I had a small emergency with my kids today. They’re fine but for about 40 minutes I was freaking out. Human error happened. In reality, I’m sure my boys were happy with the way things unfolded. I’m fairly certain they were oblivious to what I was experiencing. My expectation failed to meet reality because I relied on past experiences to determine future outcomes. When my response is to react (which looked like yelling at slow drivers with my windows rolled up, making calls and snapping in anger today), I (usually) try to remind myself that I get to choose my interpretation of a situation. Life is neutral and any good or bad experience of it is an emotion assigned by me. I mentioned the concept of intention vs. expectation briefly here. Now I’m explaining what it means to live in intention and outside of expectation.
In some ways I started the concept in writing about unconditional love and what it means to me. It comes without expectations and leaves without disappointment. It’s not bartered affections, expecting emotional repayment. To borrow a line from my favorite poem, it’s knowing kisses aren’t contracts and presents aren’t promises. It’s offering love in the ways you express it, knowing you will be happy if it’s not returned, and even if it’s rejected.
Expectations can drive us mad. My day included two separate conversations with friends that have reached a space in their relationships where they get to shift their expectations of the lives they envisioned. Break ups are hard because it’s not just the person we part with, but the expectations we’ve often assigned to their existence in our lives. When we start to invite them into our private spaces, and include them in our present and future lives, we are building a future that is connected. We are seeing our lives as a reflection of their lives. We speak love and life into each other and our echoes resound in the darker places of who we have become, shifting us into better people, empowered by the love we’ve been given. We grow what we have into something much bigger and often outside of ourselves. How easy is it to build up the person we love, in ways that we often neglect to love ourselves?
When we flip a light switch, we expect the room to be illuminated by the bulb that is feeding off the the electricity we just closed the circuit to. We water a plant, and give it sunlight and we expect it to grow. When it doesn’t flourish, something is wrong and we look for fertilizers and check the soil ph and moisture levels. We offer attention, affection and vulnerability and we often expect it returned. We hold back until it looks like there’s reciprocity. We imagine a future and feel like it might be love but we withhold those words until it’s safe to release them. We expect a return on investments.
People are changeable. We change our minds. Priorities shift. I went to bed earlier this week excited about a date, and woke up this morning thinking I’d prefer to spend my free time alone than with this particular man. I expect to have a good time at every opportunity and I woke up knowing my intention remains the same, but the expectation that I would find that with him would be a failure on my part.
When I focus on intentions, I’m focusing on my goal and what I would like, but I don’t hang my expectations on it.
It’s where I can openly love someone unconditionally, without the expectation that my love would need to be returned or my affection exchanged for something of value.
It’s where I imagine receiving a back rub without a foreplay label or expected tip might be. I’ve never experienced it and I’m not sure what it would look like.
As far as writing these blog posts, my intention is to write something every day. I don’t expect that I will get it done every day and I’m pleasantly surprised when I do. Often it looks like a post started later at night, with heavy lids falling and fluttering through words that come out with eyes closed, and meanings shifting into lucid dreams. I’ll hit “Publish” and drift off to sleep, only to edit the same post throughout the next day, forgetting what I wrote within a week.
It’s expecting to grow old with the person you find and hang your hopes on without giving them permission to change who they are to you. It’s deciding your fate is tied to them, ignoring the fact that you can untangle the most complex knots.
It’s a first date that looks like a second would be promising without considering the other person hasn’t even put her purse down and her keys are still in her hand . . . Is blind intention and expecting a bit much. No.
Putting it Together
It’s a pleasure we rarely afford ourselves to live in the moment. We grow up with emotionally detached parents and unavailable lovers mimic what we crave. When we’re able to step outside of what’s expected, we are able to reach out to the best of our ability into ways that will help us grow. We give of ourselves in vulnerability and when we do it without a cost attached, we’re often surprised by genuine reciprocity. It’s about being in the moment, without the rushed pace of living in the future or the sluggish sorrow of reflecting on the memory of yesterday. Be. Be flexible. The plans we plot can shift in an instant, and we can’t survive by trying to stitch back tattered shreds of a broken promise and fading memories.