How would we humans function if we didn’t have expectations? It seems the moment we take our first breath, we at least have a few. There may not be many but on the most basic level, I think we all expect to at least be fed and nurtured. And as we grow, the list of expectations grows, too. It may develop from being fed and nurtured to having our diapers changed when we soil them or getting our mother’s or father’s attention when we cry out. As our abilities and awareness increase, so do the expectations we place on others as well as ourselves. What is interesting, is that so much of what we determine we ‘need’ and later ‘expect’ is often dictated by our caregivers. Imagine what would happen if we stopped throwing extravagant birthday parties for one-year-olds. I don’t know a single one-year-old that had any awareness of when or why they ‘turned one’ and what all of the hubbub was about, including my own kids. They just look at all of the gifts with little to no understanding of why multiple shiny boxes with bows have been plunked down just within their reach.
I am by no means saying don’t throw birthday parties for your children. I think everyone should be celebrated. What I am trying to say is that we (as the adults in the relationship) have now created expectations within another individual that previously didn’t have any at all. I can say this because my world is so often dictated by expectations. If things don’t go as I ‘expect’, it can send me into an emotional tailspin. Just this morning, like every morning, I got up and immediately checked my email to see how many people liked my last blog post. I couldn’t believe my eyes! Two? Only two??!! Something must be wrong with my account! I spent nearly 5 hours working on ‘Potluck Wedding’ and only two people in the entire world actually ‘liked’ it? I have to say, that really bummed me out. When I first started my blog back in September, if I’d had two people ‘like’ what I wrote, I’d be ecstatic. But now? Since I’ve had a few ‘home runs’ (articles I’ve written that have garnered a fair amount of interest), I’ve come to expect them.
Damn expectations! They constantly influence nearly every move we make. What we should look like, how we should ‘feel’, why we behave as we do, where we should work and live, who we ‘choose’ to have in our lives, why we love some things and loathe others, I could go on for days, but I won’t do that to you. I think you understand what I’m trying to say. If you were to exclusively focus on ‘what we should look like’, there are so many outside entities that influence us. There are siblings and parents, our own children, friends and lovers, coworkers and bosses, people on TV and in the magazines, and numerous others that all impress upon or impose their expectations onto us. It’s so easy to pick ourselves apart because we don’t look as we ‘should’. When I was a freshman in high school, nearly every girl had ‘feathered’ hair. It was the trend. I jumped on the bandwagon and had my hair cut and styled to look like almost all of the other girls but it wasn’t even flattering.
The ‘perm’ soon followed and I didn’t waste any time changing up my own style once again in order to ‘fit in’, but it looked ridiculous. I kept that going until I was nearly 30-years-old and I only stopped at the insistence of a new stylist that refused to partake in such an archaic practice. And how we wear our hair or whether it’s silky and shiny, long and luxurious, short and spiky, permed or straight, dyed or ‘au naturale’, the expectations continually change. I can actually say Covid has done one ‘good thing’ that I have noticed as I look around. There are far more people like me, gray haired and loving it, than there were pre-Covid. I dyed my hair auburn brown until shortly after my 40th birthday and then I abruptly stopped. I was desperately trying to live up to the expectation imposed upon me that I had to dye my hair in order to maintain my youth and beauty. A lot of people tried to dissuade me but I persisted, even when I looked like a skunk with a two inch stripe running down the center of my scalp.
It can be so easy to ‘lose’ ourselves in other people’s expectations that it can be tough to find our way back. Think about it. From the clothes we wear, to the schools we attend, to the cars we drive, to the homes we buy, if we try to live according to other people’s expectations (which we often do), we can easily find ourselves living outside our means. I’ve thought a great deal about why a vast number of us allow these things to dictate so many aspects of our lives and I’ve decided it all boils down to judgement. None of us wish to be ‘judged’. It doesn’t feel good. To me, judgement is the opposite of acceptance. I should know, I’ve done my share of ‘judging’. I’m guilty of not only judging myself, but my kids, my spouse, my parents, my friends; the list goes on and on. The good news is that I am working on turning that around. I am working my tail off on ‘acceptance’ but it isn’t easy. You have to try and stifle all of the expectations that have been imposed or impressed upon you throughout the years.
That, my friends, is a tall order! And I’m finding myself in a bit of quandary at the moment because my oldest child is imposing her own expectations upon me. It is quite the predicament! To me, when someone develops expectations, that means they are viewing me from a place of judgement. It’s saying to me ‘loud and clear’ that the way I am isn’t good enough. And as a parent, that really sucks. I have given all I have to give and yet, it still doesn’t appear to be sufficient. It makes me sad and it makes me angry at the same time. The irony is, now I’m getting to see things from the ‘other perspective’. I’ve been doing all of the ‘judging’ and now I’m the one being ‘judged’. “Hey, Universe, if you thought it would be funny to place me in this crappy predicament at this point in my life, I just want you to know that I’m not amused! There is nothing remotely funny about any of this.” I feel sad for my daughter because of her inability to accept me for who I am because I know what an incredible burden it is to carry. And yet, I am also angry about the situation.
I can say this because I’ve lost enough relationships by placing expectations on others that they were unwilling or unable to meet. I’ve lost p-l-e-n-t-y! When I’ve asked for ‘more’, I cannot think of anyone that has risen to the challenge. Most people just move on. All of us are trying to get through this life the best we can and when someone asks us to ‘step up and do more or be more’, it can be a real turnoff and most people just head straight for the door. I believe that each individual has to determine how to best live their own life and how much ‘more’ they’re willing to give. I don’t know about you, but I’m worn out. I had my first child right after I turned 21 and I feel like I’ve devoted nearly every waking hour since then to ensuring my kids’ needs were met. That doesn’t mean I’ve been successful. Clearly, if I had been, I wouldn’t be sharing this latest tidbit with all of you. The question I’m asking myself now is whether it is my responsibility to continue to meet the expectations of my children? It’s beginning to feel like a prison sentence and I don’t know that I signed up for that.
I turned a big corner in my life when I had my transplant, and now I want to shift the focus off my kids and onto myself. My kids are all grown and well into their 20s and 30s and now I feel like it’s my time to finally shine. All the things I pushed aside because I always put the needs of my family above my own, I finally have the energy and desire to pursue. I know it sounds a bit selfish but I think I deserve an opportunity to live my life and find my joy. I still want my children in my life, they mean a great deal to me. They always will. I still intend to be there for them whenever they need me. But I also don’t want to be held to any standards that aren’t my own and have the health of our relationship(s) dependent upon realized or unrealized expectations. It’s too great a cross to bear and I don’t want to carry it. With that in mind, I’ve got one more thing to announce to the Universe, “Hey, Universe! Do you mind resolving this current dilemma? Things are at an impasse and I don’t have the answers.” Sigh.
Life. Each time you find yourself sure-footed and headed in the right direction, someone puts up a ‘detour’ sign. Never fails! For the folks that are ‘following’ me (not literally ‘following’ because that would be a little creepy and the police would probably have to get involved and the situation most assuredly wouldn’t end well), I am grateful for you and the continued interest you have in reading about the variety of things I blog about. I’m no poet laureate or anyone with significant credentials to speak of but I do enjoy the opportunity to share things about my life and family or to just make simple random observations. I love to write and I try to infuse humor into everything I do, and I hope I was able to make you smile, especially if you had a really crappy day. If all goes well and I haven’t run you off, I trust you will return tomorrow as will I.