Gratitude and Expectations

You may expect a November blog to be about thankfulness. Well. . . it is and it isn’t. First, let’s talk about expectations.

The year-end holidays are filled with expectations. Hallmark movies, syrupy greetings, images of happy families and beautiful decorations fill us with goals for the “perfect” holiday. It’s their business.

Even before social media, the visual and mental portrayals of holiday observances were humbling influences on our expectations. For nearly fifty years, from 1916 until 1963, Norman Rockwell illustrated often idyllic situations instilling expectations of how Americans live and celebrate. Those images still linger. Home magazines are full of recipes, table décor, welcoming front doors and more. Fashion magazines show us fantastic, drool-worthy party fashions.

“Influencer” is not a new term.

A host of things like memories, wishful thinking, the opinions of others, and our perception of societal expectations have created internal “cognitive biases” and “unconscious beliefs” that we use as personal patterns to interpret life and the world around us. While they form the lens through which we see the world, they’re not always rational. 

Is that special Thanksgiving china worth storing for fifty-one and a half weeks a year? Who has a 2 year old who sits still through an entire dinner with a dozen adults? How many of us can neatly carve a turkey at a dining table covered by grandma’s lace tablecloth? (Get real, Norman and Bon Appétit!)

Did you have a year filled with amazing photographic moments to be captured in your Christmas letter? Our expectations are often that we should have, ought to, or are less than if we don’t. We may even think we need to pretend we did. 

Life flows.

Just as we say “time flies,” we can also realize “life flows.” Sometimes smoothly passing through flower-filled meadows, but sometimes raging through rock-strewn crevices. Two year-olds grow up. Some of our years really are photo-worthy. However, I’ve not met anyone yet who can neatly carve a turkey at the table.

Real life can disappoint, or worse yet, make us feel inadequate or unsuccessful. If we’re logical, we accept that we can’t do and have it all. Magic wands just don’t exist! We do have friends and support teams.

We help each other live a life that is physically and mentally healthy, a life in which we are acknowledged for the qualities we have without comparison, to share love and appreciation. We can encourage (and support) realistic holiday expectations by recognizing the influences on those expectations and realistically evaluating them. Let’s remember to be grateful for what makes us smile, keeps us healthy, brings us joy, satisfies our souls, and brings us love. 

Gratitude Gravy

Let’s bring beauty and festivity into our holidays. Let’s make mentally and physically healthy choices that make us joyful, not overwhelmed.

Your sliced turkey may look like it was shredded rather than carved. Your main course may be plant-based burgers or macaroni and cheese instead of a 14-pound bird. Your entryway may be full of muddy boots instead of pumpkins. Your Thanksgiving dinner may be dinner for two at a kitchen table or a houseful eating on lap trays.

Be thankful this November, but, like gravy smothering a slice of turkey, let gratitude smother your expectations. Even if it’s lumpy.

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