Friday, December 11, 2009

Expectations 'n Comparisons

Belle Mina United Methodist Church
Decked out for the holidays, 2009

"In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season;
the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church;
the Jews called it 'Hanukkah' and went to synagogue;
the atheists went to parties and drank.
People passing each other on the street would say
'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukkah!'
or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!'"

Dave Barry
"Christmas Shopping: A Survivor's Guide"

Finally made it back to Belle Mina to photograph the old church in its Christmas finery. Well, frankly, I was a little disappointed. Plastic wreaths with bright red bows. Not quite what I'd seen in the past and expected upon my return journey. I mean, this is a historic church so, like, I was thinking fresh greenery, fruits, etc. Bows are okay, but ... well, you know...I expected something quite different from what I got. There was no lingering in Belle Mina. Jumping in the car I drove about 15 minutes to Mooresville where my expectations of historically appropriate decorations was satisfied in spades.

Pondering this post I was thinking about expectations and the holidays. I cause my own holiday angst each year. The Norman Rockwell scenes of Christmas with loving family members, the holiday movies that always end happy, gloriously and beautifully scored with Christmas music, the Martha Stewart Perfect Feasts and Decorations that glitter warmly and bathe each scene in warm and cozy light. The cherubic children filmed or photographed all wonderfully appreciative and loving and caring and happy. Picturesque homes, perfectly decorated inside and outside, holiday music mingling with the scent of perfectly baked fudge and divinity, pies and turkeys. All of it lovely of course, make no mistake.

However, that's what for years I tried to be - to do - to offer, never mind the realities of life. I mean, there are people who actually DO this stuff! Their houses always look like something that belong in a magazine, and their menus and holiday party announcements are posted in the local newspaper.

Comparisons and Expectations are a dangerous thing. I'm no Sally Social, preferring a quiet, peaceful, simple gathering of family. But I Expect more of myself and Compare myself to the Sally Social's in the newspapers and magazines, Cooking Channel, and everywhere else.

Cancel! Cancel! Cancel! I shall not make comparisons this year! I will NOT exhaust myself with cleaning and decorating and cooking lavish (unappreciated) feasts! I vow to embrace my simplicity and nurturing nature! Bring on the holiday without a tree! Make imperfect fudge! (if at all) Live for the moment; cherish what I have; bring on the eggnog in its unadorned carton from the grocery store! No more homemade biscotti! (...well, I might just have to do that one...) Make new, simpler traditions that are heartfelt - NOT trying to keep up with the Joneses!

Those adornments were always for ME. My family wasn't putting the stress of performing onto me - they couldn't have cared less. It was me wanting to build family traditions, me who wanted the perfect holiday snapshot, it was me wanting the dinner and decorations to be perfect, it was me all along.

Since making the decision to go simple this year - so far only stockings on the mantle and only because the nails were already there - my blood pressure has remained low. I'm enjoying being free from my own expectations and comparisons. It's liberating and healthy. Why didn't I see this sooner? As the season progresses fresh greenery may appear on the mantle, and perhaps some candles to light on Christmas Eve. I think a little holiday Cognac may be in order. Yeah, that's the ticket!

Have a marvelous, peaceful season everyone!

6 comments:

Gaelyn said...

Now you're on the Right track!
Oh those expectations, the worse ones we place on ourselves. Enjoy the Now with all the beauty that's in the Moment. And the Cognac sounds just right.

I'm loving your series of Christmas doors, no expectations. But if you don't like plastic wreaths, and I can't say as I blame you, why not donate the real thing.

Great post. You don't have to Mrs. Jones. Keep enjoying the freedom to enjoy.

Daniel Spurgeon said...

I think that the movies "Christmas Vacation" and the chaos of the family at the start of the movie "Home Alone" are more representative of the typical American families Christmas. :) "Charlie Brown's Christmas" is also pretty good. One doesn't always have to have the biggest or best decorated tree (or any tree, for that matter.) :)

Eve said...

Welcome to the club Debi! (and no that's not a mop and pail next to me on the floor!!) Ok I'm cleaning, but it's not like I do it every day...or even once a week...ok how much further do you want me to go back!

Yeah I've got a tree and a couple nick knacks but what I love most is a little Christmas tunes from Time Life and a view to the birdfeeder!
Enjoy the simple life Debi!

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

Jodi! Dang it! I just accidentally deleted your nice comments! Dang! Dang! Jodi - I'm so sorry! Anyway, the siding is wood and original - not plastic, thankfully.

Thanks Gaelyn, Daniel and Eve for your nice comments, too! This is the 2nd time I've accidentally deleted a comment. I hate that! Sorry, sorry, sorry...

Maybe to make up for it I'll just go donate some wreaths, eh? After sipping some cognac...watching Charlie Brown Christmas and the birds at our feeder! Merry Christmas ya'll!

The Garden Ms. S said...

Great idea to embrace what comes naturally to you. I think doing the Martha thing requires a particular personality and buckets of free time.

Love, love the Dave Barry quote! ;)

nancybond said...

Cancel! Cancel! Cancel! I shall not make comparisons this year! I will NOT exhaust myself with cleaning and decorating and cooking lavish (unappreciated) feasts! I vow to embrace my simplicity and nurturing nature! Bring on the holiday without a tree! Make imperfect fudge! (if at all) Live for the moment; cherish what I have; bring on the eggnog in its unadorned carton from the grocery store! No more homemade biscotti! (...well, I might just have to do that one...) Make new, simpler traditions that are heartfelt - NOT trying to keep up with the Joneses!

Debi, your advice couldn't be more apt or more timely! I've had to alter my expectations of Christmas over the past decade as I meandered through a divorce, children leaving home, parents who fell ill. Christmas *should* be about the simple things. Kudos to you, as I try to follow your lead. :) xo

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