It’s a flukey miracle that expectations haven’t been my downfall from humanity. I expect too much, too often, from too little, and it bites me in the ass every time.
I expected my father to love me unconditionally and always be there for me, I expected my mother to support us, spend every afternoon with us, and make me a star all on a single mom, teacher’s salary. (Which she pretty much did.) I expected my brother to always do what I told him, I expected my boyfriends to simultaneously father me, love me, and rock my sexual world, and I expected to be everyone’s saver girl while being adored and admired for my selfless efforts.
Obviously, I was young, scared, and naive. Obviously, I was left disappointed more often than not. And, obviously, I left many of the people I loved disappointed because I couldn’t accept them for who they were.
I understood, even at a young age, that expectations were a lose-lose proposition for me. I didn’t understand why people couldn’t just be kind, helpful, and loving…in exactly the way I want them to be, and I knew that attitude was keeping me from really growing up. It was keeping me from becoming less naive, less scared, and ultimately less hurt. It was certainly keeping me from healthy relationships. But I couldn’t figure out how to stop myself from falling prey to everyone else’s opinion, from expecting others to let me down.
You know what’s amazing for expedited personal growth? A very sick child. It is crazy how quickly you can get your shit together if, of course, you survive, which no one was sure I was going to do, when your child gets sick.
One day, I was absorbed in my own dreams, working too much, and planning on setting my kid up to become a pro hockey player. Then, the next day? I was just praying my son would live. It’s a steep learning curve, a sick child, but an effective one. When that happens, you “shit or get off the pot” as my granddad used to say. And I? Well, I…
I survived, and I learned. And I am grateful in a Thanksgiving times infinity kind of way. And although it’s still a work in progress, I am so much better at setting expectations.
I’m much less judgmental of people but I also don’t take crap anymore. No one person can wound or leave me begging for mercy as much as watching my child slip away did. Helpless. Powerless. Those moments are not something you ever unsee and they change you. Permanently.
I won’t lie. The wounds are still there, ready to freshly pop. But damn if I don’t have a whole new outlook on expectations. I now have a realistic perspective of what I can expect from the world and other people, mostly, and the courage to ask for what I need. And because of that, I am stronger, happier, and feel love more deeply than ever before. Truth be told, I was never great at declaring my needs properly before operation epilepsy. But, I get it now.
The virtue of expectation done right is the time and effort I save dealing with crisis and disappointment. Once I had the courage to set appropriate expectations before the fact, I no longer had to clean up the mess of responsibility and hurt I used to when I was waiting for the world to abandon me or bend to my whims.
It’s a total win-win.
Well, setting and declaring more realistic expectations and living better because is a win-win, not epilepsy.
Epilepsy can bite me! And that is an expectation I am fully prepared to manage!
I had to let go of my ego, the part of me determined to outshine everyone else, to save everyone, and come to terms with the fact that more was not better, faster, not cooler, and that making things complicated did not make me smarter.
Understanding and knowing are two separate steps in the process of any growth. When I’m teaching I know exactly how to direct through those steps. I see the separation and have steps to help them build a muscle memory bridge that connects understanding to knowing. But damn, no matter what I did, I couldn’t build that bridge for myself. I needed something more dramatic than my own baggage to open my eyes. And, ironically, I needed to be the best person I could be if I was going to help save my son. Well, if I was going to not get in his way and help him live the life he was destined for. Obviously, I learned that lesson pretty quickly. His life is not mine to control.
I know I can’t control epilepsy and I’ve accepted that. So, I’ve grown up a lot in the last four years.
It’s not always easy, but I am so much better at setting expectations. Most of this change has come from experience. But I always love good direction. So even though I am in a better emotional place to set and manage my expectations, I still use these steps. I hope they might help you too!
- Read the Room.
- Decide how to state expectation in a way the person receiving it will hear.
- Think before the fact about how to respond if the expectation isn’t met.
- State expectation directly. Speak lovingly but firmly, looking the person in the eye. Be aware of your tone, it says more about your message than your words.
- Do not expect the expectation to be met.
- Do not take it personally if it isn’t met.
- If the expectation is met, cheer like crazy!
- If the expectation isn’t met, decide whether what you needed was too much or be ready to walk away.
- Go into your bathroom and cry and scream into a towel.
- Go back and try again.