In the famous movie “Fiddler on the Roof,” Tevye the father of 5 girls struggles to pass on to his children, the religious and cultural traditions that he was raised with. His oldest 3 girls each force him to reconsider his position as they make their own desires known. It is a wonderful entertaining story, with great music and comedy. It also represents true inner conflict that we all can face.
Traditions are important to humans, and we can easily become so entrenched in what we think is right way to do things, that we miss the opportunity to experience other wonderful things. Nick demonstrates this as he is very rigid in his expectations of what will happen on holidays and wants things to remain the same, year after year.
On Saturday evening, we held our annual St. Patrick’s Day party. It has become a tradition for many of our friends to join us for an evening of great food, good conversation and music. A few things were different this year. First, we held the party on Saturday the 18th because we felt it would be easier for people to come on Saturday, rather than on the actual day, Friday.
I knew that Nick would expect to have a celebration on the day, so we arranged to have a small party with a couple we knew. Because of their own care-giving responsibilities we knew they wouldn’t be able to attend our party this year, so we went to their house on Friday night. We had a wonderful meal, followed by two of Nick’s favorite things. We sang Irish songs and watch slides of Ireland. You know those pictures that are projected onto a screen with the controller that clicks the carousel forward and changes to the next picture. Nick loves watching slides and I hoped that by giving him wonderful experiences on Friday night, he would be ok with changes in the St. Patrick’s Day party traditions. It didn’t exactly turn out that way.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, he thoroughly enjoyed himself on Saturday evening. He ate incredible food and sat on the couch for the entire evening with a huge smile on his face. He watched the children stealth-fully creep through the islands of adults talking to reach the dessert table, grab one of the treasures on display and disappear amidst the forest of legs. He listened to the multiple conversations and laughter all around and visited with various friends who chose to sit down next to him on the couch for awhile.
After everyone left, Arden and I were talking about what a great party it was. I looked over to Nick and he seemed upset. I asked what was wrong, he said, “not we sing.”
He was right, we hadn’t sang Irish songs. In the middle of the party, Arden and I had a brief conversation, and we decided that since all the guest were having such a great time visiting with one another, that we would not interrupt the flow of the party by starting a sing-song. We didn’t have a pianist and it just seemed to be the right decision.
Obviously Nick didn’t agree. When he said his bedtime prayers, he asked that the crowd would come back tomorrow and we sing. When we tucked him in, he wanted to know when we were going to sing with the crowd again. In the morning, he again reminded us that we hadn’t sang at the party. In his mind the party was a failure because we hadn’t done one thing. Everything else that was wonderful that night didn’t measure up because of the disappointment of one aspect.
It made me reflect upon my own rigid response when things don’t meet my expectations. Do I miss out on experiencing joy in the moment because I stubbornly cling to my perceptions of what I lack? It is a common human response and I believe we have a choice on how we respond. Let’s all choose joy.
And in case you were concerned, we promised Nick that next year we would sing!
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