Posts Tagged ‘expectations’

With one day remaining in the year, I can safely say that 2013 has not turned out the way I expected it to.  I can look back to this time last year and almost taste the anticipation I was feeling.  It was going to be a great year, filled with many wonderful things.  I expected it to be that way.

I was wrong.

Less than two weeks into the new year I knew it would not be all that I thought it would be.  It would, in fact, be barely a shadow of what I thought it would be.  I wanted to crawl into a hole and come out when the calendar no longer said 2013 but, of course, that was not a realistic way to spend 11 and a half months.

If only it were.

So I trudged along.  I made it through the rest of January, barely, and wished away February and most of March.  With the warmer weather came a small sense of relief and summer brought with it some smiles and laughter and a pat on the back that I’d made it half-way.

But my constant companion was a sense of injustice; a feeling that this was not how it was supposed to be, not any of it.  What happened to my expectations?  What happened to my year as I had imagined it to be?  What happened?

And even in my own head I sounded like a spoiled child.  Who am I to decide what is “supposed” to happen and what is not?  In the general scheme of terrible things that happen, if this thing knocked me down for a whole year, how would I ever handle something truly terrible?  On the slippery step ladder of horrible things, I was fairly close to the bottom and yet I had still managed to fall off and stay down for longer than was probably warranted.

But I couldn’t shake it.  I couldn’t shake the sense that I was on a completely different path than where I should have been.  As I checked off the days and the months crawled by I just wanted to make it through the year, as though it was the actual number 2013 staring back at me that was keeping me from moving on in any meaningful way.

I have spent almost an entire year feeling like a mistake was made; like my original year had been so nicely written out, only to be erased like words on a piece of paper, still faint enough to read if you look closely.  And instead of writing something new on top, I have spent months staring at the paper, squinting my eyes to try and gain a glimpse of what was there before.

And now, finally, I have reached a point where I’m tired of looking at something that isn’t there, tired of squinting and imagining and creating something from nothing.  It has taken me a whole year to get here.  A whole year to realize that the things that happen to us are bad enough without adding them the weight of unfulfilled expectations.

How often do we expect things and are then disappointed when they don’t happen?  I expected this year to turn out differently.  I expected him to respond differently.  I expected to feel differently.  What if I stopped expecting things and just dealt with them as they came?  What if I just felt the emotions as they came, without first having to debate whether they are what I expected them to be?  How much of a relief would it be to just take away that step entirely? What would that year look like in comparison to this?  If I stop measuring everything against what I expected, will I also then stop coming up short?

There is a sweet little movie called The Odd Life of Timothy Green that came out last year.  If you haven’t yet had a chance to check it out, I would recommend that you do. In the movie there is one particular line that has stuck with me, and which now resonates even more than before.  On Timothy’s first day of school, his parents drop him off and after saying goodbye, his dad yells for him to “have a great day” and his mom says “that’s too much pressure!”  His dad then corrects himself and yells to Timothy to “have the day you have.”

Have the day you have.

How simple it seems when you put it that way.

How complicated I seem to have made things, and how I now crave the blissful simplicity of living a life free from unmet expectations.

So, as I sit on the cusp of a fresh start, both according to the calendar on the wall and also a feeling deep inside, I will not wish you a great new year.  Rather I will encourage you to have the year you have.

And I am excited to try to do the same.

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By all accounts, the next few days should be good ones. I look at the calendar and see some pretty great things lined up. Add to it the fact that I’m off work for five days and really, there’s almost no chance I won’t have a great time.

There will be time with friends and time with family. There will be a wedding, which probably means dancing, and two nights away from the kids, which definitely means sleeping.  There are enough things to fill the schedule, but also breaks in between for spontaneous trips to the park, or for ice cream, or for a quiet nap under the whir of a gently turning fan.

I’m excited.  And normally at this point I would start imagining exactly how I want it to go; detailing scenes in my mind. My hopes and expectations would be rising, so high in fact that before long they would drift out of reach.  So high that when reality failed to meet my unreachable expectations, it would inevitably lead to feeling disappointed, defeated, disheartened.

Because let’s be honest, nothing ever goes exactly as you hope it will. Plans get changed, weather doesn’t cooperate, words are said and taken the wrong way, silences lengthen from nuanced to awkward , children misbehave, adults misbehave, and basically the universe scribbles all over the beautiful picture I had made in my mind.

And when that happens, as it inevitably does, I feel like I have been wronged; like I am being punished or singled out unjustly. How come these things always happen to me? How come everyone else is having a good time except me? How come nothing ever goes my way? And instead of realizing that these things happen to everyone (they just don’t post the pictures on Facebook), I listen to the voices in my head telling me it’s just me. It’s because I’m me.

But I’ve decided I’m not going to do that this time.

This time I’m going to see what comes. I’m going to leave the expectations at the door and go with the flow, something that I’ve always had difficulty doing. But I’m learning, and I’m trying, and I’m patting myself on the back every little step along the way.  Every time I almost open my mouth but don’t.  Every time I think to make a suggestion about a different way to do something, but I don’t.  Every time I say “no” when what I really want to say is “yes.”

Because I’m realizing that when I fill up every situation with expectations, it leaves no room for pleasant surprises.

And at the end of the weekend I hope I can look back and see a weekend that wasn’t perfect, but rather perfectly wonderful.

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Before I actually had kids I had a lot of ideas about what kind of mother I was going to be.

