Monday, December 14, 2015

What do you expect

I was done with my Christmas shopping by mid-November. No one is expecting much of me this year since I'm half-way across the globe and our means to transport larger items is reduced. It's been wonderful. I've had a great time decorating for Christmas, listening to Christmas music  (also this music), and teaching the story of Christ's birth to Henry.

I've been reflecting on the idea of expectations lately. I'm really content with the lower level of possessions we have now. But I recognize it's made easier because if we lack for something or don't have something very nice, we can use the whole "we're only here for a year" excuse and everyone understands. We don't have a printer. We don't have lawn tools. We don't have matching bedroom furniture or fancy throw pillows. It's okay. We borrow things if we need them or just do without. I have been living without many of the social expectations that are part of regular life for most people.

We have fewer clothes, no guest towels, one car, no fancy serving dishes, no TV. It's fine. I still have something to wear everyday. I just spend less time picking it out.

I have realized how much of my daily life in Utah (and stress) was a direct result of living up to expectations. I felt the need to keep a clean house, the need to keep my Zumba classes fresh and exciting with new choreography, buy or make the perfect present for Christmas, the need to help with school/church activities.

So I notice two things about all of that. 1) all of those things are things I want to do. But 2) when I start to respond to the perceived exterior pressure (expectations) it loses it's joy and becomes a chore. A stress.

For instance, I like (love!) teaching Zumba, but the one and only thing that has ever made me want to stop is if I feel I can't keep creating new choreography at the same rate and same quality that I've done in the past. But I still like it. So do I quit teaching just because I can't meet everyone else's expectation?

I like (love!) Christmas. Without the expectation to deliver lots of presents this year, I found myself discovering little treasures along my path and thinking, "Oh! this would be so great for _______!" It was really a joy to picture them opening it and being happy, knowing that I was thinking of them all the way from Australia. I wasn't *going* Christmas shopping. I just found things along my regular way and carried thoughts of people with me. Kind of a "wish they were here" thing. Just a little gift from me to capture a moment in time when I was thinking of them. Most things I found cost very little money or, in some cases, nothing.

So how can I let go of all of that more permanently? How can we live this freedom from expectations when we return? It is definitely more joyful.

I don't know. I can say I will let things go and not care about meeting expectations, but they creep in.

Are there things I do to place expectations on others? Even unintentionally? When we play the game of matching gifts, worrying about dollar amounts, and spending more than we can afford, we not only steal joy from ourselves, but I think we are stealing joy from others. We could be doing everyone a favor by just releasing it all and living more in the moment. Enjoy ourselves. We may not be able to do everything we have done before. Perhaps it's wiser if we don't.

I have frequently remembered a line from our church's General Conference this past October. Elder David A. Bednar shared a piece of wisdom from Elder Robert D. Hales. He said, "when you cannot do what you have always done, then you only do what matters most."

I'm going to try harder to make my life right now what *I* want it to be. Find out what kind of life I want to make, instead of the one I am supposed to make. Do the things that matter most. It's now or never.

No pressure.

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