Good day my friends, and Happy New Years to you all. I hope that you have safe and cozy plans with loved ones today. I am so incredibly ready for the new year to begin. My goals and dreams are within sight and I have had plenty of the routine disrupting holiday chaos. I am ready to hunker down, get back on focus, and inch my way toward those dreams without constant interruption. So close that I can almost smell and taste them. My mind is focused on a singular mission. Disruptions annoy me. I realize that I am out of line here and I have spent a great deal of time thinking about expectation this week.
Expectations. Sigh. Such a burden. A thief of joy and peace. Expectations steal our control. They steal everything worthwhile and fill us with disappointment.
I know what sustainable peace and contentment look like. I know what true, organic, deep rooted happiness feels like. The kind that even tragedy can’t really break or steal from you. And, that is how I am able to be 100% confident making this claim. Expectation is the enemy of peace and contentment. It spans the entirety of our lives. And when our expectations aren’t met, we are disappointed. We feel betrayed and we start a vicious cycle of negative thoughts. It is such a hard cycle to break, and it is a constant battle in practice. Here I am today, fighting this expectation demon that I learned how to overcome more than ten years ago. It is always trying to get in. The only way to control it is to be aware of it and physically take control of my thoughts. For me this means writing. It has been building in me for a few weeks now, but it was not until yesterday that I realized that it was disappointment causing my lack of patience. I have trained myself how to look at my emotions and recognize them, and trace them like a paper trail, back to their foundations.
It became clear for me a couple of days ago. I posted on Facebook about being a safe place and that my door is always open. Almost immediately my phone started ringing with people in tragedy. People who needed a friend. And they all had the same problem. Different versions of it, of course, but the situations all led back to one issue. Expectation. Each of them expected a different scenario than they got, and each of them was putting responsibility for their emotional well being on that expectation.
Our emotional well being is our responsibility and ours alone. It is not our husband, roommate, coworkers, children’s, or anyone else’s job to ensure that we are emotionally stable. The responsibility belongs to us as individuals.
As the week draws on, I get more and more calls, messages, and endless conversations, about how someone is ruining another persons joy.
Let me repeat. Expectation ruins our joy. Not other people. Not situations. Just our own personal expectations.
It started as a feeling of loneliness. My phone was ringing all day long, and somehow I felt alone. I am pretty used to this feeling, and didn’t think a whole lot of it. it just happens sometimes. No biggie. No sadness. Just content quiet in my own space.
And then the phone started interrupting my quiet, and suddenly my quiet alone became a nagging sense of duty.
One after another, people started calling in need. Lacking patience and empathy, I navigated these conversations to the best of my ability, but underneath it all I had a sense of impatience and intolerance.
Underneath it all I was developing some expectation.
At first I felt guilty, that I had put up this post on Facebook offering a safe space, and then when people came calling on it, I didn’t necessarily make them feel better. Soon though, I was starting to feel anger. I know, that when I am starting to feel anger, I am failing to recognize and deal with the emotion that is causing it. So, I stopped. I asked myself why I was angry. The rush of responses in my head was clear as a bell and easily definable. I was hurt and disappointed, and I could tell you exactly why.
As it snowballed and grew into anger and sarcastic judgement that just gushed out of me when my husband got home from work, I knew I had to do something about it. Thankfully I recognize that he is not causing this. He is one of the few that I actually do feel I can share with. It was the fact that I needed to vent it to him that got my attention.
So I started processing out loud. Well, lets see. I was contacted by multiple people in the last 48 hours. The majority of them wanted to vent to me. They asked my advice, but when I gave it, I received a whole lot of “but, can’t, won’t” in response. All of them lacked the ability to see that they came to me about themselves, but that they really did not want to talk about themselves. They wanted to talk about how other were affecting them. They had no interest in truth, or me. When I contradicted what they wanted to hear, they abruptly ended the conversation. It is evident they want me to build them up with what they want to hear, because if I say anything that conflicts what they want to hear, they suddenly have to go, or give me excuses why that advice doesn’t apply to this particular situation. None of them took the time to ask me how I was. None of them even wondered out loud a single time, if my life was on track, or if I myself may have something going on too.
Thankfully, the only thing I have going on is a little expectation disappointment, and that is pretty easy to resolve.
You see, I had an expectation that people wanted to hear my perspective, and that they would at least hear it, rather than block me out when there is no easy answer or when it is not what they want to hear. I had an expectation that a friend who asked if they could come over to talk was on their way, when I put away my project to get ready for their visit, so when two hours later, I had to message and ask if they were still coming, it is fair to say that I had some expectation disappointment that they had no respect for my time. I had some expectation disappointment because I expected to get back what I gave to each situation. I expected that if people were going to interrupt my work for their personal drama, that they could at least be bothered to ask how I was doing.
I mentioned this to a friend this morning, and her response was, “well that seems valid”.
I told her it was absolutely not valid.
And then I had to stop and think. Is it possible that this is valid pain and disappointment? Am I beating myself up and refusing to validate myself?
