Do you remember when you believed the story about a fat man, in a red suit, in a giant sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, sliding down your chimney on Christmas Eve to leave presents under the perfectly decorated tree? Do you remember not worrying that you had no chimney, that he would find another way? Or, when times were economically tight, but your letter to the North Pole would work magic anyway?
Then, can you still remember the shock when you were told that Santa wasn't real? That the idea of one guy leaving gifts for everyone all over the world just couldn't happen? That someone tried to explain that he was a metaphor for hope and dreams and childhood fantasies?
We have to deal with expectations and facts all our lives. The Santa - No Santa jolt was probably the first time you had to face facts that wishing doesn't necessarily make it so, but I am pretty sure it wasn't the last.
Your "friends" in High School suddenly dropped you from their clique for no discernable reason. Those straight-A grades ended with the reality that Chemistry wasn't your strong suit. Your first true love didn't love you back. Marriage isn't always like the movies. Being single is tough, but you actually kind of like the freedom, regardless of what your mother and friends say.
Your 20-year-old body did not follow you very far into the future. The calendar didn't care you weren't ready to become Middle Aged, and then almost overnight, a Senior.
The career you envisioned became a series of jobs; your various bosses never took a charm class or learned much about people skills. Your co-workers were just as likely to climb on your back as to offer you a helping hand. Being alive is a neverending course in having expectations tempered with reality.
Those who accept that and learn to adjust are the most satisfied. Knowing when to hold them and when to fold them was not only a lyric from a Kenny Rogers song but a rather straightforward guide for life. Striving for what you want is part of life. Continuously tilting against windmills is not.
I am confident in stating that most of us are doing the best we can. We take what we have been given, what we have learned, and what we want and try to mold all that into a life of significance.
At the same time, we have certain expectations of what our one and only life on earth should be, what we should accomplish, and how to be happy and feel complete. And when we fall short of our own measuring stick, as we will certainly do, there is a tendency to blame others, the world, or fate.
Isn't it more healthy, productive, and realistic to reflect on our Santa Claus experience? What we have expected will happen probably will not. What our dreams are will often face a world of humans and nature that aren't required to make all that happen.
Do we strive too hard to bend the world to match our dreams? Do we stubbornly plow ahead even after it is clear that the path leads to a cliff? Or do we take our strengths, understanding, experience, and native intelligence to build a life that is both satisfying and accepting of limitations and restrictions?
We all anticipate that life will turn out the way we had planned. So, do we put pressure on ourselves that we wouldn't put on someone else? Do we live in fear of a failure of something that is really just an expectation that runs into reality?
Overall, I have lived a happy, contented life. But, there have been instances when my plans and future were in some doubt. I will admit I fought against the unfairness of it all; this isn't what I signed up for.
Yet, as soon as I stopped insisting something would be the way I wanted and started reacting to how it was, the way forward began to fall into place. I shifted, reconfigured, and dumped stuff that was no longer worth carrying.
People tell us that life is hard, and I will agree it isn't always a walk in the park. But, I suggest we make it harder than necessary when we insist our way is THE way. The unexpected surprises that life can bring are so much brighter than the rocks in our path.