I have proclaimed before — and will say it again — expectations rob our joy. Even more intrusive than that, expectations kill joy cold. As in dead. As a doornail.
I know it.
I know it all too well.
Apparently, head knowledge is of no use if one does not apply said understanding. Filling our heads with concepts is pointless unless we APPLY them.
Awareness is great. Application is better.
I am slightly embarrassed to admit that recently, I rehashed this life lesson anew.
I have no excuses. I should be more than familiar with this teaching having practiced it — and hated its results — throughout most of my life.
Apparently, I was in the mood for a refresher.
The set up was perfect and I fell for it. Hook. Line. And, sinker. The whole shebang. The entire enchilada.
Even rewarmed and with new exotic spices, expectations are still an unpalatable dish, one which left me feeling depressed.
Really, this is not rocket science.
It is simple.
The equations are thus. Having no expectations give peace and joy. Likewise, expectations rob our joy.
While indeed simple, there is a caveat….holding no expectations doesn’t come naturally. We have to work at it.
Setting the Stage
For years — as in precisely 24 — I had anticipated our 25th wedding anniversary with anticipation, if not a fair amount of childlike giddiness. Yes, giddiness.
Indeed, my exuberance was in every way child-like. I was a bit like a child on Christmas Eve.
While there is nothing wrong with being excited, there is not much wisdom in expecting things to be — only — one specific way.
An unwelcome and unplanned event occurred just before our departure which affected one of my expectations. I could have let it go. This event was not essential to hubs and I going away and enjoying a blessed time in a breathtaking location. Except, I didn’t.
I sunk my teeth into this juicy expectation morsel with no desire to let it go.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. I did try to rally knowing whining and bellyaching wouldn’t change a thing.
However, to make matters worse, upon our arrival, I was disappointed by our hotel room which was located right by the road and was therefore quite noisy. Another expectation down the drain.
Strike number two.
What if this trip was a dud?
Yes, I went there. To “what if” land.
I had built up anticipation for this anniversary trip to the hilt. It is obvious I couldn’t control every event or details. Not the location of our room. Not the weather. Not the rotation of the earth. Not a great many other things. It was, nevertheless, possible for me to control my attitude.
However, that’s the one thing I didn’t do.
I zeroed in with laser precision to what I deemed to be “wrong” or really not up to par with my — you guessed it — expectations.
My other half — as in hubs — was a perfect example of contentment. I am almost certain that were you to open the Encyclopedia Britannica to “contentment”, his picture would be prominently displayed. He was grateful for all that was rather than harping about what wasn’t.
The problem was that his wife — me — took his contentment as lack of caring.
Yes, I went down THAT road.
I have no excuses. I knew better. He was unequivocally correct in his views. And, happier to boot.
I, on the other hand, felt justified in my feelings. And maybe, I was justified. I had indeed waited a long time for this trip. Nevertheless, justification does not bring joy.
During brief moments of lucidity, I could see that my attitude was reminiscent of my three-year-old granddaughter’s occasional temper tantrum.
It couldn’t be.
The similarities had to be a fluke because I AM a mature woman.
Please, don’t snort. It’s unbecoming.
Expectations Rob Our Joy
Rather than dig deep into my happiness toolbox for tried and true tools to assist me out of my funk. I focused instead on all the “should have beens.”
I took it upon myself to gather evidence like the senior member of a seasoned CSI team looking to find the guilty party. Admittedly, I excelled at my duty. I intended to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that I had every right to my pity party.
Needless to say, I was not in a good place.
From the time I allowed my expectations to rule my mood, nothing which transpired was a surprise. This road was not less traveled and its final destination was no Utopia.
Not by a long shot.
My behavior was absurd. I see it as clear as day — now.
My suicide mission of evidence gathering concluded that hubs didn’t care.
What a fool.
What a silly, fickle, emotional, woman.
What a typical human.
The Two by Four Method
During breakfast on the second day of our trip. I presented my case — with accompanying evidence.
My wise husband succinctly summarized what was happening: “It sounds like you had expectations which weren’t met.”
Major attitude adjustment by a sizeable dose of truth.
