So this is Nebraska.

Upon entering a new state along our route from CA to WI, my dear friend would say, without any recollection of having said it upon arrival at each state border, "So this is [ one of the 50 states], huh? I guess I thought it would be more like [a different state in the union]..." I have been noticing the goings-on of the holidays from where I live and how often I am doing the same thing. So this is Christmas, huh? I guess I thought there would be more cookies, less cookies, more merriment, less clutter, more time, less expense, more health, less injury, more peace, less crisis.  I have only a vague recollection that this is my response between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. The goings-on vary, but my expectations stay about the same. 

Someone looking for closely held and largely unquestioned beliefs will find a treasure trove during this time of year. It's not unique to Christmas, it is unique to this time of year. Days are short, nights are long- a perfect time throughout civilization for gatherings and celebrations. As long as we have been sentient beings we must have experienced expectations guiding our choices, the shoulds. "You should have been able to bring home an elk that would feed the whole tribe and you caught 3 rabbits, and that means you're a failure.  Is that true, Gronk? Can you absolutely know that's true?" How often do expectations create a greater enjoyment of the present moment? How often does the experience of stress follow expectations?

How much easier it would be to bring awareness to pain in the moment if it always felt like touching a hot stove. The idea that I could get all the gift-buying done in one day became painful at about noon when I realized I had only checked off half the list, overbought for people because I didn't double-check the list, and I hadn't eaten anything yet that day, and school pickup was in 3 hours and my expectations did not include shopping with the kids along. What about accepting reality because it hurts less? In one day I was able to complete half of my list. The images of what the holidays should look like are so clear in the mind, even if they're lifted from film and media, even when reality does't match. Without allowing expectations to inform the present experience, what is possible? I have noticed peace, less reacting and more accepting. When I'm noticing. 

Have yourself a little awareness in this time of long nights and gatherings, loved ones.