I’m a Cow

Have you ever been traveling down a country road and have seen a cow on the wrong side of a perfectly sound fence? Kind of standing there going, WTF? I am that cow, now.

An Effort to Evolve

It is oft said that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. What we don’t have, we are curious about, what we aren’t, we wonder about being. Many of my single friends long to be on the “in a relationship” side of the fence, while many of my “in a relationship” friends ponder thoughts of the single life.

I’ve never been on this side of the fence for long, the single side. I’ve always, somehow, sort of sprinted through this pasture, in the past. Perhaps I was afraid of the bull, but, for whatever reason, I’ve never hung out long enough to appreciate it. Here I am. Though, admittedly, I haven’t been here for very long, and it wasn’t by choice, I was just walking along the fence, and suddenly, I got pushed through. I’ll admit, I’ve always kind of been curious about life on this side of the fence; I’ve always been a fan of “Sex and the City” and the antics of Samantha Jones and Carrie Bradshaw, imagined I could, perhaps, be more like them if the opportunity presented itself. That really isn’t my style, though, and certainly is not my goal or my intent. But it is without a doubt, for me, an opportunity to grow, to learn, to evolve. Here I am, and I’ll make the most of it. It’s like Ireland! I know there is lots of green grass there, and I’ve always wanted to go there, it isn’t at the top of my list of vacation destinations, but definitely on the list. I wouldn’t mind a visit, even an extended tour, a summer, perhaps. But, never, have I considered buying a house and living in Ireland, forever.

An Effort to Evolve

But here I am. A cow. On the other side of the fence, in a whole new pasture. In Ireland. Not literally, of course, in a proverbial sense. And now that the shock has worn off, I’m looking around and it isn’t all that bad. There is green grass and I am making the most of it. I’m meeting people and fostering new friendships out of which, well, who knows? I’m not frantically looking for a way back over the fence, I am taking in the sites, enjoying the scenery, and just living in the moment. After all, I’m not really in control; I may have some goals, I may even have some influence, but, ultimately, my trip through this pasture is a journey of faith, or fate, or, maybe, both.

An Effort to Evolve

Why are some people chronically, perpetually, single, when they really, really don’t want to be? And why are others of us always entwined, in some cases simply for the state of entanglement and not because of love? Do we find ourselves stuck on one side of the fence, or the other, because of habit? Or fear? Or because getting to the other side requires some effort and perseverance? And possible pain.

My mom was shocked to find out my relationship had ended. She is a worrier. She worried the whole time I was married. She worried when I separated from my husband and, so joyously, lived alone. She worried the whole while I was in my last relationship. Now, again, she is worried that I am not in a relationship. She said, the other day, with tears threatening, as I headed out to meet with one of my new friends on this side of the fence, “I don’t want you to get hurt.” My response was, “so I should stay home and do nothing and meet no one for fear of being hurt?” I’m so not that type of person. She followed up with, “I don’t want you to grow old alone.” Which, to me, contradicted the statement she made ten seconds earlier. I tried to explain it the way I see it, in order to find someone to grow old(er) with, I may have to get hurt. There are, as evidenced, no guarantees. I’m not going to sit in a recliner, in front of TV, clutching a remote, waiting for someone to knock on the door who will love me forever. Because, it doesn’t work that way. How could it?

But, on the other hand, what of those folks who work so very, very, very hard at finding someone. Dating sights, blind dates, speed dating, and set ups, and all without results. There are never guarantees that the investment we make, in the dating scene, will pay off. Is it possible to try too hard? Or is it more a matter, like a quest for happiness, that focusing so intently on the result, we miss much of the journey, and it is in the journey that we are most likely to find what we seek? I think so. Stroll through the pasture, enjoy the green grass. We, first, must journey, and second, must find joy in that journey.

An Effort to Evolve

I think there is also a component of, what a co-worker of mine would say is “a you problem”.

Are we looking to someone else to fill the voids in our lives? Or are we complete and happy with who we are and just want to share our joy with someone else? There, I believe, we are to find better success. We must first love ourselves in order to be lovable. Truth. No one can “make” us happy, no one can “make” us content, no one can “bring” us joy. These are things we are one hundred percent responsible to ourselves for, and to share those gifts, then, I think, becomes more probable. We must be accountable to ourselves for our own happiness, and success, first, before we can expect anyone to be attracted. We can’t date happiness, or date success, and expect to become it. Nor can we make someone who isn’t happy and successful, happy and successful. Happiness and success are individual, however you define it, and will always thrive in similar company.

