Ahhhh, letting go. That is not something that comes easy to those of us type A personalities. Yet this is the year that I am embracing the art of “letting go” in order to achieve a higher state of relaxation and happiness.
As part of my proof, I submit to you the photo of the naked wreath on our front door. In years past, I have put a lot of time and energy into hanging small wreaths on every window of the house during the holiday season. It looks really pretty, but here’s the thing: it’s kind of a pain in the butt to hang them all. You have to clean off the window where the suction cup goes and you have to hang each wreath so it is at the same height and alignment with all the other wreaths (or else all the people out there with OCD will drive by my house and be very upset!). And you need to wait for a slightly warm day to hang them and then when you get a really windy night, half of them blow off….. You see where I’m going with this. There was clearly a little voice in my head saying “do we really have to hang up those stupid fake wreaths this year?” So about half way through December when I had dragged my feet for so long, I finally made the decision to ditch the window wreaths and just get a simple wreath for the front door. Not only was this a simple, unadorned balsam wreath from my local grocery store, but I actually hung it up that way and left it that way for a whole week without a bow or anything on it! When I would look at the wreath, part of me would cringe and say, “It really needs a bow or something, anything!” The other part of me would beam with pride, feeling like this was a test for my new self – embracing the imperfect. Just letting it be and allowing the discomfort of having a naked wreath on my door build and build so I could examine why it should make me so uncomfortable. Would it upset the mailman?
Here’s what I’ve come to realize: we live in a world that is priming us to achieve the “perfect exterior”. Just open up Pinterest or thumb through an issue of Martha Stewart or Magnolia magazine. Or look at the holiday cards we send each other. We are pushed to not only live up to unrealistic ideals, but then fill our days with unrealistic tasks, like wrapping our gifts just so, and adding a cute little bobble on top to make it look pretty.
Sending out holiday cards is a perfect example. Have you ever noticed all the photo cards that come in the mail this time of year? Every card has a family photo with each member smiling in their matching outfits. Even the family dog is looking at the camera and smiling. Then there are the overachievers: standing at the top of Mount Everest and journaling how each child is achieving greatness and on track to go to Harvard and become President of the United States someday.
I’m going to tell you, the best photo card we ever sent was when our triplets were 18 months old and we couldn’t get them to sit still for a second! We tried dressing them up and sitting on the fireplace hearth with them in our laps, but each time we got in position, they would wriggle away laughing like it was a big game. So we took a series of blooper pictures and put that on our Christmas card that year. People loved it. You see, as much as we have a fascination with being or looking “perfect”, we are also drawn to people who let their imperfections all hang out. It brings us a sense of relief when we can relate to them and say “oh! You mean your son likes to ruin every family photo too? Why can’t I get my kid to stop making rabbit ears over his brother’s head when we take a photo?” Somehow secretly I have this sick curiosity to know the real deal behind people’s family photo. Was Mom shouting at the kids to behave and tuck in their shirts? Was Dad rolling his eyes the whole time and wondering when this photo shoot would come to an end so he could go watch the football game? How many of you would pay money to see Chip and Joanna Gaines in a “not so perfect parenting moment”?
Stress and increased obligations go hand in hand with the holiday season. I found I needed to constantly readjust my expectations in order to maintain a certain level of sanity and happiness. I kept reminding myself that B+ work was good enough; that being a mom who is present and relaxed is the best gift I can give my kids as opposed to a picture-perfect magazine-worthy home with a mother who is screaming and yelling because she can’t really live up to the image of perfection in her head.
I invite you to give yourself the gift of imperfection this holiday season. Look for ways to let go of that which no longer serves you. Lean in to those things that make you uncomfortable, because they are likely the areas that are ripe for growing and learning opportunities. With this, I wish you a healthy and happy holiday and New Year.