I decided it was not valid. I know what contentment looks like. Content, happy, well adjusted, emotionally stable people, do not place expectation upon others. Plain and simple. Well adjusted people accept others for who they are.
I have had four conversations this week with people who are upset that their partner is not who they want them to be. That their partner has changed and isn’t the same person they were in the beginning. To that I say “so have you”. You are not the person you were when you became a team, and neither are they. People change, constantly. They grow, they gain perspective, priorities change, responsibilities affect our lifestyles, traumas change us at the core. Every. Single. Person. We all change. No one remains the same, and we would be handed an awful sentence to have it any other way. A prison within our own selves. We need to change, we need to grow. Life would not throw us curve balls if we were not meant to learn from them and become a better version of ourselves.
An expectation that I come across regularly in my work, is that people believe that when they do the work to achieve happiness, that suddenly life gets easier. That less hard stuff happens. I see defeat when that is not the case. Happiness is not about life throwing less curve balls, it is about how well you swing at them. How many can you knock out of the park? In other words, its not the pitch that matters, its the swing. The bat is in your hands. Will you hit the ball coming at you? Will you duck and let it hit the ump? Or will you stand proud with determination, say “I got this” and knock that ball out of the park? Happiness isn’t about less curve balls. It is about your attitude as they fly at you.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying there is no room for hurt in a happy life. Hurt, grief, terrible things, are all going to happen to you. We were given emotions for a reason, and it wasn’t to push them down. It was to use them in a healthy way, to help us process a situation, and then to move through them into a functional solution.
If you lose a child, you are absolutely not going to just smile your way through it. If you get a horrible diagnosis or a loved one does, it will hurt. There is just no way around that.
It does not change the fact that you are still responsible for your own emotional health. You can get through tragedy and trauma in emotionally healthy ways. It does not have to be the end all be all that defines you.
The only way to overcome expectation disappointment, is to ditch the expectation. Its called acceptance. It doesn’t come with but’s attached.
Acceptance. It’s a doozy.
Acceptance is realizing and accepting that people are as unique as their fingerprints. That each of us will have our very own set of standards. We may agree with a majority on a lot of those standards, but at some point, you are going to find a standard difference with any single person you come across. No two people are the same, and our standards are as unique as our fingerprints. At some point, every single person will fail to live up to your expectation. And when they do, you will be hurt. It is not because they did anything to you. It is because they did what was right for them, and you took it personally that it was not the same thing that was right to you.
Your partner is going to grow and change as you face life together, and not in the same ways as you. It is your choice to accept who they are becoming and support them, or to try to change them back into your expectation of them. If you decide to try to change them back into who they are no longer, you will be disappointed every time, for you are not letting them be who they are growing into. You are refusing to let them mature into the future version of themselves. The problem with this, is that they are going to continue to change, and your expectations are going to continue to be unmet, and you are going to grow more distant and disappointed in the relationship. It is your choice to focus on the good and support that; or you can focus on the changes that you don’t like, and dwell in that cesspool. The choice, and emotional responsibility, lie with you.
What you may see as a negative change, others may see as a positive. When you are busy pointing fingers at the ways others have failed you, you are blind to the ways that you are failing them.
If we want emotional stability. Happiness. The ability to hold on to peace, even when the bad things happen, then we must look inside ourselves. Your partner, your parents, your friends and loved ones can not provide this for you. As a matter of fact, if they try, it will end up hurting everyone involved.
Codependency comes from a focus on fixing others rather than working on ourselves. I have fought a long, hard battle with codependency, and it rears its ugly head from time to time. Thankfully I can quickly identify it and reign it in. Occasionally it makes me quite intolerant of other peoples bahviors, and I have to check myself.
If there is one thing I am 100% sure of, it is that I am responsible for my emotional stability, and if I am behaving as a codependant, and angry that people aren’t behaving the way that I think they should be, I need a great big reality check.
It is me who is in the wrong here.
It is me who is trying to control others behaviors. (In this instance, I have not actually talked to any of the people about it. I have not tried to control them outwardly or directly, but in my mind, I am upset that they have not behaved in a specific way. That they have not lived up to “my standards”).
How incredibly selfish and egotistical is this??
It is the ugliest part of me.
The part of me that thinks that I somehow know what is the best way for someone to behave according to my personal set of standards. It is my most selfish and ugly part, and I had to think long and hard to talk myself into coming here today and admitting to you all that I have been “shoulding all over” my loved ones.
The situation is causing me pain. Enough pain to distract me from my focus and goals. Enough that I actually took the time to waste my precious hubby time complaining about it. That I let it interrupt my work, and my chores, and my general well being. Shame on me! So here I sit with a decision to make about how to deal with all this expectation disappointment that I have. Clearly I can not carry on with hurt feelings that another person was not behaving within my set of standards. How do I resolve this conflict within me? On the one hand, I am feeling quite taken for granted and unheard. On the other hand, I can not control the way other people react or behave toward me. As far as I can tell, I can choose to confront them individually, but this is just more of me telling them how I expect them to behave, and that I was disappointed that they didn’t meet my standard. I can accept that they are all very good people, and that there are areas in life where different experiences have caused us to have different norms and standards, and let go of my expectation. I can accept that their behavior is a reflection on them, not me. I can face that I may be taking something personally that isn’t personal at all.