Whichever side of the fence you are on, currently, the point is, to find peace with where you are, with what you have, and with who you are. If you find yourself on the other side of the proverbial fence, again, find peace with it, with what you have, and with who you are. It is with self-esteem and confidence, acceptance, awareness, gratitude and forgiveness, that we are more able to scale the heights of the fences we may wish to cross. To run headlong into the fence repeatedly, wondering why it won’t give, is not only fruitless, but damaging. In other words, the grass is as green as you make it, on both sides of the fence. That’s why when you see a cow on the wrong side of a perfectly sound fence, it will only look bewildered momentarily, before it sets to grazing contentedly.

An Effort to Evolve

I am that cow. Is this Ireland? It’s so green!

 

 

 

Making It Work

Break it down.

“Making it work”.

When you hear someone say, “making it work” we usually think they are trying to make something work that isn’t working; a relationship, a living situation, or a job, for example. It often has a bad connotation, like a last ditch effort to make something better before totally giving up on it. And no wonder. Break it down; making it work. If you look at in a literal sense it sounds like we are turning something that shouldn’t be work into work, we are making it into work.

When you hear people say they are struggling in a marriage or relationship, but they’re going to try to “make it work” we can be pretty certain the next time we speak to them they’ll be out of the relationship. The same is true when the phrase is applied to a living situation, a job, or some similar circumstance; it seems doomed to demise, eventually, and usually sooner than later. Is it because they are taking something less than perfect, something they desire to change, and rather than making it joy they are making it work?

Words, and their use, spoken and in thought, can be tricky. Remember Mother Teresa and her statement? She won’t go to an antiwar rally, but she’d be happy to attend a peace rally. Her belief that “fighting” against something only fortifies it through negative energy, but promoting something strengthens it through positive energy. What we think manifests. What we say manifests. So, if we are trying to improve something by “making it work”, we are making a chore, a task, or are making harder something that shouldn’t be. An interesting thought, don’t you think?

Break it down. We are struggling in some situation (pick one), and we decide to try to improve it. If we try to make it work, almost immediately our mood shifts and we begin treating the situation like Monday morning; with a bit of dread, a bit of trepidation, a melancholy feeling of loss over the joyous weekend that is now passed. We move a little more slowly, we procrastinate, we fail to find as much pleasure in whatever makes us feel this way and it further deteriorates. Seem logical? What if you approached it in a more positive mindset? I’m going to make it joyful! Whatever it is suddenly seems so much more appealing, so much more attractive. It feels more like a Friday, like something we want to embrace and savor and make last the whole weekend long. Am I right?

I had my annual review for work this evening. I won’t lie, my job is pretty taxing sometimes, usually when I’m sitting in an airport between flights, I’m tired and I just want to not have to carry all my stuff around, I just want to be vertical or horizontal, not bent in half, for an extended period of time, and preferably motionless, with my eyes closed and my mind quiet. Or when I’m setting an alarm for 6:00 AM Eastern time to get up for work when I “live” in the Pacific time zone. Traveling on weekends and working all week. Being away from home for a week, or two, or more. Living out of a suitcase. Waking up in a hotel room and having a really hard time remembering exactly where I am. But, I still love my job! Every day I work with clients I am enthusiastic, upbeat, I infuse fun and wit and humor into everything I do. The content I teach is dry, serious, and really, not much fun, we’re talking audit software, but I do my best to have fun and make fun, delivering it. I try to always be upbeat and energetic and enthusiastic when I’m working with my team on projects, it makes everyone happier, it makes the work easier, it brings joy, if to no one else, then to me. And for this, I am recognized and valued, by my clients, by my co-workers and by those who manage me. I bring joy to a job rather than “make it work”.

