Column #8 Motherland magazine

I read the word expectation last week. It leapt from the page, very much alive, and embedded itself into my mind. So now, whether I like it or not, it’s the word of the week.

I’ve been looking at it. And its been looking at me. Arms crossed, staring me out. Turns out that expectation gets everywhere. Big revelation, eh? Shouldn’t be. But it feels big. Mind-blowing, even. As usual – annoyingly – it revealed I wasn’t as much off the hook with things as I thought.

Here’s what happens if I honestly evaluate why I feel disappointed or let down: I end up back at myself, and my unwitting expectations. When I’m not being honest, I just watch the side-shows. Other people and what they do (or don’t do) can be terribly distracting. I have a habit of dissolving myself on command. And when you’re in a state of dissolution, it’s amazing how everything comes down to the other person’s actions. Those sideshows! They’re so good. Watching people trying to juggle and dropping a ball. Or with squinted eyes, seeing a situation drift off, meld with the shadows, and grieving its departure.

It’s super easy to think you’re watching rather than playing a part. Yet your expectation sets the context for you. And context is all. Think of it like constructing a stage set in the vast horizon of human interaction. Only you can see it, but you expect everything that passes through to adhere to its boundaries, and follow your script. Chances of this working out? Highly unlikely.

There’s a mode of thinking that says not to expect anything so you won’t be disappointed: I am resolutely in the opposite team. Expectations are part of our individuality, our unique constructs for living. They provide unity too, with people and things whose needs and wants match up to ours. And the broad expectations we hope everyone shares – don’t murder someone, don’t steal, don’t cheat – are part of the fabric of society. I’m all for expectation. It has within it real hope. A hope for the very best outcome: therein lies the power for change.

So, don’t expect anything, but expect a great deal. Does that sound contradictory? The more I think about it, the more I think it isn’t. It’s complementary. One cannot be without the other. This is how I think it works: expect the best. Which translates as – imagine the other person, or the situation, has the highest potential possible. Believe in them or it. But believe wisely. Know that people have their own reasons for not meeting your expectations or needs. That works both ways. I’m not actually in a state of dissolution. I do things out of pain, insecurity, error, or just for the hell of it, too.

And when they disappoint? When things don’t meet your expectation? Here’s the plan: don’t translate your own disappointment into de facto permission to judge or feel wildly hurt. They probably have no idea. And, if it happens enough times? Either articulate, or choose to actively stop expecting. Not in the fire-safety blanket sort of way that snuffs everything out. More like a detangling, releasing my feelings from being intertwined in the cords of someone else’s actions. I don’t have to cut ties with them if I don’t want to. But internally? I’ve acknowledged their expectations don’t match mine. So I can stop expecting things they aren’t going to deliver.

I can’t say I’ve done this with a skip and a hop and a blithe grin. But I have discovered that it’s possible to form new expectations. To expect that this is just the way it is. To adjust the script a little. Mostly, rather than trying to direct the others in my life, to concentrate on what I say and do a bit more. Let’s see how that one goes.

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