I can employ empathy. This is the tool that works best for me. Everyone is different, but I find that if I try to put myself in their shoes, I can empathize it away. Sometimes it is hard, others it is glaringly obvious and simple. While I have used the example before, it still works so well that I will use it again.
How do you feel when someone is driving too slow, not using a blinker, or doing some other random thing that you don’t find acceptable? Did the man in a big hurry behind you suddenly pass you, cut in front of you and make a sharp turn without his blinker? Oh what an ass, right?
Or is that right? There are two sides of this scenario to consider. First. How he is behaving, and second, how you respond. His behavior seems erratic, maybe even dangerous. Heck even if he simply followed all the rules but forgot to use his blinker you might find yourself annoyed, right?? How do you respond? Do you slow down? Give him some space, recognize that he is clearly a threat to your well being and create a little buffer room around you? Do you lay on the horn? Flip him the bird? Do you roll down your window and scream angry things at him or even speed up to prove a point?
Remember, happiness is in the eye of the beholder. It happens when you create it. You have split second choices to make. How will you respond to him? If you get angry, defensive, and respond in any unloving way, are you taking the time to put yourself in his shoes? Have you ever needed a pass? Have you ever made a mistake driving? Do you know why he is driving like that? Have you considered that his youngest child may have just been in a severe car accident, or that his wife may be in preterm labor? Is it possible that his mother just fell down the stairs and he is temporarily out of his mind with fear?
Or will you spread anger? If you flip him the bird, scream at him, and act in an irate fashion, will it improve the situation. Will he even notice? Will it affect him at all, or will it just ruin your day? Will you go to work and rant and rave about him to everyone you see? Will you ruin their moment with your negativity too? The only person your anger really affects is you, and the people that you spew your ugly onto. And it never affects them for the better.
Think about it again. What will you do when he cuts you off in his mad panic?
How will you respond.
The choice is yours.
In this exact same way, you have control over your emotional stability.
In every situation. It is your choice. How will you handle it? Will you be the love? The light? The empathy? Will you choose to accept them? Will you accept people who behave in a way that does not meet your expectations? How will you resolve unmet expectations within yourself? Will you give them a little space to be them and not take it personally?
The other choice leads to disappointment. It leads to heartache and unmet expectation.
How will I deal with the hurt feelings of my friends not meeting my expectations? I will remind myself that they are good friends, who have been there for me in the past and are going through a hard time and need my empathy right now. Or I will stop answering their calls, stop giving them my time. If I evaluate the health of the relationship and find that I am being disappointed over and over again, I can surmise that said person and I are like oil and water, and I can choose to spend less time with them. It does not mean that I have to have hard feelings or that I am judging them. It simply means that I am reclaiming control of my emotional well being. I am going to be me. I am going to let them be them. If our paths are meant to cross, they will, and if not, then I am much better off not wasting my life dwelling on the pain of the relationship. Best to break that chain and move forward.
What I won’t do, is compromise my integrity to meet their expectations. I won’t lie to them, so that I can make them feel better by telling them what they want to hear or pampering their swollen ego. I won’t validate blame and accusation. Excuses will quickly bring out the blunt and honest part of me.
I had some guilt about this. About being impatient with excuses and calling fallacies where I perceived them. I am certain I hurt some feelings. I am certain the receiver was expecting a different response from me and is quite upset with me that my answer did not meet expectation, and I am certain it happened with more than one conversation.
I chewed on that guilt for a minute. And then I let it go. I have not done anyone wrong. I was only being me. I did not change who I was to meet their expectation, because I know that that is a recipe for a miserable life. I simply was myself. If their response to me being myself and saying what I see in response to the question hurt or angered them, then much like I needed to evaluate my expectations to resolve my anger,so do they. I am not responsible for their emotional well being and how they respond to me is as much their choice as how I respond to them.
And so, to all of my friends who felt that I was talking about you today, I may have been. Its possible. But I have resolved my expectation. I will be here when you can resolve yours. I have no hard feelings or ill will toward you. I only want the best for each and every one of you. And that is why I can not feed this demon. It is why I can not say what you want to hear. As long as this demon is being fed, it will grow and grow until it consumes you (if it isn’t already). I refuse to feed that expectation demon. I am sorry that you are hurting, and I will do my best to summon empathy. I will not feed the destructive demon that is blame. It is up to you to take responsibility for your own emotional well being.
It can mean any number of things. Maybe you need to decide to get a therapist or some meds for a chemical imbalance, maybe you need to stop talking to someone or consider an alternative to your current living situation. It may require a drastic change on your part. But you, and only you, can achieve peace in your life. And accepting that you can not change others, so how you react to them is key, really goes a long, long way down that path to sustainable peace.