Part of the discussion this evening revolved around the rigors of travel. It is hard, no doubt. Some folks I work with get off the plane, go to the hotel, stay in the hotel, go to work, go back to the hotel, get on the plane and go home. They are just making it work. They are generally less joyful about their jobs and usually the first to complain about work. They make it work, though. When I travel for work, I seek out opportunities to see and do and experience and find joy. I take great pleasure in seeking out unique, local restaurants to dine in. I look for interesting local sites and attractions. Or, it may be as simple as my quest for a Whole Foods in every city I visit. I try to visit different Whole Foods Markets in larger metropolitan areas I visit regularly. I have an unofficial quest to visit every Whole Foods Market possible. I also love seeing professional sports stadiums in different cities, and I don’t even follow sports! I love university campuses, they are usually nice places to walk, have lovely gardens, lawns, trees and are festooned with art and sometimes, great architecture. Nothing major, nothing expensive, but definitely way better than the four walls of a generic, chain hotel room. You do realize that every hotel chain decorates with the same carpet, towels, bedding, and often, even wall hangings. Some hotel chains WILL actually put “local” scenes up for wall décor, but not all. So, the only way you can tell which city you’re in is Googling the art on the wall, That, my friend, is making it work.

The challenge, then, is to change our thought patterns, change our choice of words and watch our resulting attitude change. The next time you feel the need to “make something work”, stop yourself. Rephrase it. Make it joy, instead. Approach whatever task or situation ahead of you with joy and enthusiasm, with energy and the thought of opportunity, and I’m quite sure you’ll garner a better result. Whether your challenge is, indeed, a relationship that is faltering, a job that is tedious, a living situation that is strained, a lifestyle that is stagnant, health that is deteriorating, fitness that is languishing, or just a feeling that there must be something more, use a different tone of voice inside and out, select words that are more positive in your thoughts and in your speech and I’m sure you’ll find the outcome to be much easier and more rewarding than something that you turn into hard work.

Make it joy.

 

Making it joy, a week at work, strolling the streets in the evenings and finding begonias everywhere!
Making it joy, a week at work, strolling the streets in the evenings and finding begonias everywhere!

 

What Are The Chances?

chance

/CHans/

Noun – A possibility of something happening.

Adjective – Fortuitous; accidental.

Verb – Do something by accident or without design: “if they chanced to meet”.

Synonyms

noun.              occasion – opportunity – hazard – luck – fortune
adjective.        fortuitous – accidental – random – haphazard – casual
verb.  risk – happen – hazard – venture – occur – gamble – hap

What are the chances you’d be willing to take a chance?

I take chances. This is supposed to be against my nature, I am an auditor, by profession. We are supposed to be risk adverse. Well, I don’t actually audit anymore, I teach software, and auditing, to auditors. I got this job by chance. My family was on the brink of financial ruin when a recruiter called with this job. I wasn’t even looking for a job. It was all by chance. My kids were in high school, my husband was pretending, poorly, to be a day trader, and we were having a hard time making the mortgages. The job required up to 75% travel and public speaking, two things I was dead set against. But, a paid 90-day trial period for the sake of the family was a chance I was willing to take. That was five years ago. The kids are in college, the husband is no longer in the picture, gone, with the mortgages that could not be met. But I took a chance on the job and it taught me something about myself at a very critical point in my life. I. Can. Do. Anything. Five years later, I happily travel all over the country and speak to groups of professionals for hours on end, for days on end. With confidence, with passion. By chance.

I take some chances when I travel for work, too. I go out and explore the towns and cities I visit. I walk, sometimes. I walk, sometimes, after dark. I get a feeling for the area and decide what I want to see and how I’m going to get there. But, taking these somewhat calculated chances has provided me with so many experiences that have enriched my life and have taught me a lot about people and about my country. I learn about every city and town I visit, I take in the local sites, history, architecture, cuisine, culture, and amenities, like parks and galleries and museums. Worth the chance.

I take other chances, too. I drive fast, we’ve discussed this. I make risky lane changes when aggravated, too. I will admit, I am sometimes that idiot on the road that I would curse at. I am really a careful, safe and sane driver, when someone is in the car with me, but when I drive by myself, I like a little risk, I like a little adrenaline. I like speeding and not getting caught. I like being able to maneuver through “idiot blocks” on the highway. I like taking those chances.

I have always liked sports and activities that many consider somewhat risky, chancy. I like to backpack, I like to horseback ride, I like whitewater rafting, I like rock climbing, I like snowboarding, and at my age, too. I run. I hike. I want to do even more! I want to white water kayak, I want to parasail, I want to sky dive (okay, maybe just once, to say I’ve done it), I want to surf, I want to do things I haven’t even thought of yet. Why? I like to take chances. I like a little adrenaline. I want to live while I’m alive. I’m addicted to experiences. I’m addicted to chance.

