I always have a plan
I had a plan. I knew what I was going to write about this week. It all hinged on getting a project done so I’d have pictures to accompany the writing. Having this plan in place eased my mind because I knew my time to write would be limited. And then, the plan didn’t come together and I was let down.
I was telling my husband that I needed a new plan for my blog this week. He said, “write about that.” He’s so smart, that one.
It’s actually the perfect thing to write about because my newsletter theme for this month is paying attention to expectations. Each Thursday on my Instagram account I write about my monthly theme. Yesterday I wrote about my hope of holding different (read: realistic) expectations for myself and those around me this holiday season.
The stories in my head
This is hard for me. I have a very active imagination. I picture events before I see them in person. I run through conversations before speaking them aloud. I anticipate feelings — both mine and others. In doing all of this advance imagining, I often set myself up for disappointment.
It would have been cool to have the project done so I could write about it this week. But, why was this week so important? Just because I had already imagined what the pictures would look like on my website? Was it important because I told a friend that would be the subject of my blog this week? None of those are reasons to stress and get myself worked up over. That story can wait.
I think a lot of us get wrapped up into the stories in our heads. I know I’ve created an imaginary nursery and imagined myself in a rocking chair during nightly feedings. I’ve dreamt of the perfect onesie to give to our parents announcing our pregnancy. While walking our dogs, I’ve imagined what it would be like to include a stroller in the mix. I had a whole life imagined in my head. So, it’s not surprising that letting go of those dreams — those expectations — has been hard.
Letting go of expectations
Just like my feelings, I want to acknowledge those expectations. It’s important to recognize that even though they never came to fruition, in my mind they were real. Which means, they are a loss. I grieve the unrealized expectations that I held in my mind for so long.
And, I also honor that it’s time to let them go. Would it be odd to have a ceremony honoring and letting go those expectations? I feel a longing to do something like that. I don’t know what it would look like or what feelings it would release, but I have a hunch that a ritual shaped around letting go of those long-held expectations might be a gift I could offer myself, and to those who I invite to join me.
So, to start out my focus on expectations for the month, I wrote an Instagram post about the insane Thanksgiving dinner we hosted a few years ago. You can read it here. Someone commented on that post saying, “expectations are just premeditated resentments.” Wow… that really hit home. By holding onto, or even creating, expectations, I’m setting myself up for possible resentment, not only of myself, but the situation and others involved as well.
Putting it into practice
I sensed that resentment building up when I realized the project I wanted to write about wouldn’t be ready in time. I was beginning to feel annoyed with my husband that we didn’t have the right tool — I think he sensed that and made an extra trip to borrow it from our friend. Then I did my part without expecting him to jump into his job. But once again, he knew I was anxious to get the project rolling, so even though he didn’t feel great, he stepped up and started working on it. However, it didn’t take long for us both to realize we didn’t have the right tool for the job. I felt it… the frustration and annoyance building up. But, it wasn’t our fault. We followed the plan and we just didn’t have what we needed to complete it. And in that moment, I let go… I let go of the arbitrary expectations I set; I let go of the pressure I was putting on the project; I let go of my need to get it done and get it done right now.
By letting go I felt my shoulders release, my breath lighten and my spirit take a deep breath. Is it how I planned for this to go? No. Did I do the best I could as the situation presented itself? Yes. Will everything be okay even if it doesn’t happen? Yes. All is well.
It may seem minor compared to those expectations I held for a nursery or announcements or family neighborhood walks, but learning to let go smaller expectations gives me the tools and strength to let those bigger ones go too.
When I consider those lifelong expectations I can ask myself: Is it how I planned for this to go? No. Did I do the best I could as the situation presented itself? Yes. Will everything be okay even if it doesn’t happen? Yes. All is well.
All is not perfect. All is not positive. But, all is well. That’s an expectation I can hold onto day after day… all is well. To quote Julian of Norwich, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”