December 16, 2010
Abby Lentz

In this season of gifts — given and received — a lot of expectations swirl around the exchange. That perfect gift you bought turns out not to be so perfectly received. You don’t see the look of surprise and excitement just as you envisioned. The box you knew had to contain what you always wanted turns out to be not so much. Wrong size, wrong color, wrong in so many ways it can’t be explained.

But, really, what makes a gift “wrong” has more to do with our expectations on both sides of the giving process rather than the gift itself. Many Christmases ago I asked Ron for a simple gold bangle — not really a bracelet even, just a thread of gold for my wrist would have been perfect. The box under the tree was the right size and shape — I just knew my new husband had bought me the perfect piece of jewelry for our first Christmas together.

Imagine my surprise when I opened that box to discover a wide silver cuff, more befitting Wonder Woman’s wrist than my own! The holiday quickly turned into a therapy session in my head. Was I not clear? Was he not listening? Was he sending me a message I needed to decode? Or, was it was just a girl/guy thing like the folks on Mars and Venus talking?

Our expectations get in our way all the time, not just around the holidays. An email message we think is going to be a confirmation turns out to be a cancellation. We look down on the scale expecting to see a loss, but instead see no change or even worse a gain.

What it comes down to is our reaction to not having our expectations met that’s really important. It’s how we handle the disappointment of missed expectations that will turn out to be the real gift.

(PS If you have ever noticed the gold bracelet I always wear, it is a gift from Ron. We found it together in Missoula, MT of all places. I picked it out and waited in the coffee shop while he went back and bought it. Given at a time of uncertainty, it’s become a symbol for us that everything will be okay.)

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