With Thanksgiving on the horizon, I find myself turning a bit nostalgic for holidays past. I miss the excitement of listening for the sound of reindeer hooves and little shining smiles at the top of the bannister on Christmas morning. However, there are things from years past that I’d rather not repeat ever again, like putting bikes together at 2 a.m. and putting perfectionism in charge of my holiday. I was reading an old journal yesterday, and I noticed that the language in my entry was so, well let’s just say it, bitchy! I was reflecting upon all the things that my kids weren’t doing right, and how annoyed I was at their inability to “live up to their potential.” As usual, my treatment of my kids was a reflection of my own feelings. I used my self-talk as a weapon, because I didn’t feel as if I was living up to my own potential. That tidal wave of frustration with my own imperfection seemed to crest at the holidays; I wanted a Norman Rockwell holiday, but what I got was closer to Norman Bates.
I would start out with the best of intentions. I wanted a holiday season filled with love and connection, however, my own perfectionism had me focused on comparison instead of connection. I held up my every action to a standard of Martha Stewart tidiness. I forgot that my family is messy, emotional and unpredictable…because that’s how I raised them. I think I ought to be orderly and consistent, but I am really impulsive and passionate. I am merely the ringmaster in my family circus, with my control being tenuous in the most orderly of times. So this year, I’m giving up control; I will retain the top-hat, but I’m trashing the whip.
It seems a far better plan to focus on my flexibility, so I can adjust to whatever comes up, than to try and control every eventuality. When I think about how this will play out on Thanksgiving Day, I start to get a little panicky. If I don’t control the timing of every dish and the decorating, how will it all happen? Then it hits me; I can ask for help! If I’m preaching about how important it is to rely on your Pride, why don’t I live it to give it? I have my own Pride of lionesses, and one weary lion, and they all love me. They want my happiness a whole lot more than a perfect dinner. As I thought about what I could give away in order to make me a happier ringmaster, I realized that I could just do the parts of Thanksgiving that I loved and give away the rest of it. I could give away the dressing that I can never seem to get right (it’s always too wet or too dry), and I could also give away the sweet potato casserole, since my organic no sugar version has never garnered rave reviews. I could let the girls set the table, so I can take a bath and rest. I could also give away the veggie side dish. That leaves me with the turkey, the salad and homemade crescent rolls that I make with the girls. Merely thinking about Thanksgiving dinner this way made me feel light and happy; I almost danced around the table just contemplating the space this would add to my holiday.
Then my thoughts came crashing in: “You can’t do that! No one will want to help! What are you thinking? What kind of mother are you?”… yada, yada, yada. Then I thought, “Let’s just try it and see what happens.” As soon as I let go of the critical thinking, I came up with a list of things to do for my new version of Thanksgiving to come true. I wrote them all down on my Girl Power Transformer (go here for your own copy), and set about checking them off. My friend was happy to help and volunteered her mother’s famous dressing recipe, and a side dish; she was delighted to be asked. The girls were excited about being in charge of the casserole and setting the table; my hubby volunteered to make his famous cheesecake. It was so easy once I let go of the expectation of how things “should” go. I didn’t delegate tasks to be done the way they “ought” to be done; I gave away the opportunity to be a small part of a happy, connected Thanksgiving. When my Pride was given the opportunity to help make a family day happier and closer, they jumped at the chance. That’s what happens when you ask for help. I believe I have started a new family tradition based upon love instead of control. I know it seems counterintuitive that things will go better by letting go, but I’ve seen it work in my coaching and writing, time and again. I’m not sure this new plan will work perfectly, but then again, what does? I know that I feel happier just thinking about it, and isn’t that what holidays are all about?
I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!
Try letting go of your perfect holiday, and tell me how it goes at firstname.lastname@example.org