Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – December 10, 2004
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – December 10, 2004 – I know we’re not supposed to have expectations. I have a problem in this particular sphere of life, and I have “great expectations”. We all know what happens when this is the case – our hopes are often dashed quite soundly on the shores of the Island of Despair.
The answer to this dilemma is to give up anticipating any specific outcome to a situation. Now if I was a patient, steady, mature, grounded woman of great depth and outstanding character I might just be able to do this – but I’m not. I’m an anxious, impatient, judgmental, excuse bound, procrastinating perfectionist. I have expectations all the time of everybody in every situation, myself included. The level of expectation I have of myself is often brutal. Okay, maybe brutal is too strong a word – I like “weighty” better.
I make the same mistake over and over again. I expect other people to treat me the way I would care for them. “Big” disappointment is in store for me on many occasions. Does that stop me from anticipating a certain outcome (which, of course, is the one I’d like) again in the future? No! Am I bound to be disconcerted once more? Well – just do the math. I think one must be a Buddhist monk to approach life with no expectations. Even then – isn’t there a monk somewhere on a cold, solitary walk who is thinking – “Gee, I wish it wasn’t raining cats and dogs today”.
Perhaps not. I know that true giving from the heart isn’t supposed to have strings attached. Maybe I was a thread merchant in another era, because I still expect to be appreciated, praised and acknowledged for the generous, kind things I do for others. I know it’s silly but I want to be thanked and I’m disappointed when another person doesn’t understand that concept. Should I be? No.
I expect to have a good time when I go out with friends and I anticipate how an afternoon or evening will be. If it doesn’t measure up to my preconceived notions, then I’m disappointed. Imagine how much better it would be if I just went out with no expectations. I’d probably be pleasantly surprised or at least able to accept the outcome, without feeling let down. When I’ve built a big, glorious mountain in my mind – its hard to accept a little mound of dirt in its stead.
The funny thing is that most things turn out rather well in my life. Today was a perfect example of “run away thinking and silly expectations”. I had a business lunch with a group of women. The restaurant was crowded and noisy, so it wasn’t easy to hear the conversation, but everyone still had an opportunity to make comments and ask questions. It didn’t go exactly as I’d hoped, but it was fine. Then I had an evening planned with my good friend Martin, who I haven’t seen for over a year. I cooked dinner at my place (quite delicious it was too) and we sat and talked and laughed and got caught up with each other’s lives.
This afternoon I was worried that I wouldn’t cook the salmon just right or that the grilled red peppers would be overdone. I had a useless expectation that the dinner had to be perfect. Well , it wasn’t perfect but it was darned good, and Martin wouldn’t have noticed or cared if the rice was a bit cool, the orange sherbert was store bought or that I hadn’t baked the cookies myself. He came to see me and to enjoy an evening in my home. My expectations that I’d be too tired to see him or that the evening had to follow some preconceived notion of entertaining perfection were silly.
That’s what expectations do – they set us up for a fall and they tend to make us pre-judge people, places and events. Worse still they make us closed-minded. Why then do we buy into this nonsensical way of thinking and behaving? Human nature in part! An immature desire to always have life go our way. Foolishness. The eternal hope that life should contain no rough spots, and perhaps a childish notion that we (the royal we) alone are special. Do not put check marks beside any of these beliefs and do not pass go – there is no reward to collect. Expectations will always disappoint.
This coming year, I’m going to try to give up my dizzying expectations and exalted personal standards about exercise (don’t tell Howard), work and career, other people, entertaining, hobbies that I don’t have, relationships and friendships and what I can and can’t achieve during any given day. Perhaps I’ll notice a slight lessening of my anxiety level. If not that, then at least I’ll enjoy what I do accomplish a lot more.
The only expectation that has any value at all is when you’re a woman and you’re expecting a baby. That is a situation filled with joy and great anticipation and rightly so, for both parents and siblings of the new baby. But in general, “expectations”, scrunch them up and put them in the trash bucket – right where they belong! You will be a much happier person, and by the way, so will your friends.