Reality Check: Pictures of Celebration

It’s the time of year when we are surrounded by pictures of celebration and joy.

There are images of beaming families who obviously love each other and probably never disagree. They sit at tables overflowing with perfectly cooked, delicious food, not a dirty dish in sight. Meanwhile, delighted children open gifts under a gloriously decorated Christmas tree. No one is disappointed. No one is in tears. Everything is perfect.

Do your celebrations work that way?

If not, you’re not alone, of course. Along with all that potential joy, there’s also the potential for significant unhappiness.

Are you feeling stressed, perhaps? Both lack of money and lack of time are popular stress sources.

Are you feeling misunderstood or underappreciated? Perhaps you are dissatisfied because your expectations aren’t coming to fruition. Perhaps other people aren’t behaving the way they should; (i.e. the way we want them to behave.)

There are also the realities of loss and loneliness. We may not have everyone with us that we would like. Friends and family may be far away. Loved ones may have passed on, so celebrations can never possibly be the same as they once were.

If you perceive that your celebrations fall short and you are unhappy about that, perhaps now is a good time to take some preventive action to protect your well-being.

One worthwhile action is to be familiar with your own “Quality World.” That’s a term used for the set of pictures in your head of the people, things, and values that you find satisfying.

So before you set out to spend your money, time, and energy making elaborate arrangements, ask, “What brings me genuine joy at this time of year? What is my picture of a truly satisfying celebration?”

For example, are there specific people you would like to spend time with? Are there particular traditions, foods, or decorations that are important to you? If you have lost loved ones, are there memories that want to honour in some way or share with friends, children or grandchildren?

In other words, what really matters to you?

It can also be very helpful to get familiar with the quality worlds of the people close to you. How? Ask them what truly matters to them.

It’s easy to assume that we know what’s important to the people we know so well. But are the hours spent making that special dessert that the family loved years ago still worthwhile? Maybe everybody would be just as happy with a pie from the bakery and a few more hours spent relaxing and enjoying each other.

How about money and time spent on gift-giving? Does it bring joy? Does it bring frustration? Might there be a different, more effective way to express the sentiments you want to share that will be satisfying for both the giver and receiver?

So, sit back for a minute and ask yourself, “If this celebration went exactly as I would like it to go, what would that look like?”

Sometimes we completely misunderstand what matters to others, and they misunderstand us, too. Communication can help.

For example, if the best gift you could get is to have everyone together with no arguments, try asking for that. If you want a booze-free celebration, then say that.

If your joy would come from renewing old friendships, then make that your focus. If you want to move away from a sadness or loss, try making your own new tradition. Honour what you’ve had while making different, happy memories.

Our resources—time, money, and energy—are limited, perhaps even scarce. Knowing what makes a celebration satisfying for you can help you reduce waste and frustration and bring real joy.

What’s in your pictures of celebration?

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