Don’t Disappoint Baby Jesus

The third Quest2015 prompt is brought to us by Michael Bungay Stanier of Box of Crayons. His visionary prompt:

Who are you willing to disappoint or offend or upset or abandon…for the sake of the Great Work that’s calling you for your best 2015?

Somewhere in my parents’ house sits a photo of me as a child, maybe six years old, framed by a slim gold border. A delicate garland of baby’s breath mounted on my head and soft, blond curls. There may be a smidge of velvet somewhere and a thin white ribbon. I know that look on my face. An equal mix of resentment, sweetness and resignation.

I grew up Catholic. Did you?

Christmas season in Southern California. The yellow parrots were on their annual migration, and huddling amongst the tall trees overhanging the church doors. Somehow I was blessed, or inflicted, with a role in the Christmas pageant at an evening mass. I, likely because panic-stricken at the time, don’t remember the details. Possibly my role involved processing down the long church aisle and delivering a vessel to the nativity scene. Maybe it involved speaking in that cavernous, incense-infused place of worship. All I remember was a terrible, gut-wrenching, fear-induced anxiety. I did not, could not, possibly do this thing I was supposed to do. I made this known shortly before leaving the house.

“You don’t want to disappoint baby Jesus, do you?”

I have not particularly cared for Baby Jesus, ever. He was the last piece placed in the gold, spray-painted, paper mache nativity scene in the living room. In my mind he was associated with guilt, presents, coal or oranges. A metaphor for something I couldn’t quite grasp at a young age.

My Mom, possibly frantic at the thought of failing to deliver the vessel that was supposed to deliver the vessel to the nativity scene, attempted to gain my acquiescence with this tack. I don’t think she meant to guilt me, but I was a particularly sensitive child. Exceptionally so when it came to the thought of becoming anything less in the eyes of those who loved me. As if their love and affection were directly tied to their approval. I was young, but I still knew that this wasn’t about disappointing baby Jesus. It was about upsetting Mom. There was duty to attend to in this world. A parrot-filled, incense-scented snow globe of expectation. And it was my job, my responsibility, to step up and accept my obligations. Whether I liked it or not.

So, I did it. I don’t remember what I did, but I followed the rules and met the expectations and walked down an aisle and did something that I did not want to do. I did not like it, it did not end up being fun. Knowing myself now, and then, I probably assented with a mix of resentment and regret, knowing I had given in to something that I did not want to do, and could have done something to change.

And sometimes, I still feel like that six year old girl. Less and less so now that I have taken such drastic steps to reclaim myself and my happiness. But much in the past years. Heavy with guilt and fear of disappointing the world, and those people who hold expectation in me. Weighing that mix of resentment and regret for my *lack* of action, for not speaking up and acting out enough to make sure that deep voice of compassionate honesty in my heart is satiated.

I started my #Quest2015 in late November, without really knowing it would become my quest. It was time to step out of that dark and unhealthy place, and reclaim a lightness and spark that was buried. I packed up my bags with essentials (clothes, shampoo, ten years of journals, stationery, dog food), ran through the frost-crunchy pasture one last time with the dog, opened my heart, laughed, lifted the weight, and allowed myself to feel what my heart has been trying to exclaim for a while now: that freedom, joy, openness, passion, love, creativity and spirit are out there waiting for me. AND I DESERVE THEM. I just have to stop clinging to what isn’t working and embrace the unknown and live in impermanence and leave. That leaving wasn’t quiting. Leaving was actually starting. So we, the black dog and I, embraced that unknowing, and drove away.

And there I learned the lesson. In this leaving – this abandoning of expectation and the person I was supposed to love most and permanence – I was greatly disappointing some, while simultaneously delighting others. That this disappointment was not the end of the world, but the beginning. Most of all, I was doing something that spoke truth to myself, for no reason other than BECAUSE I DESERVE IT.

It’s a practice of strength, but I am reveling in my new found focus: my care for myself, my heart, my truth, my peace, my future. It feels both selfish and right on. Maybe my evolving ‪#Quest2015 is to be at peace with ‘what is’, listening most closely to the guide that is the tightening in my heart, and nothing else. I will soothe myself with the notion that my big-hearted quest is of value, worthwhile in this world, my first priority. That is it strong to relinquish, renounce, forgo and discard anyone or anything that does not serve my mission. That, in fact, I should practice it. Maybe walking through the world with temporary blinders against expectation isn’t a bad thing, as long as I look straight ahead at the amazing community right in front of me.

Who am I able to abandon, disappoint, upset and offend as I walk this path?
Everyone but mySELF.

Maybe this year, when I visit my family for the holidays, I’ll give gratitude to that gold, paper mache baby Jesus on the mantle. Thanks dude, for helping me recognize that disappointing you isn’t the end of the world, quite the opposite.



    1. Holly, thank you for such kind words. I’m touched, especially because I was most moved by Talking Umbrellas when scoping out the works of all the Questers at the start of this journey. As a woman in transformation, I value the mission of Talking Umbrellas so much. Let’s connect!



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