Today Id like to explore with you that very human experience – expectations
What do we mean when we say expectations?
Expectations are the state of looking forward or anticipating. Imagining a future is a lovely and very human phenomenon, especially around the holidays. I imagine the cheerfulness of a holiday lights, long held traditions – a brief turn from the mundane to the magical. If we’re lucky we have this love in our lives all year, but I know I’m better at savoring it during the Christmas Holiday.
I’ve read, however, that “unrealistic expectations are premeditated resentments”!
Sometimes I’m sorry to admit, my unrealistic expectations have led me to feeling disappointed and even resentful.
So why do our expectations sometimes end in disappointment?
For me, its often my unrealistic expectations of other people that leads to disappointment and resentment. The miscommunicated understandings of social contracts and resistance to change. I’m attached to my expectations. The lesson is life rarely can deliver in the way we imagined.
I got to experience this strong attachment to my expectations at our annual Holiday outing Families a great classroom. I have 3 children, Liz, Amy and Meredith and 1 son-in-law, Blane and 4 stepchildren Jessie,Harry, Reed and Wyatt.. All wonderful people whom I love dearly. I plan an annual holiday event where we all gather for a dinner out and a show. I say it’s a gift I give myself because I love that night. We chose someplace festive to eat. Everyone gets dressed up and we have this experience together. We’ve had great meals and seen some wonderful productions,like Hamilton, and had some awful meals and seen some terrible shows, like the Humans and made some great memories. Needless to say, I place a very high value on the night.
As the family got older, busy lives started to interfere. Meredith couldn’t make the 18th, Amy had a work event, Reed wasn’t going to be home from school until the 20th,but still I persisted. (Did I mention attachment to our expectations causes the suffering), I’m sure I made it clear that opting out was not an option and my family dutifully compromised, rearranged, and otherwise moved mountains to make the night.
As you can imagine, when the last weary traveler arrived at the dinner table I looked around and saw the damage of expectations. It basically looked like a table of hostages. Lesson learned.
Was my expectation of a magical evening met. Absolutely not.Was it fair of me to place my expectations for a “special night “ on everyone else. Also no.I realized I had missed the point, that if love and joy of the season was what I was seeking, all I had to do was extend a little compassion to my own family. A very good lesson indeed.
The following 2 years were pandemic years, and like everyone, we had no choice but to change our traditions, let go of some things and introduce new traditions. (Christmas Eve in the back yard?) Sure!
This year we are resuming our dinner and a show tradition, but its come if you can. Whether its post pandemic response to having done so little for too long, or the lack of the weight of my “expectations” everyone can make it this year. Im working on holding it all a little looser and I pray the lesson sticks.
What does it take to soften around expectations? I suppose a bit of self-awareness. I recognize the contracting in my chest when I start to grasp. Thats an “uh oh “feeling for me. Time to pay attention. It takes courage to drop the expectations and allow what is to be and accept it with an open heart. These are reminders that life is unpredictable , and that’s what creates possibilities in our life.
My hope today for all of us is we can be curious about expectations, both those we internalize and those we place on others.