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Friday, December 9, 2016

Adjusting Expectations: Holidays as a Resident's Wife.

When Chris was in med-school and people who were on the other side of residency found out he wanted to be a surgeon, they would tell me I needed to lower my expectations about life. "Expect nothing, and if you get something, then it's a nice surprise." I absolutely hated this. I'm sorry, but to tell someone to expect nothing from their marriage is just bad advice. 

That's not to say the advice wasn't coming from a place of experience and wisdom, though. Because it's true, residency is unpredictable and extremely hard on relationships. But I prefer the advice of adjusting your expectations. 

Being the Christmas freak that I am, I have a deep love affair with celebrating this season. I have a lot of ideas of how that should look like. And sometimes, scheduling and free time and reality just don't line up with my ideas. So I have to adjust my expectations.

I've been thinking a lot about this the past few weeks, and I know I'm not the only one who's having to adjust her expectations this holiday season. Maybe you're married to (or are!) a resident or a police officer or a retail worker who just doesn't have as much time as you'd like to this year, and you need to adjust your expectations because of time restrictions, too. Or maybe you lost your job or didn't get a bonus you were counting on or just had a lot of unexpected expenses this year, and you're adjusting your expectations because you can't fund the Christmas you had in mind. Maybe you won't get to travel this year or see your loved ones or maybe you work on Christmas. Whatever the reason may be, I wanted to share a few things that have helped me adjust, not lower, my expectations so that I enjoy this season to the fullest. 

Ask yourself: Will this matter next year? This is something that I hope to take well beyond this season because it has been so helpful to me. I blogged last week about what a difference a year makes, and how with 365 days between me and a stressful season, I remember all the good parts.

Some things feel so awful in the moment, but 365 days (or 30 or 14 or even 3) later, they won't matter. The night we were going to decorate for Christmas, Chris didn't get home until almost midnight. I had been so excited all week, and it was such a bummer to realize that wasn't going to happen. But a year from now, when I think about Christmas, am I going to feel heartbroken that we didn't get the tree set up on that certain day? Of course not. That would be insane. Instead, I'm going to remember Jack's first Christmas and how much fun he had and all the fun things we did get to do. So why not focus on that now? 

Remember that life is short and life is good. Plain and simple. Of course life is hard sometimes, but it is also good, and way too short to spend wallowing over the hard parts. We spend entirely too much time talking up the bad parts and not nearly enough time remembering all the good parts of our day-to-day lives. Focus on the good. It's simple and difficult and just what you need this holiday season.

Narrow down what's most important to you. I made a list of things I consider essential when celebrating this season. It's short and simple and I am 95% sure we'll complete everything on it. Take a little bit of time to plan out the must-do's. Not the always-done's or the should-do's, but the absolutely most important must-do's.

Make every day a little festive. Wanna know what I wanted to do last night? Go look at Christmas lights. Wanna know what I ended up doing? Cleaning. But I did so while listening to my favorite Christmas music and burning my Christmas tree candle. Then I watched Frosty the Snowman with Jack and drank coffee in front of the tree. And at the end of the day, it felt festive. 

Cut yourself some slack. It's okay to get upset when things don't work out. It's okay to feel sad that Christmas doesn't look like you wanted it to. But only for a minute. Don't get mad at yourself for feeling down, but don't let yourself stay feeling that way, either. Be sad and eat some chocolate or watch a cheesy movie, and then move on. Because it's Christmas, and there's no time to waste feeling sad.
Just because the holiday season looks different than you expected does not mean it's not good. This could be the best Christmas you've ever had, but if you're too busy being sad that it doesn't look like you expected, you'll miss it completely. 

So that's my advice. Not from someone with loads of wisdom learned from experience, but from someone who's right there in the trenches with you. This life? It's really hard sometimes. But I don't think about it that way because it's my life, and it's the only one I have, and I love it. I love spending it with Chris and Jack. 

Merry Christmas, friends. Whatever season of life you're in, I encourage you to adjust your expectations just enough so you're able to fully enjoy every day of this magical season.

Have you had to adjust your expectations this year?
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