Christmas is coming, and for many of us it will be a very white Christmas. A major snow storm hit the east coast over the weekend and another is brewing in the Plain States. Travel arrangements that involve the areas impacted over the weekend are already running behind schedule, and anxieties are running high. For many people, the holidays are a time of stress and anxiety, laden with expectations of satifactory performance – and we have those expectations of ourselves and of others. It is precisely those expectations that cause so many of us to have unsatisfactory holiday memories and to dread each holiday as it approaches.
The solution is to jump off the performance treadmill.
You may protest, “but Aunt Bette has expectations!” I say, good for her! You don’t have to buy into Aunt Bette’s expectations. Those expectations belong to her, not to you. You, in fact, don’t have to do anything at all. If you need a reason, say that this Christmas you have decided to imitate Jesus on his first Christmas. You may think that I am kidding, but I am completely serious.
Think of the possibilities! Why aren’t you going to Sally’s Christmas party? Because you are getting in touch with that first Christmas, and Jesus didn’t go to any parties. Why didn’t you get your third cousin twice removed a Christmas present? Because Jesus didn’t give any presents on that first Christmas. In fact, Jesus never gave any Christmas presents because there wasn’t a Christmas for many years after his death and resurrection. Why aren’t you happy, smiling, upbeat, or any number of other things this Christmas? Because Jesus mostly slept on the first Christmas, and you are getting in touch with that this year. Why aren’t you eating more? Because Jesus only ate breast milk on that first Christmas (men may want to be careful about giving this answer to a woman).
This Christmas, get out of the performance trap and relax. You might want to observe the people you encounter and notice how miserable they are. That should be enough to give you strength to avoid the performance trap every holiday. While you are at it, you might share what you have learned about the performance trap with someone else who is struggling. It will make you feel good – imagine, feeling good during the holidays. What a novel concept!