Are you old enough to remember the song “A Long December” by Counting Crows? I kindof hate that song, mostly because when I was in college, a friend of mine used it as his moping song while his girlfriend was away for a month. In that context it was schmoopy and slightly pathetic (which, had I been the girl it was directed towards, I probably would have felt differently. Not that I wanted my friend to be schmoopy about me…but who doesn’t want their absence to be noticed?).
Well, reminiscing aside, it was a long December at my house. People were sick, large appliances went on the fritz, and animals needed medical attention (that doesn’t mean they all received medical attention, but they could have used it). Basically, my house was a Bermuda Triangle or Typhoid Mary and anything that came in contact with it was rendered ill or broken.
Perfect timing for cultivating a posture of reflection during the Advent season, huh?
There was something I’ve had to relearn (I hate that!) during that time of rescheduling family events, serving toast and applesauce for our holiday feasts, and generally having a significantly scaled-down Christmas: my expectations have the power to influence an experience for myself and everyone around me.
My expectations affect my attitude when the expectations are not met. If I allow my attitude to be affected negatively, I can let that negativity leak out onto the people I come in contact with. It has the potential to taint an experience for me and for them.
Here’s the thing. If something falls short of our expectations, it is because we can’t control and orchestrate every detail of our lives.
We can’t control illness or mishaps or accidents.
We can’t control others.
That really bugs people…
Maybe this is just in Minnesota (I doubt it), but women have this complex about everything going exactly according to plan, even though it so rarely happens that you’d think we would have figured it out by now. But nope, we still think we can finesse the circumstances, details and people involved to achieve our desired outcome. This results in control freak-y friends, wives and moms who walk around with unmet expectations a lot of the time who have:
- So fixated on managing every detail that they’re a hand-grenade with legs and a purse
- Resent the fact that they had to tell people what they wanted (these people should have instinctively known, after all!) so even when they get it, the experience is diminished
- Created an environment where the people who were strong-armed or guilt-tripped into acquiescing are beat down and looking for an escape
Who wants to live like that?
This year I wanted to take a writing class from our regional writing hotbed, The Loft Literary Center. I fully intended to do it, had checked out the catalog (available online at https://www.loft.org/) and flagged certain classes that might fit into my family’s schedule.
Then it just didn’t happen.
There were lots of roadblocks and obstacles that just kept it from happening.
I was disappointed in myself. I had set the goal, thought it was attainable and reasonable, and then I didn’t get it done.
I have two choices in reaction to this failed attempt. I can beat myself up and approach it with a negative attitude (“I never follow through. I’m such a flop. Why try to set goals at all? Who am I fooling?”).
Good times, huh?
The alternative is acknowledge the reality. Don’t make excuses but recognize what happened and why.
I didn’t take the class. True. Why? Because I chose to prioritize my family’s needs over my personal goals. Don’t berate yourself or become one of those Martyr Mothers (“I give up all of myself for my family and I’m so unappreciated. Boo hoo.”) we all know.
Learn from what happened, and look for ways to achieve the next goal.
Was the goal too Loft-y? (Get it? Lofty? Loft-y? Mwah ah ah.) Maybe something closer to home or a one time commitment is more attainable. Modify the goal and see if that still achieves the purpose behind the goal, even on a smaller scale. For example, I didn’t get to the Loft Literary Center series of classes, but I did go to a community education class on publishing. Not quite the same, but a step in the right direction for me.
What goals do you have this year? How do you intend to achieve them? How do you handle disappointment? Are you aware of your unspoken expectations? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Happy writing!