Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Let's Get Real // Expectations vs. Reality During the Holiday Season

Expectations vs. Reality During the Holiday Season // Bubby and Bean

EDITED TO ADD: On the original image at the top of this post, I spelled "Expectations" without the first "t." Yes, it said "Expecations."  For a good 6 hours.  And according to my stats, 2,300 of you saw it like that.  So if that doesn't show what my reality is this holiday season, I'm not sure what does. xo, m

Every year, I tell myself that this year, I'm really going to take the time to enjoy the holidays.  Late November rolls around and suddenly my mind auto-formulates an endless list of plans involving participation in cheery activities galore.  I envision lots of DIY projects, baking, decorating, holiday light car rides with hot chocolate, attendance at every holiday party to which we're invited (dressed to the nines, of course), cozy evenings spent writing out holiday cards with Christmas music playing on crackling vinyl in the background, lots of snuggled-up couch time full of holiday movies and spicy scented candles and toasty fires in the fireplace, and plenty of time to shop for the perfect gifts which will then be wrapped with equally perfect aesthetic details. I don't know if it's a false nostalgia I've created or if I really did squeeze in all of this stuff on a yearly basis at one time, but it certainly never works out this way these days.  Not even close.

Right now, I'm typing this in my studio (wearing a bathrobe and socks mid-afternoon), surrounded by the following: invoices, half-finished orders, empty ink cartridges, a laundry basket full of baby clothes that need to be washed, an unfinished nursery around the corner, piles of scribbled 'must do before the baby comes' lists, overflowing garbage and recycling baskets, a blog datebook that is totally empty for January because I still haven't quite figured out a plan for balancing work and a newborn, a page of handwritten holiday DIY project plans and big holiday blog post ideas that realistically probably won't come to fruition, and a very messily half-hung piece of holiday garland that I attempted to begin to put up over the loft railing nearly two weeks ago.  When I walk away from my work zone, I am greeted by a house that is equally in shambles.  I think I've forgotten how to make a bed or eat dinner before 10 PM.  Oh yeah, and my nine-month-pregnant hands look like swollen, bursting sausages, which makes packing orders and typing emails and posts exciting new challenges.  There is no holiday music, just the sound of my coughing (chest colds during pregnancy rock!).  There are no Christmas cookies baking in the oven, just piles of dirty dishes and empty mugs surrounding me on my desk.  If my weekly OB appointment wasn't in a couple of hours, I highly doubt a shower would be included in today's schedule.  I secretly high five myself if I remember to plug the tree lights in at the end of the day.  I have purchased two whole holiday gifts though.  So that's something.

Honestly, I think this is the reality for most of us.  I'm not quite sure why I get the idea in my head each year that this time, I'm going to really take in the season.  I shouldn't complain though.  For me, the lack of time and energy to enjoy more holiday activities is due to two things: I am slammed with work at my businesses, and I'm about to have a baby (in 3 weeks!  What?!).  Having a successful season at work and getting to be a mom in a few weeks seem like pretty great reasons not to have time for holiday relaxation if you ask me.  Just like every other year though, I'm somehow a little surprised.  I think that this year, I'm actually more surprised.  Usually around this time, I'm getting ready to head to Mexico with Robbie and the band for a week or their annual festival down there. And because I can't go this year, I was certain that I'd have more time for holiday enjoyment.  Wrong!  I also thought that despite my pregnant friends' tales of great exhaustion and pain during the final few weeks, I'd continue to be full of energy and feeling physical great. Wrong again! 

As I sit here staring at the coffee cup stain on my holiday card list, knowing that for the first year since I was 12 I probably won't have time to send out cards (kind of ironic when part of the reason I won't have time is because I'm so busy making holiday cards for orders!), I have to smile. Blogs, as fun and festive as they are this time of year, can be misleading places.  Bursting with holiday inspiration and perfectly edited portraits of the season, they represent such a tiny fragment of the reality of bloggers' actual lives.  I'm as "guilty" of this as anyone.  Despite well-cropped pictures on my Instagram account of the few holiday decorations I have managed to get up this year or posts here on the blog overflowing with holiday DIY ideas and holiday inspiration, things just don't look quite that pretty (or holiday-ish) around here right now.  This is my reality, and I'm okay with it. That doesn't mean that I won't have the same holiday season expectations again next year, or that I won't be equally as surprised when they don't turn out that way.  But taking a few minutes to reflect on the reality of it all puts things in perspective.  Maybe not having the time or energy to live up to these expectations just makes me appreciate the few little holiday moments I get to squeeze in all the more.

Perhaps you also have high holiday expectations that involve lots of extra time to enjoy the season.  Or maybe they involve having an immaculately decorated house, or completing a plethora of festive DIY projects and crafts, or being able to buy the very best gifts.  Just remember that in the end, real life happens, and ultimately, it's usually better than fantasy (or unrealistic expectations) anyway.  So whether you're eating fresh-from-the-oven gingerbread cookies in your prettiest party dress with a home full of shiny, perfectly-in-place decor (set against the sounds of Christmas caroling, of course), or you're passed out in your work clothes on the couch at the end of a long day surrounded by dirty dishes (set against the sounds of a holiday commercial or two coming from the television in the background), I hope you're able to find enjoyment in your holiday moments - no matter how small or simple or imperfect they may be.

