It’s this time of year again. The time of anticipation. Advent. The most wonderful time of the year. The quietest time of the year according to Austrian author Waggerl (and, following his narrative, these were busy times even back then). The most stressful time of the year.
Have you baked cookies yet? Shared with your friends how many different kinds? Was it about the flavor, the fun you had? Or was it about how many more kinds you made than somebody else? Did the smell in your house trigger anything with you? Memories and joys of the past? Or was it only a reminder that there are so many other tasks waiting for you?
Have you written all your Christmas cards yet? Was it about the people you love? Sending them love and good wishes from the bottom of your heart? Or was it a list of your accomplishments that insinuates competition?
Have you made a list of all the things that must be done before Christmas? A list of what must be cooked and baked, cleaned and tidied, created and worked off until Christmas Day?
Are you exhausted already?!
Then, maybe, you are mixing up anticipation with expectations. You are projecting your definition of perfection on Christmas Day. Worse, you imagine what other people’s definition of your perfection is on Christmas Day. You know what the perfect Christmas Day ought to be like. Because you project your imagined reality on this one day in the year.
And, woe, if anything goes wrong! Imagine your home is not tidy because it is lived in. Imagine you only baked two kinds of cookies (or, how abominable!, bought some) instead of your usual dozen. Imagine not everybody will be on time, your food might not ready when you expect it to be; there might be somebody disagreeing with your opinion, your taste, your beliefs. Everything will be ruined. Perfection will be down the drain!
Ah, expectations … Rewind!
Remember when you were children? Way before you knew the truth about Santa? Wasn’t there this peaceful awareness that on Christmas Day all would be well? There would be food and warmth. And you would feel trusting. Not expecting anything really. Just hoping and thinking all would be well. Now, THAT is anticipation. The excitement of looking forward to something in the assurance that everything will be just fine.
This year, I haven’t baked any cookies so far. I have sent out some Christmas cards, some Christmas gifts. The German mail lost a package I meant to arrive by Thanksgiving; the US mail sent some packages to Greece instead of Germany. We made no traveling plans for my husband’s birthday after Christmas. Our Christmas dinner will be humble compared to that of others, but it will comprise all the components we truly love to eat. We won’t have any visitors due to Covid. We won’t attend a church service in person for the same reason. Christmas won’t be outward perfection.
Mark my words: OUTWARD perfection. Inwardly, it already breathes this coziness and warmth. Our decoration is up inside our home. I’m listening to Christmas music. I count our blessings – family members healing from surgery; creature comforts; friendships; purpose in life. Maybe, we are not fulfilling other people’s expectations; but Christmas is not about expectations, neither ours nor others’. And we shouldn’t make it that. Let’s listen to what our inner child used to care for, and let’s adjust to that. Because that is all we really need.