the most wonderful time of the year

this time of the year is particularly difficult for me. i know it’s difficult for other people as well, even ones with seemingly perfect families or lives. i have struggled with the expectation of the season since i was young. my friends’ families would have these (seemingly) perfect traditions or parties or gifts from their loved ones – while my life, my families “traditions”, lack of parties and what seemed like strange gifts didn’t match with what i had expected in my mind. oftentimes the traditions my family had were forced upon everyone by me – i loved watching mickey’s christmas carol and would force it upon everyone, i loved decorating the tree as a family – but it would turn into some sort of fight among my parents and then between my brother and i. everything seemed very different from what i thought was happening in other people’s homes. then as an adult, christmas expectations changed again – when i was married there was an expectation of doing family things or lots of the “best” gifts for family. after i separated, the time between the decision to separate/divorce until christmas was a highly stress-filled time with lots of chaos and hard decisions. things that aren’t supposed to happen ever – happened days before christmas and lingered over the holidays, which in turn puts a dark shroud over the holidays for me even still. then i spent a few years of christmas time doing my own thing – reading, volunteering, being alone. this sort of thing makes other people uncomfortable – why would i want to be alone on a day that everyone else is enjoying time with their families? wouldn’t i rather be with people than alone? then with s, the hustle and bustle of the holidays was equally overwhelming for me – going to endless parties with family, doing the small talk thing over and over. i’m just not sure where my place is in the season of expectation.

even this year, as i enter a week leading up to christmas, i find myself not even realizing that it is christmas unless i’m out a store where there is christmas music or decorations up. (i have not decorated this year, not out of any real reason other than i just don’t really feel like it) i’ve been invited a few places and i’m still unsure of what i want to do – i had been planning on giving myself a “day off” – where i could do a puzzle, stay in my pjs, work on a large art piece and read. but i’m still not sure.

i do know that my expectations for the holiday have disappeared. i no longer cling to what other people expect me to do, what i should give as gifts, what i should act like or be. it is a practice to release expectation and embrace acceptance during this season in that as i find myself wandering the path of expectation (which in turn leads to anxiety, stress and sadness) i return to my breath, which is the only place that is real. that moment in time. the present. and if i’m able to remind myself as i practice acceptance of every moment, i will be able to navigate the season with much more peace.

how do you navigate the season of expectation? how do you release some of those expectations of yourself? how do you embrace acceptance and the present – rather than presents?

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