My friend Cathy Shaneyfelt once told me something that totally rerouted my brain processes. I was eating chili at a girls potluck, gabbing with everyone, talking about Halloween costumes, and then Cathy said:
"Expectations are resentments waiting to happen."
I don't remember what we were talking about specifically, but I do remember nearly choking on my chili. At the time I had boatloads of expectations, and life was not a sunny place. I wrestled with this concept for a while, because in my mind I kept thinking, "But what's life without dreams and expectations?"
I've come to believe there's a great gap between dreams and expectations. They are not the same thing. To dream is to enjoy, to fantasize, to hope for the best and proceed in doing your best to make it happen, somewhere, somehow. Expectations are different than dreams. Expectations are rigid. Expectations are passive. They sit and wait and expect that fairy dust will sprinkle itself over things and poof... "it" will happen in exactly the way we preordained it in our minds.
Dreams are elastic and changing and magic.
Expectations are rigid, rule-based, and ultimately, potentially, devastatingly, disappointing.
I'd like to think of my life as a good combination of dreams and effort. I dream of things, and then hopefully I put pen to paper, or feet to ground, or sweat to brow and do my best to create an environment where those dreams can happen.
But expectations, those suckers can make me very unhappy.
I remembered Cathy's advice last night. I was stomping around, trying to clean the kitchen and get a load of laundry done before bed. Jane had cried on and off every 30 minutes since going to sleep. Matt and I weren't in the best of moods at each other, and on top of everything he got called back into work. I've been sick on and off for over a month. We'd had yet another weekend filled with illness and bad moods and a serious lack of fun. And boy was I EVER in a raunchy mental state.
I turned on some music, lit some candles on the window sill over the sink, and proceeded to wash the dishes by hand. I chewed on my bad mood like an old piece of gum until I realized the expectation virus had struck yet again.
I expect to be healthy.
I expect to have fun on the weekends.
I expect a clean house.
I expect a husband and child who are always happy.
Anyone else smell that?
That's what I like to call the scent of a burning martyr.
So I stood there, watching the candles flicker and listening to the static of Jane's baby monitor, and I thought about the difference between my dreams and my expectations. My expectations make me frustrated and passive. And yes, they make me a martyr. My dreams on the other hand, those fill me with excitement and hope.
I believe that the way we think, the way our minds work and dwell, has great impact for our lives. I believe it impacts our relationships, our jobs, and yes, our dreams. Just the simple act of thinking creates the worlds we end up living in. And I believe when expectations rule our thinking, it is a poison in our lives. I'm convinced of it. It is a slow burning, martyr making, dream killing, poison.
I finished washing the dishes and said a quick prayer. I asked God to heal my mind. That's a biggie isn't it? Seems a big melodramatic? Maybe. But ever since I experienced depression in my life, having a healed mind is much more important than I ever could have imagined. Once you know what it's like to have the cheese slide off your cracker, you realize how critical a calm, peaceful, God-filled mind is. You realize how much our minds impact our realities. You realize that having a mind choked with expectations can be the kiss of death to peace, and happiness, and dreams.
So today is a fresh start. Today is a day I begin without expectations. Dreams, yes. Expectations, no. It's alright if our weekends are chaotic and filled with whining and runny noses and hurt feelings. It's alright if no one is happy at the moment. It's alright if the house is filthy and Jane doesn't have anything clean to wear to daycare on a Monday morning. It's really and truly alright if these expectations go flying out the window.
When I was battling postpartum I realized that this train, my life, is driving itself. The trains we all ride on are driving themselves. We don't wear the striped conductor's hat. We don't sit behind the wheel.
We're just riding.
We ride on trains that are driving themselves every day, our entire lives. We only delude ourselves that it's all somehow in our hands; the speed, the tracks, the destination. We delude ourselves that our meager little expectations will have any impact on the train what-so-ever. The only thing we control is ourselves. We rumble around inside these trains, doing our best, dreaming our dreams, praying to God... and if we're wise... expecting nothing.
Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.
Thank you, Cathy Shaneyfelt, for sharing this with me.
It has meant more than I can ever say.
"The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish."