The Epidemic of Expectations

I went ahead and made a cliche “New Year Resolution”.  I wanted to call it an intention but the description doesn’t fit its purpose. I wanted to make light of it and shrug it off like it’s not going to be hard at all to change, but in fact I’ve really tasked myself with something I’m wavering to believe it’s at all possible.  I resolve to dig into this habitual form of suffering called expectation.  

I try my best to limit the amount of extremism I bring into my beliefs and find it serves me best to take an approach to see the world around me from many sides. I have found my expectations have given me drive to believe I can do what makes me happy.  They have allowed strong negotiating skills and supported me in feeling equal to others. Often, when my expectations breakdown I am able to gain insight into seeing the full spectrum. That ability fills me to the brim with compassion and empathy. It makes me feel a tremendous amount of gratitude. I make a choice to take comparison out of the equation and almost immediately I feel alert to many possibilities I was not able to see before.   

But of course, this all happens on the easy days.  The days where all my needs are already being met and I have capacity to hold the space and patience I need for the rest of a story to unfold.  

Then there are days when I can’t shake my expectations that I have for myself and the world around me. Random acts of kindness from strangers are replaced by someone stealing my parking spot.  My kids get the stomach flu in tandem while on vacation. I forget my wallet an airport. My daughter gets hit in the face at school by another girl.  I find yet more grey hair.  My husband gets cancer. A great man can no longer be president.  Children are dying in war.  Everyone is dying in war.  No sooner did I make my resolution on December 31st, the next morning we lost power for 36 hours.  I expected my familiar comforts after a period of time.  I could not control that. I cannot control many things.

This is the spiral.  These narrowed expectations that are so unconscious in their inception become disappointments before I can even realize why.  An extension of practicing presence and impermanence, undoing these expectations feels like a familiar pitfall. I lose consciousness and only awake when I know I’ve been here before but how do not only get out but learn how to leap over rather than fall down next time?  This is my opportunity for growth.  These self induced failures or setbacks make me uncomfortable, more so than choosing to stay and accept an emotion that is has so much possibility for change.  

In a way, I love the opportunities for growth - and I can only grow when I’m uncomfortable.  And believing this gives way to knowing that some expectations are healthy.  I am trusting that my life and time on this earth is precious.  I know that I have people in my life who care deeply about me.  I continually find myself amazed by what this world can bring me when my heart is open and my head is clear.  

Complacency can feel like atrophy when something inside of you shuts down because you can't access anything else. You just use whatever is available and lose accountability in the process. But complacency can also carve out an (eventually) unconscious groove to contentment and acceptance. When you know you own something inside that works so well that it can’t fail.  That’s where I’m expecting to go.