Notification! Important!

I think I’m gonna go cold turkey. I have an addiction, an unhealthy addiction. I’m Scarlette Begonia, and I’m addicted to notifications.

I ran a ten mile race today and fully, and rightfully, expected to experience an endorphin high for the rest of the day, or for at least a few hours. I was bummed. Completely bummed. I was bummed from the moment I finished the race until I had the sense to figure out what was going on. I was bummed because I sort of expected certain folks to respond to certain posts and certain text messages, and they didn’t. Never mind they have full and consuming lives of their own, but I had an expectation, an unfulfilled expectation.

There are two things wrong with this picture; expectations, one, and looking to external stimuli for validation, for happiness, for gratification. I wholly and completely realize this, and have, according to some, “preached” on this before.

Preacher, now disciple.

Lately, I find myself grasping my phone, checking every few minutes for notifications. I have notifications turned on for absolutely every app, social media, text messages, phone calls, “Map My Run”, and even “All Trails”.

I have even begun to “measure”, or try to quantify how much someone likes me, or loves me, by how quickly they respond to texts, or if, and how rapidly they “like” a picture, a comment, a check-in. And especially a new profile picture. This, my friends, is no way to live. This is not how friendships or relationships or love, or anything else, is measured. Ever.

Extremist that I am, I spent the afternoon on the deck, lounging in my cheap, faded, PVC Adirondack chair, contemplating all of this, and then, systematically turning off notification services for everything except phone calls. And even that I really wanted to turn off, because 99% of the time, I don’t want to talk to whomever is calling. But, as my mom is 91 years old and couldn’t text to save her life, and may require assistance when I am away, I left that one notification active.

This strategy, I’ll admit, failed miserably and instantly. I just picked up my phone and opened every app, one by one, to see if anyone was talking to me, validating me, “liking” me, loving me. Nope. More dismal despair and disappointment. My solution, and I’m only two hours in; I’ve set an alarm for every three or four hours, and, when it sounds, I am allowed to check my apps. Until then, the phone remains untouched, the only app open is Spotify. I do require a little external stimuli, and music seems benign. I’m hoping to wean my “app checking” down to three times a day. Eventually. Baby steps. It’s like heroine, I’ll require methadone, on a long-term, tapered schedule, before I am, at last, free from this monkey on by back.

In the hour and a half I’ve been abiding by this new plan, I’ve drafted three articles, I’ve observed fascinating nature in my own backyard, I’ve eaten a pizza, four samosas and had a couple of beers. I’ll get better, I am certain.

Why am I taking such extreme measures?

Our sense of worth, our value as a human being, the measure of how lovable, or likable we are, never, ever, ever, is dependent on what others think, of how others act, or even of how others regard us. We are our only judge, and to rely so completely on external stimuli for validation is in complete juxtaposition.

Our self-worth, our self-confidence, our value, only ever comes from within, and unless we’re going to sit there and like all our own social media posts, respond to all our own texts in precisely the manner, and period of time, we deem appropriate, we’ve set ourselves up for utter disappointment.

Expectations, generally, are the device of misery. By expecting certain behaviors or actions from anyone is the most expeditious route to disappointment ever. We are only, and with effort, in control of ourselves. We cannot control anyone else, in thought, action, or deed. To think we can coerce, beg, plead, ask, request anyone to change, or to behave according to our desire, is futile. Live your life and coexist with others.

You know that religious “coexist” bumper sticker you see on the back of every third Prius on the highway? Repurpose the message; live your own life, set and strive for your own expectations, and respect others for their efforts in setting and striving for their own expectations. If their self-expectations align well enough with yours, then, super. If not, let go, and find folks whose journey, and expectations, coexist more with yours.

So, yes, please, like my article. Follow me, like me on Facebook, on Twitter, on Instagram, just know, I’ll be appreciative, but I may not realize your appreciation as instantly as you may expect!

Great Expectations

What Do You Expect?

What is an expectation?

ex·pec·ta·tion
/ˌekspekˈtāSHən/

Noun

A strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.
A belief that someone will or should achieve something.

