May 18, 2016

Expectations & Disappointment

You know that scene in 500 Days of Summer where the screen is cut in half by Expectations vs. Reality? (Man, I haven't seen that movie in years.)


I'm tempted to ask: does that resonate with anyone else? but that would be silly, of course, because I know it's relatable for everyone. It really tugged at my heart-strings the first time I saw it, but I'm beginning to realize that, not only is it clever and relatable, it's truly representative of most of my own sadness. Granted, not thinking-I'm-getting-back-together-with-the-love-of-my-life-and-realizing-I've-been-invited-to-their-engagement-party sad, but more representative of my everyday frustrations. I'm always looking forward to something and am usually disappointed when it doesn't play out as perfectly as I had imagined it. 

Again, not Sansa Stark thinking she's about to have a lovely day adventuring with her golden-haired prince and end up with a dead, innocent direwolf sad...

But perhaps something as small as daydreaming at work of having fun with a friend but when you actually meet up, they're in a bad mood so no one enjoys themselves - maybe it even leads to an argument. Constant little disappointments. (Bigger ones too, like my post about the embarrassment of quitting.) And I have to ask myself if I set the bar too high, if I'm setting myself up for failure... but I certainly don't think I dream unrealistically. After all, spending time with people we care about should be enjoyable. What's more is this comparison of expectations and reality is perfectly normal - there are tons of webpages chock full of memes dedicated to this idea. 

What I'm beginning to realize, though, is perhaps I'm not focusing enough on the present. One way I'm combating that is to intertwine more gratitude into my day. I think I've mentioned before my gratitude journal - I did really well the first couple of months from New Years...and then I lost it. This shouldn't have stopped me from starting a new one but I kept using the excuse of: it'll turn up. In the meantime, I have found a new way of keeping record of and reminding myself to be grateful every day: by this website. They send me a text each day (it's autoset to morning but I switched to evening in the settings...I find if I do it at the beginning of the day I'm trying to remember what happened the day before anyways or risk being grateful for coffee everyday!) asking me what I'm grateful for, and all I do is send a text back. I can send multiple texts for multiple things I'm grateful for and it will store it as a separate entry. I can also receive email reminders to see what I've been grateful for the past week, or log on to their website anytime. While I don't think anything can beat a real handwritten journal, this is definitely a great way to go! It's incredibly convenient, and who doesn't have their phone on them 24/7 these days? 

The other step of focusing on the present means letting go of these expectations - we have expectations because we're looking forward to how an event is going to make us feel, and then when it doesn't make us feel the way we pictured, we're upset. Which means we need to let go of this idea in the expectation - that it's going to make us feel loved, or successful, or attractive, or whatever we're hoping to get out of it. We have to change our perspective. 

We do need a balance of some expectations because we need to drive ourselves forward and work on our goals. We need realistic expectations that we can meet ourselves on. But these should be expectations for meeting concrete things - not things like expecting to be happier by losing 15 pounds or that you'll be happier if you can just finish your degree. (Hopefully we will be happier, but you can't guarantee yourself that result.)

Expectations of others can make us selfish. I've been very selfish when I expect attention and love from my significant other to lighten the load of a heavy week, or to make me feel beautiful when my self-esteem is in the dumps. It's not that this idea is inherently wrong... hopefully your significant other really does notice when things aren't going well for you and does their best to comfort you. Part of being a partner is supporting one another, after all. But I get mad at him for not supporting me the moment I ask for it, even if he's busy (like when he's distracted with schoolwork!), because loving partners are supposed to be there for you and it's what I was expecting all day to receive...when I finally get to see him it's like daggers because what I pictured just doesn't play out the way I wanted it to. He couldn't read my mind all day - he was just reacting to me based on events that happened to him throughout his day. 

Some days things will play out just as (or better than) you imagined them. It feels really great, there's no doubt. But a lot of the time it simply won't live up to the expectations of the ideal scene in your head. Hopefully it won't be that the ex you were hoping to get back together with has invited you to her engagement party. But we aren't mediums who can predict the future so it's best to wake up and live in the current moment. 

There's a really good quote by Alan Watts: "Waking up to who you are requires letting go of who you imagine yourself to be." If we could just slow down and be in our skin for just a minute and breathe deep... experiencing life, exploring life as it happens and not expecting life to play out just as we've imagined in its ideal... we could relax. We could enjoy it for what it shows us, what it teaches us. We could learn from it. We could be free of disappointment because we weren't distracted with the possibilities it could bring us. We would take the reins, alert, watching, listening. Calm.  

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