His proclamation was an enormous understatement. I had massive expectations. Which in the grand scheme of things, were totally immaterial and unimportant for my primary reason for being where I was with hubs. And, let’s not forget why I was there.
This trip was about celebrating our deep love for each other and our 25th amazingball years of marriage.
My pie in the sky views were clouding my vision and my “you-are-blessed-woman-right-here-right-now” began to arise. So, get over yourself Florence. And, over your ridiculous expectations. Enjoy your man in this place right now!
Switch [Your Attitude]
Why — knowing better — didn’t I choose better?
A fair question.
My answer: I am not entirely sure.
Humans are emotional beings. We feel — rather than think — our way through life. We observe the world through our senses. We are not thinking beings per say although we like to “think” we are (pun unintended).
Even when we have the right tools combined with the proper knowledge, we on occasion need someone to help us reframe our views. When an individual can compassionately “reflect listen” what we say back to us, it can help us to move through our feelings rather be stuck in them.
My struggle was not for lack of knowledge. The conflict came from being stuck in an unhealthy paradigm. My husband voicing back to me what he’d heard enabled me to effectively — and promptly — switch my attitude.
He had hit the nail on the head — with surgeon-like precision.
My issue wasn’t what was or should have been.
Rather, my problem was that I had expected things to be a certain way. And, I held the erroneous belief that IF my expectations were met only then I would be happy. When my expectations were different than reality — as they often are — I became sucked in — and subsequently stuck — in negativity.
Once I was able to be in the present moment, hubs and I had a marvelous time.
Being human is normal. That’s who we are.
Humans are an amazing and beautiful creation. Humans are also a mess.
Humans are a contradiction.
I — being human — am a beautiful mess. Incidentally, just like you are as well.
I could become despondent and disappointed in myself and — admittedly — I am a tad. Knowing better, one would think I would have done better.
The thing is. I did do my best even if said best wasn’t so great.
Yes, my feelings were less than chivalrous or cheery for that matter.
My mood was a display of raw humanness. Unclean. Messy. A tad egocentric.
The problem arises when we stay there. In the mud. Wallowing in the muck of these basic, low, unappealing feelings which cloud our judgment and our better self.
The fact is, even when we know better, we sometimes don’t do better. However, rather than the woe is me attitude and beating ourselves over the head for “messing up”, we can give ourselves grace. And, subsequently, change course. Backtrack when we get lost. Recalibrate. Proceed down the correct path.
Sometimes we need help. Most times we need help. Because humans are not meant to live life alone. We are social beings. We NEED a social — supportive, loving, and healthy — network.
When our GPS leads us astray or we simply take a wrong turn, if there is grace, there is also love, and therefore the space to take a breath, reassess, and move on.
Hubs displayed love and grace masterfully.
No surprise here.
Expectations Rob our Joy and Kill Happiness
I would love to say, I will “never” have another expectation again. Likewise, I would love to promise that I will “always” accept “what is” with ease. The thing is “never” and “always” are also expectations.
It is wonderful and healthy to have goals. And, yes, we can make promises which we should keep. Indeed, some vows are meant to be kept.
The problem comes in when we try to look into the future and plan “how it will be.” It is indeed our responsibility to control what we can such as our words, our behaviors, and our actions. It is indeed also our duty to gently let go of what is out of our control which in complete honesty is almost everything.
It was okay for me to have dreams about our 25th-anniversary trip — aka our second honeymoon. It was even okay for me to be disappointed when things weren’t taking the turn I envisioned. It was okay not to be delighted by a noisy room. Or bad weather. Or fill in the blank.
All normal reactions to unforeseen and unpredictable events.
The problem comes in when we allow the sad feelings to control what is and in doing so, we miss the blessings unfolding before us.
I was doing exactly that. I was missing the forest for the trees. And, what a forest it was.
It is with a full and grateful heart I can say our trip was everything — while not all — I wanted and more. I am humbly thankful.
Being present is raw. Amazing. Electrifying. Addictive. Sometimes sad. Always true and real.
It is simple.
It is not easy.
It is worth it.