Life is full of chance. Even in the ordinary, there is chance. There is chance in what we choose to study, in the profession we select. There is chance in who we select as a mate, there is chance in the investments we make, the real estate we buy, the trip we make to the grocery store for cottage cheese and milk, in changing the light bulb in the bathroom. There is chance in crossing the street, in crossing every intersection, in climbing the stairs, in taking an elevator, even in swallowing your food. To think you don’t take chances every day you get out of bed is folly.

After the collapse of a twenty-something year marriage, though it was far from what a loving, fulfilling, marriage should ever be, I swore, swore, swore, I was better off alone. I told myself I might, eventually, date. But I swore, swore, swore I’d never allow anyone close enough to me to fall in love.  By chance, I am in love.

Nearly three years ago, I was in a town far, far from home. I’d been training and consulting with a group of accountants at a firm for a few days. My last day was busy, hectic and exhausting. I decided to reward myself by venturing a little ways out of town to a brewery that was said to have both good food and good beer. If the crowded parking lot was any evidence, on a Wednesday night, it must be true. I decided to take a chance. There were no tables available for a single diner so I agreed to eat at the bar. I enjoyed my meal and a stout beer, followed by a bowl of locally made beer-flavored ice cream, and another beer. About half way through my ice cream and second stout, a man took the stool next to me. He said to me “you’re not from around here, are you?” Right? I took a chance and struck up conversation with him. He seemed nice enough, but what really struck me was the fact that everyone at the bar knew him and seemed to hold him in high regard. During our conversation he asked if I’d ever ridden an airboat before. No. I wasn’t even sure what an airboat was, I was pretty darned sure I’d never ridden one before. He invited me to go for an airboat ride the next day, then to lunch, before I headed to the airport to catch my flight home. Am I crazy? Yup. Based on my risk assessment (auditors do this) and my observations of how people (in a bar) regarded this (strange, not as in unusual, but as in unknown) man, I agreed. We exchanged numbers and I headed back to my hotel (alone). I knew full well I’d chicken out when it came down to it. No chance.

That night and the next morning I was having a war with myself. There was the side of me that said “are you crazy?” and the other side that said “YOLO!! Let’s go!” He called. I stalled. He called. I stalled. I went sightseeing. He called again. I relented. I met him and found out what an airboat is; a small aluminum craft, flat hull, with a chair (one) secured in front of a cage housing an airplane propeller that spins frighteningly fast and is very loud and propels the boat across the top of the water, or gravel, or other land mass, if necessary. Like a swamp boat, well, just like a swamp boat. I got to sit on a lawn chair that was NOT anchored in any way to the bottom of the boat. Am I crazy? Apparently so. We launched the boat, I climbed aboard. And, by the way, thank goodness for my shoe purchase splurge. I’d found a shoe store, during this trip, by chance, in this most unlikely town, having a BOGO sale. I bought a pair of flats for work and got a free pair of vans, so I actually had appropriate footwear for this impromptu adventure, which in itself was a huge sign that I should take this chance. We flew up (or down) the river that ran through town, we stopped for lunch at a waterside restaurant, then continued our journey in the other direction (down or up the river). We found an island and pulled the boat ashore, sat on a log and each had a beer and chatted innocently. We headed back, pulled the boat out of the water and returned to my rental car. I went to the airport, got on the plane and returned to my life.

Airboat
Airboat

I’d talked to folks while dining alone before, but I’d never exchanged phone numbers. I’d never even entertained that as a possibility. I’d certainly never agreed to meet anyone I’d chatted casually with while dining alone. The chance had never presented itself, honestly. All of this seemed to be as a result of a bizarre chain reaction of chance occurrences. A crazy, crazy, crazy chance, and one, if a friend or family member told me about, I wouldn’t recommend. But I took it. Out of this crazy chance, I made a friend. We chatted now and then on the phone, exchanged text messages. We’d exchange stories, I’d talk about work and my travels in exchange for his weather, hunting, fishing and gardening report. We lost track of each other for a while, I thought he’d lost interest in our friendship, he’d lost his little black phonebook, instead. On a chance, one day, because I was thinking of him while visiting a town he said his sister lived in, I dug up his number and called. Because he’d lost my number he’d given up that we’d ever talk again. What were the chances? Our conversations became more regular. Our friendship grew.

