Happy New Year, friend. Welcome to 2022!
I'm in line at the Chinese takeout place. Just ahead of me is a little girl. Maybe 5? She's with her dad.
It's busy—because it's the holiday season, and Chinese takeout is
a tradition an institution.
This little girl is hanging off her dad loosely, like one of those stuffed swinging monkeys with the Velcro hands. Holly Jolly Christmas plays over the sound system.
"Mmmmmm Daddy it smells so good in here!" the little girl shouts.
(It does. She's right. It smells like crispy wontons mixed with pork-fried anticipation. I wish you could smell it, too. But that's not how newsletters work.)
A few moments later: "Daddy I'm SOOOOOOooo hungry!!"
She says the "so" just like that—using her Outside Voice, and drawing out the O with all the air in her hyper, hungry little lungs.
And then finally—almost to the front now—she thinks to ask a key question:
"Daddy! What are we getting?"
I hear her dad speak for the first time. "We're getting Chinese food," he says. "To take home to Mumma."
If this were a movie, here's where the soundtrack would shift lanes from the happy & upbeat Highway to Holly-Jolly to the dark & ominous Highway to H-E-double-toothpicks.
I felt the shift, even if the same piped-in chipper song continued to play. ("It's the best time of the year..." the voice sings. Pretty sure this is the Michael Bublé version.)
The 5-year-old stops the monkey-swing and stands to face her father. Her furious feet planted.
"Chinese food," she repeats flatly. I sense incredulous.
"CHINESE FOOD?" Now an accusation.
And then she says (Outside Voice now newly infused with outrage): "NOOOO. I. HATE. CHINESE. FOOD!!!"
But also... relatable.
Sometimes I'm fed something I want to scream in the face of, too.
We all have, in the past 2 years.
* * *
The scene at the takeout place is almost overwritten, isn't it?
The excited, expectant child during the holiday season. The frenzied anticipation of what's to come. The holiday Chinese food, ferpetessake!
But also: The wild expectations. The prattling innocence of a new year. Our hopes. The crushing disappointment. The need to scream at something for delivering exactly what we don't want.
If there was one thing 2021 delivered, it was a shift in expectations. A need to reset our bodies, our brains, our hearts, our expectations for ourselves.
* * *
The girl and her dad left the restaurant with their order. I don't know what happened after that. But I like to think she didn't stay mad.
Sure, her dad was carrying a paper bag of despair—aren't we all?
But there is plenty of joy packed in there, too.
So I leave you with my own take-away thoughts, at the dawn of a new year:
- What might we embrace if we didn't cancel it before we even started?
- What if we shed our preconceived notions (what we can do, what we are capable of)?
- What if we wait to judge a situation (an experience, a relationship) as Entirely Useless? Is there a hidden upside?
- What if we let go of labels and just enjoy things for what they are?
- What if we give ourselves permission to let go of expectations?
- Can we just play it by ear?
- Can we make room to be surprised by small moments of joy?
- What if we just chill the eff out a little?
* * *
And maybe... just try the Chinese food. You might like it. Or some of it. (The cookies have WORDS!)
And if not—at least you tried. That's enough.
* * *
I had a different idea for today's letter to you.
Like a dummy I broadcast it in the last issue
, setting expectations for both you and me. But now I'm kicking that idea-can down the road. (Already I've had to let go of expectations. And it's only the 2nd day
of the year.)
Because the week between Christmas and New Years happened... and I needed a Productivity Hibernation at the end of 2021 like no other year. See?