Obviously actually having kids changed most of the things on that list.  Thinking about some of those “future predictions” now makes me laugh, mostly at how far off the mark I ended up being.

One thing I thought I wouldn’t have to rethink though was what my name would be as a mother.  I was going to be “Mom” and that would be that.  That’s what I call my mom and have for all of my life so why would I be any different?

However, as with so many other things about becoming a mother, I was apparently wrong about this too.

My kids call me “Mama.”

Not “Mom”, not “Mum” not even “Mommy.” Just “Mama.”

I don’t know why.  I really wish I knew why and then maybe I could convince them to change their minds on it but I don’t, so I can’t.  It wasn’t always that way.  Between the ages of three and five, my daughter called me “Mom” and I didn’t really think anything of it.  Then around the age of five and a half she started calling me “Mama.”

It started innocently enough.  I would ask her to do something and she would gaze at me lovingly and say “yes, Mama” and then go off and do whatever it Was she wanted and not at all what I asked her to do. After a few times I realized that the “Mama” actually seemed to be laced with a hint of sarcasm.  Other mothers would perhaps be angry with this show of “lip” from a five year old, but not me.

My daughter doesn’t look anything like me, sometimes I joke that if I hadn’t been in the room when she was born I would doubt that she even came from me, so the very fact that she apparently inherited the use of sarcasm and a touch of biting wit from her dear-old mom actually made me happy.  And proud.  Strange perhaps but that’s the way I roll.

But I digress.

She used the “Mama” more and more frequently and in my mind it quickly began to grow old. However, it was around that time that her two year-old brother began to pick it up as well.  So now I had two kids in the house calling me “Mama” versus no kids calling me “Mom.”  They had me outnumbered.

Now, it’s almost four years later and “Mama” appears to be here to stay, whether I like it or not.  My son is currently in the middle of a phase where he likes to spell everything so on top of being “Mama” I’m also “M-A-M-A.”

In other words, I’m basically light years away from the “Mom” I expected I was going to be.

It’s not that the name bothers me that much, per se.  It has a nice ring to it at times and when I’m in a room crowded with dozens of other kids and their mothers it’s definitely easier to pick out when my kids are yelling for me but I guess the issue is that it’s just not what I pictured for myself.

I don’t think I’m a “Mama,” whatever the definition of that might be. When I hear the word “Mama” I picture a woman in a long dress with an apron tied over it and her hair in some type of bun.

Basically I picture this.

I realize that the mother in Little House on the Prairie was actually called “Ma” but I just can’t help it.  This is what I think of when I hear the word “Mama” and although I wouldn’t say I’m Victoria Beckham, I consider myself light years away from bonnets and churning my own butter.

I’m slowly trying to to change my ideas though.  If being a mother has taught me anything it’s the need to adapt, to change what I thought it was going to be and just accept and learn to appreciate things as they are.  To not fight the little things.

So now when I walk in the door from a long day at work I listen for my son to yell out “Mama” from wherever he is in the house and I smile.  I’m slowly learning to let go of expectations and focus on appreciation.

I think that’s what Mama would do.

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I stood in line, slightly overwhelmed by the fact that everyone around me seemed to know exactly what they were doing. I scanned the wall with the seemingly-endless array of selections and I wondered again what I was doing there.

I looked down and saw the coupon clutched in my hand. That’s what I was doing there. They sucked me in with a coupon for a free cup of tea so here I was, feeling overwhelmed and also feeling ridiculous about the fact that I was feeling overwhelmed.

I like the idea of drinking fancy tea. And by fancy tea I mean loose tea with those ridiculous sounding names that are made up of rose petals and wood pieces that look surprisingly similar to the chips that line hamster cages.

I like the idea of being the kind of person who drinks fancy tea. Row after row of neat metal tins lined up on a shelf in my kitchen. I don’t have a shelf in my kitchen for tea but I like the idea of having the shelf. I like the idea of choosing a different one each day depending on my mood, scooping a scented spoonful into one of those mesh balls and bobbing it up and down rhythmically in a steaming cup of hot (but not too hot) water.

I like the idea of carrying around a clear glass travel mug that shows off the colour of my fancy tea to the whole world so they can know that I’m the kind of person who drinks loose tea and all of the things that go with it.
But, as I quickly discovered as I went through the agonizing process of ordering a simple cup of tea, although I like the idea of it, the reality is something very different.

I finally selected a tea from the wall of jars based only on the fact that it was one of the few names I recognized. I told the friendly girl behind the counter that ‘no’ I didn’t want anything in it because I thought that’s what I was supposed to say when really I wanted it loaded full of milk and sugar.

I handed over my coupon and slunk out of the store, in such a hurry that I forgot to grab a sleeve for the cup and realized too late that it was actually too hot to carry without one. So there I was, walking through a busy shopping area holding my fancy tea by the lid and balancing it with one finger on the bottom.

It was not at all what I thought it would be.

When it finally cooled a bit I took it to the kitchen area at work and filled it up with four of those little milk containers and two heaping teaspoons of sugar.


I managed to drink it all, but it was not nearly as good as the idea I had of it had been. It’s just not for me. I guess I’m the kind of person who likes my tea in bags, that come from boxes marked with names like “Tetley” and “Red Rose.” Nothing fancy, and without a single rose petal or hamster shaving in sight.

Now that’s my idea of a good cup of tea.

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