He was making plans to visit his sister and his mom in Southern California and thought he’d make a stop in Northern California to visit me on his way, take a chance on seeing me after a year and a half of sporadic phone friendship. That was a year ago today. A year ago today, nervous as hell, I met a man at the airport I’d only ever seen once, well twice, counting the bar. I took a chance on a man who was my friend becoming, perhaps, something more. I considered the chance of letting someone get a little bit closer to me. I was still completely cynical about the possibility of love, but out of this chance friendship came a chance love. A chance to love, a chance to be loved.

Like all the other chances I take; backpacking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, where the outcome has some risk, some uncertainty, that, no matter how much I’ve trained, planned or prepared, there are significant chances that something could go wrong and I could get hurt, love could go wrong and I could get hurt. I face this every day. And so does he. He is not without his own battle scars. We are both taking a chance. But I’m not willing to chance not taking this chance.

Sometimes we openly struggle with the chance we’re taking, sometimes we struggle in silence, but, when all is said and done, we agree to keep taking this crazy chance on each other. Ours, perhaps, being a little chancier than most, with 3,000 miles between us and the constraints of affordability of travel, the demands of work and family and other obligations. I’d rather take the chance than lose what I’ve found. And what I’ve found, I found only by taking a chance.

The chances I’ve taken, on my job, on my relationship, in the sports and activities and adventures I pursue, have allowed me to grow incredibly as a person. My confidence has blossomed, my lust for life has exploded, my ability to embrace change has developed, my clarity of purpose, my desire to evolve, to improve as a person, physically, emotionally, spiritually, professionally and to share my observations with others have all grown significantly. Most importantly, my ability to love, and be loved, has become a reality when I thought it was lost. And, at first, only because of chance. Now I pursue change and growth out of desire. I am driven to grow, to evolve, to change. I am driven to take more chances.

What are the chances?

How Do You Do?

A greeting, a making of acquaintance. I am happy to meet you! How do you do is also a question I’d like to pose. How do you do?

My day is not quite complete unless I’ve made the acquaintance of someone I’ve never met before. I find this exciting, exhilarating and illuminating. People are so tremendously interesting, and from each and every meeting, often the first and last in one, I learn something valuable and hope I have left an impression, as well.

Today, I met lots of “new” people on a hike. Yesterday, I had a brief, but interesting conversation with the cashier at the grocery store, the day before, a very interesting man at a coffee shop. In the past three days, I have had casual conversations with at least a dozen people I’ve never met before. Sometimes, I think I am like the curious, friendly little puppy, panting and happily wagging my tail as I strain against my leash, eager to meet new people.

Hidden Falls Hike with the ladies "Meet-Up" group
Hidden Falls Hike with the ladies “Meet-Up” group

Why do I find people so fascinating? I like to find out what they do. Yes, I love to learn what people do for a living, but more interesting, what they do when they aren’t working. I find that many people live interesting lives, have hobbies and activities that I’ve always wanted to try, or to learn more about. Many people I meet are enthusiastic about their health, or their fitness, or their academic pursuits and I am thrilled to learn what they have to say. Almost always, we end up having a shared interest or shared topic and can chat for some time.

To say I have an energy, or enthusiasm, or confidence might be a little bit of an understatement. I really am eager to meet people and I think it shows when I walk into a room. I find that most the people I end up engaging with have a similar energy level, enthusiasm and confidence. If you believe in the law of attraction, I suppose this makes complete sense; like energies attract like energies. Or, perhaps my energy, enthusiasm and confidence make me a little more approachable than other folks.

I do try to be approachable. I make eye contact with people, and I guess I smile, whether I am aware of it, or not. A couple years ago I was at LAX, Los Angeles International Airport, I was returning home after a long week away, waiting for my last of several flights. It was quite late at night and I was chatting on the phone with my son. People were milling around me as I sat near my departure gate. There were a few flights departing from a few gates clustered close together. After I concluded my call, I did my usual thing, I checked in on Facebook. After I got home, I received a comment on my check in from a man I’ve known since kindergarten and probably haven’t seen since high school. He obviously knew I’d been at LAX, but asked if I had been sitting at gate 81, wearing a black coat and a scarf. Yes, I had. He was standing right next to me, waiting to board another flight, and I was on the phone. He recognized me, I don’t remember seeing him, or didn’t recognize him, but he said I smiled at him. So, I guess I smile, randomly at people, if I am unable to strike up a conversation. I’m not really sure, but so it would seem. I am just grateful, for whatever reason, I have so many opportunities for making acquaintances.

