“All earthly delights are sweeter in expectation than in enjoyment; but all spiritual pleasures more in fruition than expectation.” ~Francois Feneion
I hurt for her. I really did.
She carried a basket in her arms, one that was made up just for her, apparently with things in it that the giver felt reflected who she was and what she loved.
“Betsy. I’m so sad.” I listened and tried to understand her pain. It wasn’t that she was disappointed with the stuff. She was disappointed with what she perceived as thoughtlessness on behalf of the giver. The challenge each week had been for the new giver to observe a person and reflect on who they were – what their interests, talents, skills and uniqueness was – and give representations of what was learned in the basket.
Her sadness was justified by her expectation that the challenge would be taken seriously and that she’d feel a certain something when she uncovered the trinkets that she hoped would have been lovingly and thoughtfully chosen just for her.
But the giver, for whatever reason, hadn’t met my friend’s expectations. And her disappointment was profound.
“What if you look at it another way?” I suggested. “What if your expectations show you how much you love and value yourself?”
This conversation happened 25 years ago, but it’s as fresh as if it had happened yesterday.
I know we want to guard our hearts from suffering, so we either lower our expectations, or complain about our disappointments as if there really was a way to live a fulfilling life without either one – expectations, and disappointments.
Something has changed inside of me, and I don’t know when it happened. Perhaps it has been creeping up on me my whole life, one experience at a time.
It started years ago when I learned about my circle of influence and the things that only I had control over. When I realized that I was here on earth with billions of other people and the only one I could “control” was me, I couldn’t help but reflect on all of the sadness and turmoil in my life and see the common thread of dashed expectations – expectations I’d put on other people and circumstances to behave and turn out a certain way:
- I expected people to be kind and patient
- I expected people to keep their word
- I expected my close friends not to gossip or hurt me
- I expected everyone to love me
- I expected everyone to work as hard as I did
And then it dawned on me; what if my expectations were merely a reflection of what I value, and I was being given opportunities to see that? If that was true, then there would be no room for disappointment. Ever. I’d be free from thoughts that somehow I needed to “fix” something or someone, and instead I’d feel like I was understanding my heart better.
Does that make sense to you? Words are so limiting. Aren’t they?
So, what IS it that I’m trying to say?
If life is a series of moments, and I want to live fully and feel joy, then I have to see the gift in every moment I live. And if I feel sorrow, disappointment, or anger, I can see those reactions as a reflection of my heart and its desire for perfection…not someone else’s, but mine.
It’s as if the dashed expectation is a witness of perfection that I yearn for and now have an understanding of – for that thing, not for everything.
And then I feel peace and compassion. I see people and their flaws, but actually enjoy them more! Laughter comes easily because it doesn’t depend on what’s going on in the moment, but in my feeling close to “heaven” all the time.
My mind stops fixing the disappointment, looking for reasons and trying to figure out how to not make “that” happen again.
My heart stays open.
I don’t feel hatred or judgement, or the need to complain.
It’s the same for people’s expectations for us. If we live our lives trying to please others we will always be disappointed with life and will never feel good enough. But if, when someone expects something of / from us, we can see our values and desires uncovered by our reactions to their expectations of us.
It’s very interesting to watch that unfold!
So, what if today, we expected to feel a depth of joy for life in every situation, regardless of how we’re treated, what we have, or what we’re asked to do? And what if we knew that nobody else’s expectations for us should sway us from being who we are and how to feel our own personal joy?
What if we expected that kind of growth inside of ourselves and lived each moment accordingly, without complaint or confusion?
In other words:
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”~Mahatma Gandhi
(And then you won’t be able to stop yourself from having some fun!)