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Day 70: The joylessness of expectations

December 23, 2023

It’s Christmas in two days and rather than feeling or expressing any sort of joy, I feel frustrated, irritated and resentful.

My youngest is acting out. He’s being demanding, rude and unmanageable, and, to make matters worse, his hearing is poor due to some sort of ear infection so we’re all constantly yelling at each other. It’s exhausting and the voice in my head is becoming as loud as all the other yelling.

“He should be able to play on his own for a bit!”

“Why can’t he just do what everyone else wants to do for once?”

“This is supposed to be fun! It doesn’t feel even remotely like fun!”

It’s not even 11am yet and I’m frazzled. I’m wishing Christmas away just so I can get back to doing my own thing and not having to be the Director of Children’s Entertainment!

What does this have to do with joy?

I think there are probably multiple lessons in here for me. The first is one I’m having to learn repeatedly – and have written about more than once on this journey. It’s the one about presence and accepting what is.

I become useless to myself and to him when my attention is diverted to what “should” be happening. Resisting what is makes it impossible to deal with effectively.

On top of that, I think a joyful life requires us to make peace with the emotions that are hard to tolerate. Boredom, frustration and anger are just such emotions and rather than simply acknowledging them and letting them pass, I am rallying against them, fighting them and demanding they leave. No, in reality I’m demanding that my son change so I don’t have to tolerate these emotions.

We’ve got the rest of the Christmas break to get through. It has the capacity to be a joyful time but it’s not going to be a time of nothing but positive emotions and to expect anything else will set me up to bring suffering where other options exist.

So this morning, I resolve to remind myself, whenever I catch it in time, to be present, accept what is and show my kids and myself what it means to be ok with imperfection and uncomfortable emotions.

How are things going for you over the Christmas break?

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