Driving to a family holiday dinner, I think my extended family should all get along. People should be interesting. I should feel welcome, just as I am. All of us should respect each other. But in my experience, not all of these things happen.
During the holiday week, I have much more time with my family than usual. I feel that we should have fun together. My kids should listen to me respectfully. Everyone should understand what needs to be done and pitch in. Again, not all of these things happen.
During holidays, I have unexplored expectations for myself, too. I should be happy. My house should be really clean and organized. I should be able to do it all without getting stressed or cranky. I should be less self-critical. Again, not all of these things happen.
There's often a gap between my unconscious expectations and my actual experience. And that is uncomfortable.
The antidote, I know, begins with recognizing my expectations. Once I recognize unconscious beliefs, they shift a bit. Watching my kids argue, I may get frustrated because the story in my mind says that we should all get along. Once I recognize the gap between my belief and my experience, I can soften, caring for my feelings with some inner tenderness and mindful breathing, I also get a bit skeptical, wondering to myself if my belief is true. Maybe it's normal they argue some? Maybe my messy house doesn't mean I'm bad. Maybe I can love the people around the Thanksgiving table with me, even if I don't agree with them.
I'm a mom, wife, daughter, friend, and teacher who has long struggled with the desire to be the perfect person I imagine that I should be. Practicing mindfulness has changed my life, helping me to make peace with myself as I truly am and to appreciate my family, life, and the world as they actually are.