As I have been ‘putting things back in their place’ after a really lovely Thanksgiving with my extended family, it occurs to me that I am in the midst of the regularly occurring rhythms of life. As we get ready for visitors, prepare meals and organize activities, there is excitement and anticipation. When all are gathered, the natural chaos associated with these events is both wonderful and stressful. There comes a bit of longing for order.
During holiday gatherings, we are provided with so many opportunities to choose to step toward or away from the uncertainty of engaging with family and friends. We can decide whether or not to show up at the dinner, share something important, or connect in a meaningful way. As a result of past history, our own fears or the story we have about the people we are getting together with, we often set ourselves up to be disappointed or angry. We interpret a comment or body language in ways that match what we are looking for. So, we create reasons why we have to leave early, or not come at all. We engage in superficial conversation but don’t reveal anything important about ourselves. We decide to not make inquiries as to how someone else is doing for fear that we might get in an uncomfortable conversation. Some of us do this throughout the entire year in an effort to not expose ourselves to potential unpleasantness or strife – we don’t call our siblings, we don’t attend the reunion, we don’t acknowledge significant life events.
As we seek to keep things controlled and predictable, we limit ourselves in ways that prevent us from living a more fully expressed life. When our primary motive is to protect ourselves from anything unpleasant, we also block that which is interesting and enjoyable. We don’t get to find out that Uncle Jack just started a new company that your organization could connect with. We miss Grandma’s telling of the story about her brother that was hilarious and insightful. And we lose out on the opportunity for our children to see us in a new light as we reveal a dream we had when we were younger. (Or maybe something as simple as not getting to eat an amazing cranberry-rhubarb pie!)
What would happen instead if we participated in life fully expecting to have periods of discomfort, along with the joy? If we acknowledged that it is unrealistic to expect every interaction to go smoothly all of the time? Instead, maybe we could make a conscious decision to not paint an entire experience with a negative brush if something goes awry, and thus open our eyes to that which went really, really well.
Order is OK as long as your desire to maintain it doesn’t become your primary focus. This is orderly too…