3 ways expectations keep us from living our best lives
I’m staring at the girl across the counter. I’ve gingerly placed two fingers on the debit card machine, stretching them to hold it in place as I force my debit card into the tight slot. I punch the numbers with one of those fingers.
“Thanks, I don’t need a receipt,” I say as I reach for the bottle of wine, and try to head out the door.
“Oh, no! I need to bag it.”
She looks at me curiously with a half-upturned grin.
“Oh, okay.” I say, wincing inside.
She grabs the paper bag. I lift the neck of the bottle and gingerly hold it above the open bag, placing it carefully, not touching anything or anyone.
The clerk takes both hands and crumples up the paper around the bottleneck, rips off the receipt and attempts to hand it to me.
“It’s okay! I don’t need a receipt. Thank you!”
I’m cheery and apologetic for my wariness, worried about a stranger’s raised eyebrow and curt smirk.
I jump in the car, wipe down my hand. The one I used for shopping and holding the door and grabbing the bottle. The tissues are antiviral. I’m beyond the point of panic, thinking about how vulnerable my mom could be to this virus.
I’m at the isolated cabin Keith and I stole away to. Keyless entry and a can of Lysol, and we are ready to enjoy a couple of online working days away from my mom, the boys, my life. . . when the question pops in my head.
Why do I feel the need to apologize for who I am? Why did that lady’s opinion really matter?
It Better Be A Lovely Day
Every day, I wake up full of expectations.
- I’m going to grade this set of papers today.
- I’m going to teach this lesson for 10 minutes.
- I’m going to schedule two appointments and that diagnostic test for my mom.
- I’m taking my youngest son to practice and doing a grocery run before picking him back up.
- On and on and on . . .
The problem is that mapping out my day with expectations requires A) OTHER PEOPLE to act a certain way; B) Devices and resources to perform without a hitch, and C) ALL CONDITIONS, including the cosmos, to be close to perfect.
Hello . . . corona. Can’t control that now, can we?
Behave or I’ll Have to Call Your Mother
“You talk big talk, but you ain’t got game.”
My 10-year-old is progressively getting louder, singing those lyrics on repeat in the dugout – face red, eyes roving across the field to the former hecklers on the opposite team.
I’m standing on the bleachers, adjacent.
“Noah. Noah!” I’m whisper yelling, trying not to draw attention but inevitably eyes turn, all except his.
I stomp down the bleachers, head over like a bull charging a fence.
“Noah. Stop that! It’s not cute. You sound like a punk.”
Of course, he argues back. They heckled him while he struck out their first three batters. To his adolescent brain, payback is necessary . . .
I’m livid, literally huffing, and he doesn’t understand why.
And here we are, it’s not the first time one of my boys hasn’t met the expectations that I set for them, that they are sometimes unaware of.
So . . . we set expectations for others, and they often don’t even know it. There’s no psychic connection; they aren’t telepathic, but we have this innate self-centeredness where we think everyone should know what we need.
We could just communicate, but it’s easier to be offended.
Often our resentment starts at our expectations. Sadly, the people we push away or give the cold shoulder have no idea why.
I’m Sorry . . . Let Me Fix that For You
And finally . . . the ultimate struggle for an empathetic person like me. Remember the lady at the counter, the one who seemed amused at my evasive tactics, my viral aversion.
Yeah, I tend to respond to people like that with an attitude of “I’m sorry.” I keep telling myself subliminally that I need to be different. I wanted her to like and accept me.
Now, some of you out there probably think it’s never you, and it’s always them. This message isn’t for you. You might actually need to re-evaluate.
But, for most of us, we just think we should be superheroes, soaring around putting out fires, saving babies, and walking old ladies safely across the street. It’s the human condition, the need to please and prioritize other’s expectations over our own limitations.
Find Peace . . . Accept Defeat
Acceptance and giving up are two vastly different animals. Accepting defeat means to accept where you are, who you are, and what you can do about it.
Here are some quick tips:
- Take out the shoulds: forget about what you think everyone should be doing, how you think everything should be going.
- Accept your limitations: know thyself . . . accept what you can do and what you can’t do. Let that guide your decisions and alleviate your guilt.
- Communicate . . . again . . . communicate: when you are exhausted and so in your head that you think no one cares about you, and the tiny violin is playing your favorite sad love song, remember to reach out. Tell someone how you feel, and help them understand what you need from them. Also, please listen to what they need from you. It’s a two-way street, not a one-way road.
I often set terms that life is expected to abide by, but life will never follow my rules and expectations. Acceptance is the answer, accepting that I can only control my reaction, not the situation or the other person.
- By accepting life on life’s terms, I am open to creative solutions and new possibilities that would have been overlooked.
- By accepting others, I give them the grace to not meet my expectations.
- By accepting myself, I give myself permission to disappoint, to not meet the expectations of others, and more importantly, room to grow.
So, the next time the car won’t start, the kids keep fighting, there’s a sink full of dishes when you get home from work . . . whatever it is . . .
Just remember to accept that present moment and move forward from there.