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  1. Melissa, you sound like you have a lot on your plate plus a soon to be born baby! Kudos to you for managing your business and home life as well as you do!
    Actually this year is the first time I ever managed to implement all the ideas on my to-do list. Also, since my family lives far away there's no pressure of hosting a big dinner and such...It all happens in a pretty relaxed manner with a few friends over for tea and cookies :)
    Hang in there!

  2. I tend to assume I'll have time to fit in a lot of extra holiday activities too and it never happens. I think a lot of it goes back to being a kid or student and having breaks. We don't get breaks as adults like that! Thank you for the reminder that enjoying the smaller holiday moments is just as important.

  3. thank you for this post. you have summed up my holiday feelings perfectly. so happy i stumbled upon this post from pinterest.
    every year i have grandiose dreams of perfect holidays and right now I have three presents under the tree (someone else sent them). an elf on the shelf that never moves, a shopping list a mile high and no end to work in sight.
    thanks for helping me put it all in perspective. there is a ton to be thankful for even if you're not dressed in sparkly gold party dresses in a perfectly decorated house.

  4. Yeah, we do place unrealistic goals for ourselves this time of year. I always want a Martha Stewart memory, but it usually ends up pretty hectic. My children are older, so it does get a lot easier, but the school activities can take away a lot of your time. You are having a baby, so you can't expect to do so much. My son was born on the first week of January, so I have been there. You can only do so much.

  5. I am also guilty of unrealistic expectations for Christmas and the whole holiday season.
    Only this year I'm more ready to accept that it's impossible to get all of these things done. So I'm actually enjoying the stuff I do get time to do all the more.
    And I do get to have Christmas songs in the background.......

    As for the baby and blogging, you may want to check out how this blogger did it:
    She made it seem effortless.

  6. Awe, yes it happens to all of us, like this year i swore i was going to bake cookies for everyone and well from the looks of it that isn't happening, and you know what that's okay. Every year is not going to be a holiday like the catalogs or commercials, you do what you can and you move on. Now is the time to enjoy your last few weeks of pregnancy and take it easy. It's all about priorities and right now your joy is in your business and this upcoming baby so if you don't have time for holiday things, just enjoy the little things you can about the holidays and maybe next year it will be different, especially since you will have your little one with you :).

  7. It seems like every year (at least these past few years) have been last-minute with holiday things. We finally got our tree up over this past weekend. We didn't do any other decorating, though. And with two Christmas birthdays, we're always struggling to be prepared for it all. Honestly...You should see the piles of laundry that are surrounding the laundry room right now!

  8. I couldnt agree with this post more. AMEN friend.

  9. I love this post! I do the same thing. The closer it gets to christmas, the more I start to feel disappointed that I didn't have time to do more christmas-y things. This is a great reminder to appreciate the small moments while we laugh at the chaos that surrounds us. =)

  10. Hang in there!
    I'm observing a less (a lot less!) is more Christmas this year.
    Whittling away at expectations with a chainsaw.

  11. Oh, ironic humor... I was standing in line at Joann's with a cart full of project supplies when I read this post. Tis the season for sure. My mantra I developed when planning our wedding has continued on... "will anyone else notice, but me", if not, I question the value of the project.

    Good luck making priorities. I'll be making mine around 2am each night. ;/

  12. This is one of my fav posts of yours yet. Love you <3

  13. love this post. it's nice to see the real side of bloggers i admire.

  14. This was such a great post, Melissa - although I am not expecting a baby in three weeks {Seriously? Three? Time flies!}, I am currently working three jobs, one of which requires me to show up at an office on a fixed schedule. I don't have high holiday expectations, per se, but I normally have one job and ample free time to do things like actually buy gifts for people. This year, all of my gifts are waiting in online shopping carts for when I remember to press the confirmation button. I've written one Christmas card, which I haven't sent. And my tree? It only has decorations on the front. Decorating the back seemed like a waste of precious time when no one would see it, anyway. So I sympathise. And I'm pretty sure many others do, too, no matter what their online accounts may appear to reflect :)

  15. Thank you for your awesome comments you guys! It's great to get to read your stories about your own holiday expectations/realities. xo, m

  16. I couldn't agree more! Holiday season is wonderful with all the time spent with family and friends, but it can surely be stressful and take a toll on your sanity. Thanks for sharing this little slice of your world with us!

    Also, I just found your blog and as a fellow midwestern blogger I really appreciate the high-quality of your posts. You've definitely gotten a new follower! Funny enough, I was already following your shop on Etsy.

    xx, TT

  17. Really enjoyed reading post, great candour. Rings very true and if I start to feel overwhelmed with all the things I have/want to do I will try to remind myself not to get bogged down and just enjoy it!

  18. Loved, loved reading this, Melissa! With my wedding coming up I've been feeling the holiday pressure to make sure and take everything in. The past few days I've been trying my best to take a step back and enjoy the holiday moments that really matter, like baking cookies with my mom and spending time with my family. Thanks for keeping it real, pretty lady! xo


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