Let’s talk about that second line, there, a belief that someone will or should achieve something. Let me ask you this; how easy is it to change? What’s the biggest thing you’d like to change about yourself? Are you done, yet? Have you even started? Not that easy, is it? Now what if someone strongly believed you should change in that way? What if they believed that you would, or should, achieve those changes? And what if you didn’t? Do you think the fact that you didn’t quite fulfill their desire, confirm their strong belief, would cause disappointment, even if only a little? Would prolonged disappointment on their part, perhaps, cause a strain in your relationship? Yes, it would, and the more time that passes that you don’t confirm their strong belief, the more likely that disappointment will mount. The relationship deteriorates over time as a result. Yet we all have expectations of others in our relationships. It is absolutely natural.

Expectation is a relationship disease, like a cancer, eating away at it, undermining its health and vigor, zapping its strength and cutting short its longevity. The only person than can change you, is you. You, plain and simple, have to want to change. Then you must apply a significant amount of energy to that desire. And only you can do that. Period. You can’t change anyone else, and they can’t make you change either. Expecting another to change, trying to convince them to change, pleading, offering ultimatums or threats, are the surest way to put a once vibrant, healthy relationship to a slow and miserable death.

This reaches far beyond romantic relationships and invades relationships with friends and with family members. Expectation causes disappointment, anger, resentment and eventually bitterness, in any relationship. The “expector” is disappointed, angry, resentful and bitter for being let down, the “expectee” for the lack of compassion and understanding on the part of the “expector”. Even if we have expectations of someone with the best of intentions, “I think you should lose weight because I care for you.” Or, “I think you should spend less money so you can save for retirement.” When those types of expectations are placed on us, even though well intended, what is the immediate reaction of the “expectee”? Not change, at least not long term. The “expectee” may make an initial effort, but if they are not embracing the change wholeheartedly, if the desire to change does not come from within, the behavior will continue, the expector will be disappointed, and the expectee feels all that much more awful, first of all for letting the “expector” down and for “failing” or for letting themselves down. Often times, this undermines the self-esteem and self-confidence of the “expectee”, which, with many behaviors, just causes them to increase or worsen, or for new behaviors to manifest.

I once knew a married couple and from the outside looking in, I thought they had the perfect relationship. I remember talking to the wife about it and she told me that a couple of times a year, or when there was a change in family dynamic (a new kid, a new job, etc.), they’d sit down and discuss their expectations of each other. I thought this was brilliant. I attempted to employ this in my own, already unhappy marriage, and the expectation that my husband would even sit down and have a meaningful conversation with me wasn’t even met. Long story short, my marriage ended, neither of us ever lived up to any of each other’s expectations. And the happily married couple are now bitterly divorced. The wife was, for lack of a better term, a bit more assertive than her husband. Over time, he pretty much self-destructed. His life is in shambles and she is happily remarried.

Surely relationships must have some level of expectation in order to survive. Is it wrong to expect your spouse won’t cheat, will honor your wedding vows? The difference here is that vows are a mutual agreement, entered into by both parties, willingly. An expectation is one sided. Therein lies the crucial difference. Expectations often follow the word “should”. Listen to your thoughts, your words; how often are you thinking or saying, “should” as it relates to other people in your life? That is a one-sided desire, your desire, for someone else to change or conform, often against his or her will or desire. Expectations in a relationship, being one-sided in nature, are a highway to frustration and disappointment. Yours and theirs.

We usually begin a relationship managing to overlook all those things we think the other party should or should not do. We are open, accepting and tolerant. That is the key; openness, acceptance and tolerance. As time passes, unless we are conscious of own behavior, the “shoulds” begin to creep into our thoughts and into our speech. We need to learn to identify this tendency and to foster that loving openness, acceptance, and tolerance. We need to affirm in our relationship the characteristics of the other person that drew us together and accept the characteristics that we might otherwise expect to change. Quite simply said, much harder done, we need to replace expect with accept.

One of the best books I have ever read on all matters of relationships is The Soulmate Experience: A Practical Guide to Creating Extraordinary Relationships by Mali Apple and Joe Dunn. This book eloquently and logically explains how poisonous expectations can be to a relationship and how to replace expectations with invitations. I’ve read this book and I’ve re-read this book. And I recommend this book unequivocally. It should be required reading for anyone that ever has to relate in any way to another person! I am inviting you to read this book; I am not expecting you to read it. I’ll accept your decision, either way. Just sayin’.