I’m back in the gym these days since it’s getting too cold to jump onto my bicycle. I went riding a couple of days ago and I noticed that it took me longer to dress warmly in preparation for the ride then the actual ride itself! When this day happens, it’s time for a good clean and tune up of my dear friend, followed by a long hibernation in the shed over the winter. (not me – the bike!) It’s always a sad day to part ways but we will surely meet again!
Had a great conversation in the gym this morning. Nothing much happens when I’m on the elliptical machine beside someone but working out on the tread mill is a whole different story. There are always interesting discussions with fellow tread mill journeyers. I had never met this young woman who was walking quickly on the treadmill to my immediate left – I will call her YWBM. (Young Woman Beside Me) Our conversation went something like this:
Woman beside me (YWBM): Hi. I’m Jen. (not her real name although I think she looks like a “Jen”)
Diane: Nice to meet you. I’m Diane.
YWBM: I guess you’re getting ready for Christmas, are you?
Diane: Gearing up. I don’t usually get into the Christmas spirit until mid-month but for some reason, this year is different. I think it helped that we decorated earlier inside the house this year.
YWBM: I dread December.
Silence for a few seconds.
Diane: Can I ask why? The weather? Christmas? Why don’t you like December?
YWBM: I’m not crazy about the cold temperature but mostly, I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed Christmas. I’m constantly disappointed. I run around like a mad woman taking care of everyone in the family and by the time December 25th comes along, I’m totally exhausted and I just want to hide and cry.
Diane: Ah. I totally understand what you’re saying. I felt exactly the same for many years . . . but I don’t feel that way any more.
YWBM: Really? May I ask what changed?
Diane: I lowered my expectations. Of the holiday. Of other people. Of me. No more sending Christmas cards. I gave up on the Good Housekeeping decorating. I don’t bake so much. My schedule isn’t crazy full. And I don’t get anxious about finding the perfect gift for everyone.
YWBM: Hm…lower my expectations. I like that.
Diane: It’s really helped me. I don’t feel the pressure any more. Christmas has become peaceful and I can celebrate Jesus’ birth, rather than surviving the season.
YWBM: Good words. Thanks. I gotta’ speed up now.
Diane: You’re welcome. Enjoy the rest of your workout.
I have to confess – it took me a LONG time to figure out and apply this powerful truth to my life. I’m a slow learner. Funny thing is that I also had the opportunity this afternoon to share with a friend about expectations. Wonderful discussion once again. It’s just been one of those days.
Somewhere in my years, I began to believe lies and distortions about what Christmas “should” look and feel like . . . and I could never keep up. Nobody made me shop for the perfect presents or create all the family traditions or try to cook the perfect turkey dinner or bake dozens and dozens of cookies. These were my decisions and expectations were lofty and unrealistic.
It took a great deal of reflection and stillness to understand why I felt so driven. Where was it coming from?
It took a lot of self talk to slowly make healthier decisions.
It took courage to set boundaries.
It took prayer to let go.
And now, there’s freedom.