By the glow of the Christmas tree, before a single present is unwrapped, there is contentment. Before any holiday meal is cooked or eaten, there is fulfillment. Before the clock strikes 12 on Dec. 31, there is hope unfettered for a new and infinitely possible year. Yet we make the holidays so busy, so complicated, so much more than they need be, sometimes without appreciating what they are.
How do we balance our predictions? How do we stay positive in the face of complexity, anxiety, and a potential sea of unmet expectations? How do we hold on to the spirit of Christmas without choking the life out of it and those around us?
For me, the best part of anything used to be before reality had the opportunity to tamper with my illusion … the box of chocolates before they are eaten, nay, before they are opened. Untasted chocolates were somehow wrapped in a moment of joy, of delicious anticipation, of sheer possibility.
It’s like the gorgeous burger pictured on the sign before opening the actual container to see if it is so much less, or exactly what we’re craving. It is the golden brown turkey ready to carve, before the knife betrays to you and the world if it will be dry or juicy.
It is the electricity before a kiss, the seconds of the approach, before lips even brush against each other.
It is the moment before opening a credit card statement after holiday spending, where we can be hopeful that it won’t be too disheartening.
I guess what I’m pointing to is whether we view the eggnog glass as half full or half empty. We have so many choices daily, choices that will lead to our sense of inner peace, our sense of contentment, our sense of self, our sense of belonging.
It’s a tricky balance. Personally, I face a teeter-totter of a emotions. I typically choose to poise myself on the side of positivity and passion, waiting for life to sit opposite me and then we can ride. Like a teeter-totter, I know that life isn’t just upward trajectory, and I’m OK with that. I revel in the thrill of soaring on the upswing, including a perfect moment of weightlessness at the top and yet still find joy in the motion of careening on the downswing, knowing I’m about to be jolted abruptly as I hit the ground. It is all part of the ride.
Of course, sometimes, I find myself enroute to my normal seat on the happy side only to find that the upside is down right now. But that’s OK. Sitting at the bottom, while slightly awkward feeling gives us the opportunity to look around and appreciate being grounded. Accepting the down for what it is, allows us to sit patiently, waiting for some upward momentum … because it will come.
The saddest part of the teeter-totter is not the bottom, but the midpoint. The fulcrum is uncommitted and unmoving and, for me, the draw there is based on fear. Sometimes it is fear of failure or rejection, sometimes it is the fear of success or acceptance that leaves me no more than a bystander in my own life, with no ups and downs, only very slight changes in pitch.
Sitting in the middle is the word “fine.” Sitting at the midpoint is not in the teeter-totter instruction manual. Teeter-totters advocate sitting in a seat and not sitting uncomfortably on the fence. Mixing metaphors, I believe teeter-totters urge us to swing for the fences, to jump into the deep end of the pool, to taste the chocolate, eat the burger, lean in for the kiss, carve the turkey, open the bill, all without expectations. It is looking fear in the face and saying: “Thank you for trying to protect me, but I’ve got this.”
Every day, including over the holidays, we can choose joy, laughter, and resilience, regardless of the company we keep, the food we eat, or the gifts we receive. If we expect nothing and appreciate everything, we can round out 2018 and welcome 2019 for all of their highs and the lows, with diametric glee. Happy holidays!