I consider myself to be a pretty low maintenance person. I don’t pack a great deal on trips, I try not to be the person everyone is waiting on in the store, I don’t order complicated things on the menu, and I try not to send it back if it comes out wrong. I figure the less space I take up, the better. The fewer expectations I have, the better.
This philosophy doesn’t apply well to love, though.
However low maintenance I think I may be, I have nothing but high expectations and high hopes in my relationships. I hope no one will ever have an issue with me, yet I am the first to notice a problem in someone else. I try to be invisible, yet I see everything in others.
This comes up at Christmas, I have discovered.
In my mind, I have a picture of how things will turn out. The laughter will echo and the deep, thoughtful moments on the porch, late at night with a glass of red wine will abound. We’ll play games and we will all voice our needs and expectations to each other so we can properly satisfy all the things we inwardly need and want. We will all contribute equally, and we will all cry as we open our gifts from each other.
I want everyone to be happy, even if it kills me.
The irony is not lost on me.
How many times do we enter Christmas, telling our hearts to calm down, as our family enters the home. “Act natural,” we tell ourselves, as we desperately hope everyone is having a good time, bonding, and making lasting memories.
How many times do I look at a member of my family and wish I could take all the pain they are experiencing and shoulder it myself? How many times do I reach over to take someone’s hand, but the moment has already past?
And how many times does this fierce love rise up in me, and bubble over into a form of hatred and anger? “I have expectations of how things are supposed to go”, I am yelling to myself, “and I want you to be happy!” But all they see is my indignation and displeasure.
There is nothing low maintenance or easy about family, about holidays, about love.
It’s incredibly hard to lay it all out there, put yourself completely at the mercy of those you love, and desperately hope they liked the gift you worked so hard to pay for, or the dish you spent so much precious time preparing. There is nothing low maintenance about opening your home and letting your crazy family take over your normal, your routine, your sanity.
There is nothing simple or everyday about attempting to convey how miraculous the birth of Jesus is, and how his arrival has impacted us personally, individually.
Being in a family takes courage. Maybe that’s why a lot of people check out.
We have this idea of what it’s supposed to look like and what people are supposed to say, and it never goes the way we plan because we are fickle, broken people. But we are worth it. Having people is worth it. Enduring tough conversations is worth it. Being upset at how they loaded the dishwasher is worth it. Wishing they had been more grateful is worth it. Wondering if they liked it is worth it.
It’s worth it to be all in. It’s so incredibly worth it.
So to you who is wondering if you did good, if you measured up, if they’ll look back and remember this Christmas fondly, they will. You did good.