Focus on gratitude not perfection

Published 9:52 am Wednesday, December 22, 2021

We are all in the pursuit of perfection, especially during the holiday season.  However, perfection is as elusive as that winning lottery ticket!  

Regardless of your holiday traditions for Christmas, Hanukah, or Kwanzaa, we all strive each year to have the “perfect” holiday experience.  I know I used to decorate multiple Christmas trees, decorate every room in the house, and spend lots of time and money on wrapping paper and ribbon to have the prettiest presents under the trees.   And we all know what happens to that paper and bows, don’t we?  After hours of wrapping and using miles of tape, of tying ribbon into photo-worthy bows, the whole process was over in what seemed a matter of minutes!  It almost broke my heart to see all that effort picked up and stuffed into a garbage bag. 

 It wasn’t enough to have these “things” pretty and perfect; I wanted my family to be perfect too.  I wanted them to look their best, exhibit the best behavior, the best attitude, the perfect manners.   Well, you get the picture.  Why didn’t they conform to my picture of the “perfect” family?  Because we are not perfect.  

Perfection is exhausting.  We never give up.  It’s like the movie, Ground Hog Day, where every day is the same.   We double our efforts and yet, it’s nearly the same outcome, year after year with few exceptions.  Our expectations exceed reality and that leads to frustration.  All this during the season of the spiritual celebration of Christmas, when all “all is calm, and all is bright”—or we expect it to be.   

So rather than pursuing perfection, take a breath.  Count your blessings.  Forgive your enemies.  Give thanks for your friends.  Be more patient.  Mind your money.  Be thankful for good health.  Be patriotic and not political.  Do something for those less fortunate.  Embrace your family and their imperfections.   Be grateful.  

Think of our neighbors to the south who suffered from the hurricanes that have greatly altered their lives and livelihood in every way.  And think of our neighbors to the north who recently suffered such total devastation from the recent tornadoes that destroyed their homes, businesses, and churches and are without essential services.  Prayers for their recovery.  So very grateful our area was spared.   

Here’s a favorite quote by Melody Beattie, one of America’s most beloved self-help authors.  

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”

I am almost always grateful, but I can be whiny and ill-tempered when I’m stressed and who isn’t stressed during the holidays.  All our routines are altered and the demands on our time, resources, and nerves are many.  We’re dealing with deadlines, disappointment, strained relationships, family concerns, and a myriad of other challenges.  Yet, we expect stuff to be perfect, to be at our best, and to be happy.  We fail to live up to our own expectations.  And let’s throw in a pandemic to really challenge us.  We have a sense of loss—loss of traditions, loss of “normalcy,” a loss of ability to connect with family and friends because of this nasty COVID.  

Take care of yourself.  Do something nice for others in the vein of ‘tis better to give than to receive.  Let go of the need for perfection.  

I hope each of you enjoy a fabulous, average holiday!   

Bonnie Brown writes a weekly column for The Oxford Eagle. Contact her at bbrown@olemiss.edu.