Holidays and Unmet Expectations

So, sometimes I get angry. Like, super mad. About little things and big things and really ALL the things. And sometimes my kids or my husband get an earful. 

I’m reading a book titled Controlling Anger Before It Controls You by Gregory Jantz. I know, sounds like a really good beach read...for no one. 

I have gone in and out of times of feeling angry, getting angry, and having outbursts of anger. Maybe you don’t struggle here, but if you do, this book is medicinal. 

He has sections like: The Root of Anger, The Branches of Anger, Uprooting and Pruning the Roots and Branches, etc.

What I am finding: Guilt, Shame and Fear are big factors. So is Stress, Keeping a Record of Wrongs, and Unmet expectations. And in the Unmet Expectations chapter he takes us to none other than Chicken Little. Naturally. But let's hear him out because it's actually spot on:

Do you remember the children’s story of Chicken Little? She goes out for a stroll one day and winds up walking under a tree and being hit in the head by a falling acorn. Immediately, Chicken Little decides “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” She proceeds to act under that perception, gathering up several of her friends to go to the king about this crisis. In the heat of the moment, Chicken Little and her friends are tricked and ultimately eaten by a clever fox they meet on the way to the king.

Chicken Little walked straight under the branch of Unrealistic Expectations. When the acorn hit her head, she took it as a catastrophe. It wasn’t a catastrophe; it was a natural event. Acorns fall from trees. She just happened to be hit by one. She could have said: “Ouch! I just got hit by a falling acorn!” and continued on with her walk. Instead, that acorn became “The sky is falling!”

I wonder how many times this happens for us. Unrealistic expectations turn the acorns of problems, shortcomings, hiccups and bumps in the road into catastrophes.

Problems, shortcomings, hiccups, and bumps in the road are not special to you; they are a part of the human condition. To think otherwise - and become bitter about it - is an unrealistic expectation. Listen to what Job says: “For hardship does not spring from the soil, nor does trouble sprout from the ground. Yet man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” Job 5:6-7.

Dang it.

I have turned acorns into astronomical problems. I have expected life to be and look and feel a certain way. And if it does not, then more kindling is added to the slow-burning fire of unmet expectations. From spilled milk to flat tires, there is so much room for the sky to fall. 

The same cycle can go for the holidays. There are things I hope for and expect and want. And then acorns fall along the way and before I know it -  it's all falling sky and stress and negativity and anger.

I want off that hamster wheel. Anybody with me? 

Turns out acceptance is huge. Accepting that this is the messy, broken world we live in. And acorns fall off trees. It’s a natural occurrence in our world. No one is exempt, why would I expect that I am? 

A friend shared that he uses a word to help him properly place hiccups in his day in context. If he forgets something or does something stupid or misplaces something he says: “Bummer.”  

No beating ourselves up. 

No beating others up. 

That’s a bummer, that’s an acorn, and we will be ok. That's a good word.

Recently my daughter has been learning to ride her bike, complete with falls and scrapes and bumps and bruises. And I said to her: “Olive, did you find out that each time you fall, you are ok?” 

“Yep! And - I get back up!”

Exactly, sweet one, exactly. 

May we call an acorn what it is and keep the sky in its place. May we practice seeing bumps in the road as part of the human experience. May we see ourselves as belonging to one another and not set apart in our shortcomings and hiccups. 

Let's be Reality Checkers instead of Chicken Littles. Let's be Truth Tellers and Hope Spreaders and Grace Givers. Cheers to the holidays and handling whatever acorns fall our way!

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
— Jesus, John 16:33