Exaggerated Expectations

I’ve lost count of how many times today I’ve heard someone in the family express how disappointed they were because they felt as though the day just hadn’t gone the way they had planned…how Christmas just seemed to have slipped by…how it somehow just didn’t feel like Christmas.

It leads me to wonder why we place such enormous and unrealistic expectations on this one day out of the year. We expect that it has to be this perfect, Utopian 24 hours of peace, family joy, and bliss, and then we’re horribly disappointed when it doesn’t come through. Sort of like wedding days: months of planning and hyper-stressed-out people attempting to create the perfect day, somehow remaining dissociated from the fact that something will go wrong. No matter how hard we try, how much we plan, or how much unrealistic stress we place on ourselves, something about Christmas day or the week or the season will go wrong. Its a given. So why stress?

During a break in the family festivities on Christmas Eve, Karen and I were watching an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond. In the episode, Raymond was giving a wedding toast. He talked about how family always goes wrong. Usually in a bizarre way. But, when we play the movie of memories back in our heads from that day, we edit out the bad parts. We cling to the good.

I’m an amateur videographer. I love making family movies of the holidays. There are things that go wrong while I’m taping. I edit that footage out when I’m making the finished product. That’s life. We edit out the bad memories, and we cling to the good, because that good…that hope…is ultimately a symbol of what we celebrate on Christmas.

Yet we miss so much of the joy of that celebration because we want to make it something it can’t be: perfect. We lose the joy to the stress. Now if that isn’t a microcosm of American life, I don’t know what is.

Feliz Navidad.

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