Category Archives: Third Act

The Perfect Holiday vs. Being Present With What Is

Christmas is definitely not going the way kitty wanted it to


Maybe Thanksgiving didn’t turn out the way you planned.

You ate more than you should have.  People were more interested in watching football than in connecting and talking.  The turkey was dry.  What we plan hardly ever goes the way we imagine it will.  Does that mean you failed?

I think it’s human nature to want to plan and then orchestrate events in a particular way.  Or at least it’s some humans’ natures.  Ha.

Sometimes, actually most of the time, what happens in real life doesn’t match up with our visions.  It’s all very well to make a plan and be prepared for a holiday.

  • The turkey has to go in the oven at a certain time so it can be ready to eat when all the other dishes are ready, and when everyone has arrived.
  • The table has to be set with the right number of places so everyone can eat.

Plans are preferable to hosting a big dinner ‘on the fly’ where you’re not sure you have everything you need, and you don’t know how many people will be coming.

On the other hand, you have to be aware that how you want the holiday to unfold is only a vision in your head.

When you tell yourself that the turkey has to be perfectly moist or it’s not a success, that’s your internal story.  When you tell yourself that everyone should want to stay at the table and talk, forgetting the football game, that’s what you wish would happen.  When you think that people checking their phones all afternoon is spoiling the day, that’s an unspoken rule you’ve made up.

  • Is it true that the turkey has to be perfect (moist and tender and gorgeous to behold) in order for the holiday to be acceptable?
  • Is it true that football spoils the meal because people don’t linger at the table after they’ve eaten (can’t they talk during the game)?
  • Is it true that people using their smart phones are spoiling the mood (or is it just spoiling your mood when everyone’s focus isn’t on you and the cooking)?

The problem with visions and rules (that involve how other people should act), is that

  1. Other people’s actions are out of your control
  2. The vision in your head is pretty limiting
  3. When you put conditions on other people or events, you leave very little room for enjoying what is

When you put conditions on others, you can’t be truly present for who they are or what they’re doing and feeling.

You’re not really seeing them or feeling them.  You’re more in your head than you are with them.  This also means that you’re thinking more about you than you are experiencing who they are.  When you’re only thinking about yourself, there’s no way you can be connecting with someone else.  The retreat into your ‘perfect vision’ and desire that others comply with that vision creates a barrier between the two of you.

When you have expectations about how other people must act in order for your holiday event to be a success, you’ve made a wall.

You’re really telling yourself that the other person can be with you within the walls of your perfect expectations (everyone congenial, pitching in, talking animatedly, kids playing nicely, being happy, darn it), or they can be on the other side of the wall, not acting the way you want them to.

You know, being themselves, picking at old family rivalries, feeling stressed themselves over who knows what.

You might say, yes, but I don’t want to make anyone else be a certain way.  I just want to provide a perfect meal for the people I love.

Nice.  But if a dry turkey (or ruined cranberry relish, or charred rolls) causes you such upset that you can’t stop berating yourself in your head (or in your words to everyone in the room), then you’ve just put a wall between you and everyone else.  You’re stuck in your apologies and excuses, not being there with your family and friends at all, because you’ve made it all about you.  (Have you ever spent time with someone who apologizes over and over for something they did or didn’t cook ‘correctly,’ so much so that you couldn’t enjoy a mouthful of the meal?  Please don’t be that person)

There’s no room for anyone else if it’s all about you.

When your intention for a holiday is that you connect and express love for your family and friends, then it’s absolutely necessary that you be Present for them.  Once you’ve decided that the holidays are not all about the food, or the drink, or the presents, or the tree (although all are delightful and enjoyable!), what’s left is the love and the wonder.

You’re present if you can gaze lovingly at Uncle Pal and think, yes, he always drinks too much at Christmas and he’s funny and good natured, and I’d better make sure someone drives him home.  You can listen and laugh and see him without being judge-y.

You’re present when you can look at the pumpkin pie’s burnt crust, laugh and declare that if anyone wants better, you’ll pay for a quick trip to the grocery store.  Then pile on the whipped cream and enjoy the company!

You’re present when you can acknowledge that your grandson’s bored, kiss him on the head, and tell him that you’re glad he’s here today.

When you’re present, you’re able to actually see other people.  Good and bad.  Easy parts and harder ones.  When you’re present, you can choose to accept other people for who they are because it’s who they are.  Isn’t that amazing?  You don’t have to do anything or make anybody be anything at all.

But it’s hard, I won’t lie!

It’s hard not to wish things were different, to wish that everyone else agreed with you, that everyone’s idea of the perfect holiday was the same as yours. More often than not, It’s easy to get stuck in your head planning how the world could be so much better if other people would simply cooperate and go along with you.

During this holiday season I’ve set my intention to be more present with what is so that I can enjoy each day as much as I can.  When the cat pulls ornaments off the tree, when no one wants to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” with me, when my honey has an achy knee and declines to go walking with me: I’ll stay with what is.

I’ll pull out the ever-popular ‘feather on a stick’ toy and distract the cat for 15 minutes.  I’ll make popcorn and watch a different movie that everyone else likes (and make plans for when I can watch my favorite by myself!).  I’ll do a quick solo walk and come back refreshed and ready to spend some time doing whatever my honey wants.

How about you?  How can being present help you have a better holiday season?

I hope your holidays are developing beautifully, and that you’ve set your intention to have a sweet holiday – whatever that looks like to you!


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