Yesterday, I dropped an entire glass gallon of milk on the wood floor in our kitchen.
Miraculously it bounced top-first and landed unbroken on its side, speckling the dark wood on my kitchen floor with milky white droplets which escaped from the loosened top.
My heart played catch up as I knelt down to wipe up the drops with a wet cloth. I had envisioned milk and glass shards exploding all over my entire kitchen.
It would have been a buggar to clean up.
My dreadful expectations of broken glass and spilled milk were replaced with gratitude. I was only wiping up drops instead of massive puddles and razor sharp glass.
But, not all expectations leave us feeling so relieved. In fact, many times they leave us feeling both disappointed and angry at life, and those we love.
Expectations are rather curious creatures actually.
I picture them as cute and cuddly (but sneaky and naughty) little creatures who live in our brains and tell us stories of what our future (and our ventures) should (and will) look like. We love the stories these creatures tell and naively embrace them as stone hard truth. We then proceed to hang our hopes and dreams on them, these expectations.
And this is exactly where we go wrong.
Expectations, especially the ones we make up and fiercely cling to in our heads, are not a safe place to hang our hopes and dreams.
We don’t know the future and clinging tightly to expectations as the picture book of what our lives/events SHOULD look like can leave us wide open for disappointment and bitterness.
A few years ago Michael and I went on an anniversary trip. It was going to be a romantic and restful weekend getaway. I really didn’t expect much, only the best weekend of our married life! Like I said, not much really. 😉
We arrived Friday afternoon and walked up to a gloomy looking, red brick bed and breakfast.
As we walked through the door and our eyes adjusted to the darkness inside, we saw piles of dusty books lining the walls around us. An immediate feeling of dread entered our hearts as we stood in the weirdly dark entryway. Old things were everywhere, and one got the idea that stuff had not been moved or dusted in perhaps a hundred years.
I love old things, but this place was just creepy old.
The woman who answered the door and let us in seemed to be from a different century (perhaps she was even carrying a candle to light the hall?) and my suspicions seemed confirmed when she reached under a pile of yellowed papers to retrieve a seemingly hundred year old ledger. She opened it to find our names scribed in black loopy letters at the bottom of a long list of names.
Michael and I gulped down the weird-o vibes that were creeping up our throats in big knots as we were guided up a dark squeaky staircase to a small upstairs room which reeked of bleach and had florescent lights flickering from the small bathroom.
Our dreamy weekend expectations were quickly being replaced with “get us out of here” thoughts and angry disappointment.
As we got settled in, I mumbled in an irritated tone that we would probably be served some “nasty breakfast of Eggo waffles and sausage links fresh from a box” in the morning.
Little did I know we would arrive at breakfast to find burnt Eggo waffles and over cooked sausage links rolling around on large china plates.
We ate our breakfast in silence as we tried to choke down our blackened waffles and catch the hard, roly little sausage links with our forks. The place got creepier with every minute that passed.
Needless to say we left straightaway and found another bed and breakfast in another town.
I, however, was devastated. I felt our weekend had been ruined. My expectations had been set so high and so precisely, I wasn’t even able to pull myself together to enjoy the rest of our time together.
Sad, because that weekend I have found is a perfect example of life. Things change. Plans change. Unexpecteds happen.
And if we want to enjoy our lives at all, we must learn to hold our expectations loosely. We must be able to set them aside when they don’t like up with what IS and enjoy the unexpected adventure before us.
We often can carry boatloads of expectations into life, into parenthood, into marriage, into entrepreneurship, and into creative ventures without even realizing it.
But expectations are not good indicators of what will be.
Unmet expectations can leave us feeling entitled, bitter, angry, and disappointed. They can also lead us to believe we are failures just because something didn’t work out as expected.
The wonderful alternative is that we can hold expectations, but hold them loosely (with an open hand) and then choose to enjoy what life actually unfolds, whether we expected it or not.
A life enjoyed is a life lived filled with gratitude for what IS in front of us and what unfolds before us. The easy, and hard, the good and the bad.
Because I strongly believe nothing is wasted in this life, all life’s happenings are opportunities to learn and grow and mold us into better versions of ourselves.
Are you clinging to expectations you need to let go of? I have seen over and over when I let go of my tightly grasped expectations and open my hands and heart in gratitude to what is before me, life is so rich, so full, and so wildly beautiful.
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, or worn. It is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.” Dennis Waitley