This is the time of year that is surrounded by traditions of lights, candles, trees, gifts, food, family, festivities, memories and merriment. Along with these traditions come particular ways of doing things. Your expectations of what you want the holiday to be, or what will make those around you happy for the holiday, drive you to follow a specific guideline or strategy to make that happen. Your plan is well meaning, and you will follow it to the “T” – your rigidity is intended to bring joy and happiness to you and those around you.
I get it. I have done the same thing at the holidays – followed the plan to the letter!
Until this year…
Among all of the other traditions that I have carried on into my own family, was the tradition of a fresh tree. I even had a very specific conversation with my husband about it being a given, that our holiday was not the holiday without a fresh tree. There have been years that it literally made me teary eyed when it was suggested that we bypass it and go artificial. (Yes, the teary thing seems a bit much, but when you are tied to tradition and they mean so much to you… well, I know some of you can understand.) I was so set on the fresh tree and that it was essential to the experience of the holidays for our children, that we even started a tradition of driving 2 hours to find a tree to cut. However, circumstances this year made it impossible to make the trek to find a tree. I very reluctantly was forced out of my well-meaning rigidity over the fresh tree and put up an artificial one.
All three of my children and I spent a couple of hours decorating the tree, acting silly and goofy, laughed at and shared stories about the ornaments. In past years, my rigidity over the fresh tree kept them away from the decorating because of the spiky and itchy needles. Although they enjoyed looking at the finished tree, I usually decorated it myself, and ended up with the itchy, rashy, and sneezy battle wounds to prove it.
There was truly a feeling of joy and happiness as we didn’t battle having to anchor the tree to the wall to keep it from falling. My rigidity over the fresh tree in past years brought stress as I battled the perfectly imperfect balance that a wild grown pine has… and it didn’t bring out my best in many years as the tree would fall over and ornaments would break. Breaking my rigidity freed me, and my family of a hysterical mom cleaning up broken ornaments at the holidays.
Each year, I would think how beautiful and special our tree was, and it was! But this year, each of my children told me independently, that this was their favorite tree. They got to participate in it more than just picking it out. It created a fresh experience within our tradition. My rigidity in the past had kept them from enjoying it to the fullest.
My well-meaning rigidity over a specific way of doing things at the holidays had become a roadblock.
As silly and trivial as it may sound, an artificial Christmas tree taught me that my well-meaning rigidity, although it was with good intentions, was really a roadblock. It showed me that my well meaning rigidity was a roadblock to my joy, happiness, and enjoyment of the holiday season. Although the intention was to create memories for my children, the rigidity was blocking some of the positive experiences within the tradition for my children to take with them into their own families. It revealed to me that in my desire to “make” the holiday for them, my rigidity in sticking with my plan was making MY holiday for them. It reminded me that the importance of a tradition isn’t in the specific plan, system, strategy or way of doing things; it is in what you experience, how you feel, and the memory to take from the traditions.
It also reminded me that I have to WOMAN UP and remember that well-intended rigidity doesn’t just exist in my life when it comes to the internal struggle over a fresh or artificial tree. I need to do regular flexibility checks in all areas of my life and see where my good intentions are creating road blocks. I need to take ownership and accountability over those areas and purposely stretch myself. As I learned this year with the tree, when I choose to break away from rigidity, I will rediscover things about the experiences and about myself that I had lost sight of.
When you let go of rigidity, even well-meaning rigidity, you break down roadblocks that keep you from happiness, having joy, seeing opportunity, looking at things with a fresh set of eyes, and experiencing traditions in a new and deeper way. As you wind down this year and start the next, be conscious of the areas in your life that could benefit from a bit more flexibility. Look at the routines, the tasks, the roles, and the places in your life that you are a creature of habit. Be daring, be brave, and be bold, and commit to doing one thing differently to shake it up a bit.