About opportunities; they don’t just happen. No one is going to walk up to your front door and want to meet you, unless they’re selling something. In which case, I don’t generally answer the door. I know exactly what I want to buy, where I want to buy it, when I want to buy it, how much I want to spend on it and where I am going to put it. I don’t need anyone trying to mess up my very deliberate acquisition process. I’m going minimalist. Thank you. Back to opportunities; they are made, they don’t just happen. If you spend most of your leisure time in front of the television, you are not creating any opportunities. The dozen or so people I met in the past three days? I left my house and went out into the world and while I was interacting with society, I made the acquaintance of a bunch of really nice people.

How do you do; how do you create opportunities for meeting people? When I walked into the coffee shop a couple of days ago, I was there to work on a project for work between appointments. I take advantage of free Wi-Fi all the time, I love working from public places whenever I can. I ordered my half-caf and a banana and plunked my computer down at a table near an outlet, which happened to be adjacent to another table with an outlet where a nice looking man had plunked down his computer. I went about my tasks and before long, he struck up a conversation and we chatted, intermittently, for an hour. He was very interesting and found a lot of what I had to say interesting, as well. He left and went about his day, I left and went about mine. Simple as that. But in that meeting and the brief friendly conversation, I learned that he did many different, interesting things to make a living and had some spare time interests in common with me as well. I was smiling.

Today, I deliberately sought an opportunity to meet people. I belong to several “Meet-Up” groups (www.meetup.com). One of my favorites is a local group called “40 Something Women’s Group” and they do all sorts of fun things; dancing, movies, happy hours, brunches, wine tasting, hikes. All things I enjoy. Today, a hike. Of the ten or so ladies in attendance, I’d met two of them previously. During our lovely hike on this very warm, spring day, I enjoyed nature; the green hills, the wildflowers, the waterfalls, not so much the rattlesnake. More than nature, I enjoyed the many conversations I had with various ladies as we strolled along.

Hidden Falls Hike with the ladies "Meet-Up" group
Hidden Falls Hike with the ladies “Meet-Up” group

Of course, you get a bunch of 40 something ladies together, many divorced, and often the topic of meeting men comes up. Many of the ladies use online dating services, with limited success. A lot of energy goes into “meeting someone”. I don’t know, I’ve never tried. For me, it just happens, whether I’m ready, or not. I meet people all the time, one I met turned out to be someone I’d love to share my life with. I most certainly did not set out to find someone of a certain age, height, hair color, income level with specific spare time interests. I drank an oatmeal stout and ate ice cream at a bar, by myself, while traveling for work and I guess I was approachable. I must have smiled.

One of the ladies I chatted with today had a similar experience. She and I agreed that often times we meet someone compatible, someone terrific, someone we click with, when we aren’t trying, at all. We also agreed that rather than working on meeting someone, we put our time to better use working on ourselves. When we like ourselves and have become someone we would like to spend time with, often someone else comes around that feels the same way. I think this is where energy, enthusiasm and confidence come into play. I genuinely like myself, pretty much most of the time, and that translates into a confidence, approachability. And that also explains why I mostly meet people who are confident, energetic and enthusiastic, because they like themselves and are therefore, approachable, likeable. They smile.

If you find yourself dissatisfied with the lack of opportunity to meet people, that can be easily fixed. Find resources for meeting people, like Meet-Ups or other social groups; church, fitness, sports, activities, philanthropies, volunteering, and the list goes on. If you find, no matter how hard you try, you can’t find someone compatible to spend time with, whether friends or for dating or serious relationships, it’s possible you’re working too hard at it, and possibly, you’re working on the wrong person. Work on yourself and when you like what you’ve become, genuinely and completely, chances are, other people will feel the same way about you. Give yourself the opportunity and be approachable, and I’m pretty sure you’ll have more “how do you do’s”! Smile!

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’.