be exploring and sharing some of my thoughts on expectations and in particular reflecting back on Christmas.
Over the break my attention has been turned to expection’s after listening to a podcast by Rachael Kable, host of The Mindful Kind podcast in which she explored expectations and how heightened expectations can create stress, anxiety and disappointment. This podcast really got me thinking about how guilty I am of placing expectations on people, usually to not have them met and how it makes me feel.
Christmas can a real mixed bag of emotions and a particular time of year where our expectations can be well met or damaged. From early in the Autumn we are bombarded with imaged on the TV in shops and social media of what Christmas should look like and it can lead to us projecting our ideas of what constitutes “a perfect Christmas’ on to family and friends. I love to decorate my house at Christmas with trees, little lights and all things glittery, I have a fridge full of food, a rack full of wine and presents under the tree. My parents are less so. They like Christmas in that they get to buy gifts for their grandson and have a tree and make a festive meal on the 25th but they don’t really go for all the sparkle that I do.
In the past I have thought that it was a very bah-humbug attitude and why would they not want to trim up like I do? Why not make a big fuss? But I have come to realise on reflection that it is my issue not theirs and my projected expectations of what Christmas should look like should not alter their idea of what a nice Christmas should look like.
I think there is nothing nicer than a well chosen gift no matter how small that reflects who you are and what you enjoy for example; this year I got my friend a candle in a holder that had little bunnies painted on the side, she loves bunnies and the candle was of minimal cost but I knew that she would love it and she did.
My parents and I have an agreement that we don’t buy “stocking fillers” any more but ask each other what we would really like. This year I told my mother that I really wanted a gratitude journal for the coming year so she asked me to look around to see which one I would really like to give her some ideas. My mum doesn’t journal herself but she knows that I like to write and understood that this would be a gift that I would cherish and really enjoy and I was lucky on Christmas day to get a gorgeous book by Melbourne based stationary company Kikki-K. Over the years this has worked really well, has saved us money and we each get something that we would like and are able to use.
As with most things our expectations can be met and anxieties managed more efficiently with better communication – its so healthy to talk and in 2018 my resolution is to improve my communication to help with my own anxieties about expectations which I hope will lead to a happier, healthier me.
Christmas has always been a special time for me and I have so many happy memories from childhood – waking up at 3am to see if Santa had squeezed his way down the chimney never realising that we actually didn’t have a chimney – to adulthood where I hosted the whole family for a day of food, games and fun. Five years ago that all changed and I suffered a great loss around Christmas time when my marriage broke down. Since then I have almost tried to overcompensate with forced happiness in the lead up to Christmas only to find that at some point the façade cracks and I find myself sad in myself and angry that people don’t realise that I still struggle with the loss. But, I admit now that upon reflection I don’t communicate these feelings well, and really struggle to get them out. I think in someways I am afraid of the judgement and that people expect you to “get on with life”. On a particular day in the run up to Christmas this year my friend who I sit to the side of in the office commented that I was quiet, I knew I was having a bad day but I just could not get the words out of my mouth. So, I text her instead explaining and she was really kind and understanding and it really helped move my day on more positively.
I am really excited to see where 2018 will take me – new family adventures, new things to be learned, books to be read, places to visit and so on. I am not making a long list of resolutions this year but I will be treating myself with kindness and self care, taking more time for those who matter, endeavouring to manage my own expectations less destructively and, of course improving my communication.
As the new year begins to twinkle and the light of the old fades away I would like to wish each and every person who has taken the time to read my ramblings on the blog and on Instagram over the last few months a very happy, mindful and prosperous 2018.
A Short Exercise
If you begin to feel anxious, sad or angry when your expectations are not being met why not start a journal? It can be a very cathartic experience getting your thoughts down on paper and I am pleased to share some of the questions I raised with myself in relation to Christmas this year. There are no right or wrong answers to the questions and don’t be afraid of the feelings your answers may provoke but do acknowledge them.
- How did I feel when the gift I bought someone was not met with the excitement that I expected?
- How did I feel when a gift that I had really wanted didn’t get given?
- What is shaping my own expectation of what Christmas should look like?
- How are past events impacting on my expectation of how Christmas should feel?
If you are able to reflect on this and write it down why not make a mental note to revisit these expectations in 12 month’s time to see if or how your expectations have change and/or what has been done to manage them.