Expectations and the New Year

Each December I look forward to Christmas, to the bustle and noise and lights and cheer. I love watching exasperated parents shopping with their young children. The kids are wide eyed with wonder; the parents are dead on their feet. I send empathetic smiles their way. I could tell them that soon, very soon, the entire holiday “experience” will change.

I remember being young and feeling the magic shifting from pure excitement to expectation. Then there were the years when I was downright calculating. Santa was for the little kids, those suckers who’d believe anything and be happy with anything if it were in a big enough box and wrapped brightly enough. I was beyond that, smarter than that. Certainly, I was smarter than my parents who needed all kinds of prompting and manipulation—how else would they know what I needed in order to be happy?

I’m glad those days are over. I’m glad I had the chance to watch my own kids experience Christmas wonder and magic. And yes, they quickly figured out where gifts came from, and at a much earlier age than I did. Now the holiday season is less about what’s under the tree and more about who all is sitting around it. What a relief. I could tell those exhausted parents this, too. The magic will always be there, but the focus will move from the what to the who. Oh, how liberating, to be released from the burden of expectations, both those that I harbored and the expectations I imagined others had of me.

Now that the New Year is mere hours away, I’m mindful of the tradition of making goals and resolutions. This too is another kind of expectation-riven activity. At least, for me it has been. Traditionally I’ve made a series of ridiculous, nearly-impossible goals to meet and then when I failed miserably to meet them (sometime around mid-March), I’d spend the rest of the year feeling crummy.

So, what’s on my list for this year? Nothing. My resolutions? To make no unachievable goals or resolutions. Instead my plan is to remember the good memories and moments of the previous year. In particular, I want to cherish the people who were and are an important part of my life. I want to think about how I can convey to them how much they mean to me. I want to think about what it means to cherish life and to live more fully in the moment. Just typing these words puts a smile on my face. I feel returned to my five-year-old self who couldn’t wait to get up in the morning to see what the day might bring. And already, I’m feeling better about the New Year!

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