...don't work out the way we envisioned, planned, expected. Disappointment can really overshadow the hope and joy of the season. What is a person to do?
Life is challenging, because we are all human. We each have our own unique personalities, our definition of "family time" and our own ideas about how our "holiday vacation" is going to look for us.
As the holiday season approached, we were filled with much anticipation, as all our adult children will be home for the holidays (at least some part of it). Our oldest son is home for 2 1/2 weeks and our daughter and son-in-law will be visiting for a week (over the New Year). Now that our family is scattered across the country, we rarely get to spend time all together and we are really thankful for a few days when everyone is "home" at the same time.
Knowing this, visions of doing things as a family and time spent together filled our heads. Our oldest son is in grad school and we knew he would be working at his former job some plus he has a wonderful opportunity to play with the Pacific Northwest Ballet for two of their annual Nutcracker performances. We planned a 2-day Canadian getaway for the guys just after Christmas. And, we planned to spend New Year's Eve and New Year's Day with the whole family together. The past 2 years have been extremely challenging and sometimes, painful, for our family ~ so this is a special gift to be all together.
Well.... life is what happens when we make plans. Our oldest son's schedule is extremely full. Between working at his old job and playing for The Nutcracker, it hasn't left alot of free time in his schedule. In addition, he has lots of friends and music networking connections to re-connect with too. And, our two sons work at the same company. Unfortunately, their schedules are off just enough that it doesn't allow us to plan anything for an evening. Going to see the new Sherlock Holmes movie had been in the plans, but I just don't see how it will become a reality with the schedule. We can't even find time to watch White Christmas or the Muppet Christmas Carol ~ Christmas favorites that everyone enjoys watching together...
We thought our oldest son wouldn't work much after Christmas, but he is scheduled for another 31 hours. The day his sister and brother-in-law arrive, he works until 11pm. So much for a family dinner upon their arrival. And, New Year's Eve he is schedule to work 11 - 8. Again, so much for our plans of spending time together, playing and dinner. Yes, we will technically be able to do a specific activity I discussed with everyone ~ to go to the Seattle Center and watch the fireworks at midnight. But...
On New Year's Day, my parents are coming to visit and we'll have a small open house for a few people to stop by. There are plans for a sushi lunch on January 2nd and our son returns home on the 3rd. Not many options for family time together... Our daughter let us know that they had planned to stay with another friend for the last couple days of their visit. Okay..... (An e-mail a couple of days later indicated that they would be staying with us the whole time, although I'm not holding my breath because I know plans could change again.)
Why? Why can't things work out the way we imagine or plan? Why can't we all be less connected to the outside world while visiting family and being "home"? And yet, the reality is that we are all adults and have lives and relationships and ideas of our own. We have a history together and separately; both good and challenging.
Now, maybe it appears I'm whining. Maybe you think I should be grateful that we're together at all. I am. And, as things haven't worked out the way that we planned, I have dealt with the realization that I do have expectations of how the holidays will play out (even though I've tried to be really open and flexible and not have "expectations"). I tried to hold lightly to plans, but when the schedule became more complicated than we could have imagined ~ it was very tough and I've had to work through great disappointment and frustrations over the past few days. Through all of this, I'm learning even more about myself and embrace the truth that I still have more growing, changing and transformation work to be done in my own life.
To be honest, I got really hung up on our adult children (who don't live at home any longer) and believing they weren't thinking about the rest of the family, not making choices that made myself (and Dad) feel like they really wanted to come and visit us and spend time together as a family, and felt the "victim" role creeping up on me. And, it was a stark reminder that it is so easy to get our feelings hurt, to put up walls to protect yourself and/or just stay in a defensive (protective mode) because people are just going to keep letting you down. I've learned that often people have no idea how their actions or choices have affected others. There is a snowball effect that can quickly develop and bad feelings and "wounds" just get worse and worse and relationships fall apart... And no one really understands exactly what is happening.
Well, it's not what I want. Life IS what happens when we make plans. I cannot worry that someone is going to feel bad about how much time we spend together or things don't go the way that we planned. I'm working on not taking it personally when a decision is made that interrupts our plans or things don't work out the way I had hoped. Instead, I'm focusing on being thankful for the moments we do share with one another, living and focusing on the present time and having a heart of gratitude in the midst of frustration, struggles and my own healing. I want my hands and heart to be open so love can flow through me to others and God can continue to work in and through our lives. And, I'm believing that we will make some fond memories during the 2011 holiday season...