This morning while sitting in silence with the Quakers, I began to explore the extent and impact of expectations in my life. What are the kinds of events/things/people/relationships we expect in our life? How do they steer our daily existence and our opportunities? Do they give us hope or do they limit our happiness?
We are a goal-oriented society; we all must to some extent have an idea of what we want, or we likely won’t get it. At least this is true for material things like jobs, cars, houses, or fitness. But is this the right frame of mind for experiences like relationships, people, and opportunities?
It seemed to me that the more detailed and complex my vision for my life was, the less space there would be for surprises (otherwise known as blessings) to occur. I explored that for a long time, thinking of each expectation, goal, or plan I had for my present life.
To me, blessings are a stealthy thing. They sneak up on you and wait for you to notice them. They probably won’t impact your life for the better unless you see them and let them in. And if you’re focused on the script for how your life is to play out, maybe you won’t see them at all. I visualized myself at the center, sitting cross-legged on a folded towel on a packed dirt surface. Blessings and love shone toward me from all sides, but between me and them was a round brick wall tightly encircling me. Each brick was actually an expectation of how my life should proceed, as in:
I will work for a marketing department.
My house should be clean.
There should be plenty of food in the fridge which everyone in the family can eat.
I should have friends.
My dog should behave herself.
My car should always work.
My man should treat me well at all times.
I should be a healthier weight.
My hair should not be gray.
Each of the kids should have a nice birthday with a cake I bake myself.
My cat should not puke on the floor or meow too loud.
The kids should always help clean the house.
New Jersey should be nice to me.
I should get over my mom’s death.
And so on – try this exercise yourself and you will begin to see how many you have too! I was amazed. It became clear to me that every expectation I had could obscure a blessing waiting to come to my life. And some of those blessings might actually help me with many of my goals and dreams, but what they required was serenity and trust.
I’m a type A from way back, so this is not an easy task for me. In fact, I immediately began to think of new goals that would help me get more blessings into my life. Aha. More bricks in the wall, not fewer. Okay, breathe, Sylvie.
Lacking in answers, I did a little positive visualization. I imagined myself punching out those bricks one at a time, after visualizing the expectation first. I give up my attachment to a constantly clean house. Kaboom. A little ray of sunshine sneaks in and bathes my shoulder with warmth. Another one – I give up my expectation that my man provide me with attention at every opportunity. Crunch. A little bird flies in through the opening and sings a pretty song to me.
I visualized punching out every brick and walking out into the world to be buffeted by chance and opportunity. I realigned my view of the world – now I was a leaf in a stream, spinning and swirling downstream past rocks and other obstacles, sometimes floating with other leaves and sometimes rushing past. Now it’s a journey and you take the impermanence of it along with the joys. I read that the Buddhists say change is the only constant. Also: If you can accept that inevitability, you can begin to be content.
So have I completely transformed my existence from this exercise? Heck no. That would be too easy. But this gives me some more information and some more questions to work on.