For years I did not go home at Christmas time as I wanted to avoid the disappointments and resentments that go along with unmet expectations. I wanted to avoid getting triggered and the arguments that may ensue.
In my head, I was making up that Christmas would be the same as when I left Scotland and my family over 20 years ago. My Mum would make Christmas dinner and then complain about not getting help when she was playing the martyr and not asking for any help, too much alcohol would be drunk, and tempers got pushed a bit too far. The hope of getting the gift I wanted and being disappointed to get a jar of honey instead. I didn't want my family to spend money they didn't have or buy me presents I didn't want or need. So instead, I would go skiing with friends or enjoy the festivities in Switzerland with my in-laws.
This all changed when my stepdad became ill, and I knew this would be his last Christmas. Christmas became about family and connection; it always was; however, I didn't embrace this part of Christmas. It was about being present and enjoying each other's company. Of course, we did the gift thing and spent too much money; however, in my head, I had reframed what this time would mean for me. I set an intention for my visit back home that year, and it was to "enjoy the family, and I would see the goodness in everything". I let go of all my expectations for the week and decided I would be happy to enjoy the moments.
The reframing and no expectation setting was the most significant gift to me. I enjoyed every moment and have good last memories with my stepdad and the rest of the family. My jaded idea of Christmas was shattered, and I was now able to go home for Christmas without the dread of disappointment or resentment hanging around.
This year as Christmas approaches once more, I am reminded of this reframing and the importance of family. Especially as a month ago, I lost my biological Dad and while we were not close, I still felt a loss and grief that surprised me. With his passing, I said goodbye to the possibility of having the relationship that I so longed for with him. However, it awakened my desire to cherish the family relationships I have.
With the pandemic, I am missing my family. Although I was lucky enough to have visited a month ago for my father's funeral, it was not long enough, and I am yearning to go back. While zoom and face time are excellent, they are not the same as being together in person. I want to be in the same room with them, hold and hug them, and share small moments, like cooking, watching TV, or chatting away. But like many others, I will not be visiting my family this Christmas due to the high COVID cases and the cost of COVID testing, making it too expensive/risky to travel.
Amidst the disappointment and frustration of the pandemic, these last two years have allowed me to put into perspective what has meaning, and for me, my family is important. I often took them for granted or even found visiting a duty. Today, I miss having that choice; I cannot go home to celebrate in Scotland with my family. Instead, I can be grateful for what I have and let go of my expectations for things to be a certain way. I reframe again to look for other opportunities to celebrate and create new connections and traditions. Instead of Christmas passing by, I will be more intentional in creating the kind of Christmas I love through the types of experiences and the behaviours I want to embody.
To create my Christmas this year, I reflected on these 4 questions:
What does Christmas mean to me?
I thought of all the words that represented a great Christmas
Family, good food, sharing, love, connection, laughter, joy, togetherness, fun, closeness, chatting, games, warmth, hugs, cosy, log fire,
Who do I have to BE to enjoy Christmas as I described?
What behaviours or characteristics do I have to embody to create the Christmas I described above.
Open, happy, easy, non-judgemental, let go of expectations, listen, forgiving, kind, loving, thoughtful, empathetic, warm, caring,
Create a Christmas statement
Create a statement that you can hold at the centre of your day. Then, if you get triggered, you can come back to this to remember your intention and essence of what you would like for Christmas.
At Christmas, I will be loving, kind and generous so that I have a warm and happy day.
How can I create these situations over the holiday period:
I am not going home this year, so I will not spend it with my direct family; however, I still want my Christmas to be meaningful, so here are some thoughts
Drink gluhwein at the Christmas market with some friends
Ski days with friends
Christmas movie evening with my daughter with candles, closed curtains, pop-corn and wine
Christmas dinner with my daughter and maybe some others
Blend old traditions and create some new ones
Cook food together
Do you need to reframe your expectations of Christmas and be thankful for what you have? This year, be more intentional about celebrating and creating your wonderful Christmas. Follow these four steps to intentionally make your great Christmas. This little exercise can work for other occasions, too; replace the word Christmas with your event's name - New Year, Birthday, visiting mother.
Take a look at what expectations you have for Christmas. Do you have unexplored disappointments making you bitter, or are you holding on to stored up resentments? What are the expectations hiding just below the surface? Let them go or discuss them. This process will allow you to enjoy the moments, build deeper relationships and connections.
What do you have to be grateful for? I encourage you to write 100 things that you are thankful for. You may find that you will struggle at first, and I urge you not to give up; keep digging. You may be surprised by some of the small things that start to appear; enjoy the process. To get you started, think about the different areas of your life, your body, food, where you live etc.
Be intentional about your Christmas and on the 4 questions:
What does Christmas mean to me? think of all the words that represented a great Christmas
Who do I have to be to enjoy Christmas as I described? What behaviours or characteristics do I have to embody to create the Christmas I described above.
Create a Christmas statement and keep that at the centre of your day. Create a statement that you can hold at the centre of your day. Then, if you get triggered, you can come back to this to remember your intention and essence of what you would like for Christmas. I will at Christmas be xxxx so that I have a xxxx
How can I create these situations over the holiday period - List situations you can create to bring your Christmas to life
4. Switch off and enjoy this wonderful time of year with the people you love.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season full of joy and happiness.
About the Author
Debbie Brupbacher - Executive Leadership and Career Coach
Debbie has a passion for guiding leaders and teams toward their full professional potential. Those who work with Debbie can expect to be inspired and encouraged as she courageously and compassionately supports you to achieve your desired goals.