What did you expect?

Hello, I’d like to introduce you to your expectations.

Perhaps you’ve met them before. Perhaps others have too, or failed to for that matter.

Maybe Christmas met them, every last one of them and they rolled away deliciously fulfilled.

Or maybe not.

There are so many expectations at Christmas time. Big, small, anxious, wild; even those that are tucked away so incredibly well that it’s easy to forget someone is carrying them at all.

Some are small, or at least we pretend that they are, because if we can just make them small enough maybe they wont matter. They hide so well don’t they? Behind smiles, jokes, wine glasses. They can stretch uncomfortably behind silences, or jump out uninvited between words.

Kids often haven’t learned to hide theirs. Should they? The answer is probably somewhere between manners and truth, and how many people they bowl over when they run into a room expectations first.

Adults handle them dozens of different ways. Sometimes they’re as loud as their owners or downright impossible to meet. Sometimes they’ve been let down so many times they expect the worst, pre emptive disappointment might seem easier.

They tug at heartstrings with the ferocity of a candy cane hungry toddler pulling on a parents sleeve.

We can push them aside over and over again… but they don’t really go away, do they?

So why don’t we just bring them out in the open right now, and really look at them. Yours, not everyone else’s. There are too many to meet all at once so let’s be selfish for a minute.

What did you expect at this intense time of year? Did you get it?

This isn’t about gifts, but it can be, they’re your expectations after all, so they can be about anything you want and that’s perfectly fine. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

There’s no right or wrong – just easy or hard.

So here’s a better question; how did your expectations contribute to your enjoyment of this time of year? Did they make it easier or harder?

 

Did you meet your own expectations?

If not, ask yourself; were they kind, within your abilities and truly important?

Sometimes not meeting our own expectations means we need to make better choices, change habits or give ourselves a push. Sometimes the expectations we have for ourselves are so big they forget to allow for the beautiful mess of being human. So if you need a push, good. If you need to stop pushing and cut your expectations down to size, that’s good too. You’re never going to know if you don’t look at them.

 

Did other people meet your expectations? 

If not, let’s start with the obvious; did they know you had them? Did you tell any of the ridiculously busy people who mean the world to you that you were carrying these expectations around and how much they mattered to you? Or were you so in the habit of pushing your expectations aside that no one could meet them because they didn’t even know that they were there.

It’s ok, you know, to say that you want or need something – even if it’s just a hug or to be really truly heard.

 

Did events meet your expectations? 

This time of year is so fraught with doing things how we think we should because of society, religion or family. If the events you went to met your expectations then I’m so glad – you deserve that. But we get this idea of how things should go and sometimes it’s absolutely fine to shake those expectations up a bit, not lower them, just change what they look like.

Your easier, happier, more joyful holiday season does not have to look like anyone else’s. It shouldn’t feel like fake smiles and disappointment. It should make you feel good.

We’re about to start a brand new year and all the goals in the world wont make it joyful if you don’t bring expectations to the table too. Own them. Play with them. Change them. Be bold with them. Maybe don’t hold onto them so tight.

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Less

Consumerism (noun) The preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods.

This Christmas, I’m falling in love with less.

Less clutter. Less distractions. Less tidying up the same things over and over again. Less piles of clothes or books or bags that aren’t truly loved. Less clothes that don’t feel amazing, less makeup that spends its time in drawers. Less kids stories that don’t make them cry “Again!”. Less toys scattered over the floor like booby traps.

Less wasted time.

I will always love things. I don’t apologise for it. But I’ve realised that the key is in keeping the things I love and letting go of the rest, because ultimately I deserve more.

More writing, more art, more laughter, more music. More board games, more hide and seek. More time spent in inspiration. More adventures outside. More ball games and dancing in the kitchen. More spaces in my home that feel like comfort. More romance, more jokes, more movies watched without my mind on the laundry. More quality.

More ideas and inspiration. More rest.

This year I want to be more of me. So I want less stuff.

It’s not just about removing things that aren’t functional; usefulness is important but beauty is important too. Inspiring is more important still. Minimalism doesn’t mean minimizing that. Ask yourself if you use it, but also ask yourself if it makes you happy. It’s about removing things that take from your life rather than give.

It’s not wasteful to get rid of something you don’t need. It’s not ungrateful to pass something on that still has life in it. That t shirt that you might wear? You don’t. That’s ok.

That book, dress, bag, toy; it’s someone else treasure. Keeping what doesn’t add value to our lives perpetuates a feeling of scarcity even as we drown in stuff. We’re worth more than that.

I think for a lot of us the idea of minimalism still feels like loss rather than gain, and too many of us decide that we’ll never be minimalist because we still have clutter. We still have that back room, that walk in robe, those boxes we never got to; not to mention the drawers in the garage. But what I’m learning is that it’s not about immediately having that perfect space, it’s about the conscious editing of our lives.

It’s about what we own but also what we commit our time to, it’s about honestly assessing the value in everything and what our intention is for keeping it.  Even hobbies, habits and friendships. It’s about doing this without guilt.

Minimalism and honesty are tied, because you can’t declutter without really taking a look at your own bullshit.

I’m not quite there yet. I don’t expect to be. I expect that I will always have a cupboard or two to be sorted, and piles of paper that could make a grand squadron of paper planes.

The meditation of constantly looking at my life honestly will take care of that. There will be ebb and flow. I will declutter. I will be kind to myself as I do. I will not aim for perfection.

I will remind myself, as many times as it takes, that less is more.

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Let’s be honest….

I stuffed up today. Not in any remarkable way, just in one of those everyday parenting moments that we have a tendency not to notice until we look back on them later.

I overreacted to something and snapped at Bodhi in the process. He responded with harsh words and upset. In the heat of the moment I started to get annoyed… I started to say something back… then I stopped myself. I took a breath, sat down and opened my arms to him. I did what I try to do whenever I don’t get it quite right –  I owned it. “You know what?” I said, to my red-eyed, angry boy. “I can understand why you’re feeling frustrated right now. I messed up didn’t I? I didn’t handle that well, but I’ll try to do better next time. I’m sorry.” And my boy, like he so often does in these little everyday honesties, wrapped his arms around me and said “No, that wasn’t nice. But I’ll help you do it better next time. I really love you. Mum, do you think you could help me respond nicer too?”

Sometimes I sit down at the end of a day and I reflect back on what we did. I think back on the moments that worked and the ones we didn’t, and I find that every day, every single one, has both. Along with the moments we’re proud of come the ones that we aren’t. I’m facing the fact that they’re likely to stick around. But the thing that makes some days better is when I remember to be honest with my kids – to own my little stumbles, even as I help them with theirs.

Bodhi struggles with emotional maturity at times, but when someone else lays their own struggles before him he steps up in a way that never fails to surprise me. It might be me just “needing a minute” (after intense toddler wrangling or general madness) and little hands bringing me a cold glass of water and a kiss as he slips away to build some lego, or me saying “Sorry I rushed you kids, I should have gotten us ready earlier.” and him replying “That’s ok Mum, remember you can ask me to help next time.”

An old idea lingers that for our children to respect us we need to be in control all the time. The thing is, no one is, not you, not me, and not our beautiful kids.

I want my kids to respect me not because I’m perfect or always in control, but because I’m authentic and kind. I want them to know that they can trust me to own my mistakes as much as I expect them to own theirs and that my advice means something because I’ve earned my lessons along the way.  I want them to know that their advice is just as important.

Bodhi and I talk about a lot of things together. We talk about space, dinosaurs, lego or what’s happening around the world. We skip down the street together sometimes and have ‘evil laugh’ competitions in the kitchen. But we also talk about the bits we could have done better. I want him to know that the obligatory stuff ups don’t take away from all the good that makes us who we are.

I find that when I’m a truth teller my son is more inclined to be too.

Shaming children is slowly becoming a thing of the past, but we forget that if we hold onto guilt or shame they learn to do it to themselves.

Today I have done a lot of things right. So have my kids. And we have all, at one moment or another – been jerks. That’s ok, because we’ll do it better next time. And even when we don’t quite get there, we’ll respect and love each other for trying.

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Copyright Nirvana Dawson 2013