The Tyranny of Expectation

1329 Relax and Succeed - If our expectations are not met

It all happened in the foothills of the mountains, in a cold hard rain, in a tiny trailer that had a leak in the roof. The levelling jacks, the battery and the water pump all failed. Half the stalls in the campground were empty due to just the weather. It was raining so hard we had to keep the fire going or we would never get it going again, so we didn’t have enough wood.

I got really sick, so my friend had to pack up her two little wet, cold kids alone, all so she could drive an hour in each direction just to buy more firewood. The kids were pinging off the trailer walls all weekend. It was freezing outside and diapers meant the little one was in and out of her rain suit constantly. Mud was everywhere, and everything smelled like smoke and sweat and diapers. It was an awesome weekend.

If that seems unlikely or impossible, consider that the only reason that people don’t have worthwhile weekends in situations like that is due to the Tyranny of Expectation.

Rain, cold, crying kids, illness, bad smells, and yet there I was loving it (well, except when I was sickest, then I took a while to happily enjoy not loving it). My contentment in those circumstances is a good illustration of how peace occurs.

The person who gets to go on regular holidays considers time off normal, so they take that for granted and they want more. That’s how anything in nature moves forward –it gather’s more and more life as it goes.

The people with time off, who can afford to go –they’re past wanting any break. That’s assumed. Their current identity owns that reality (or so they believe). Having that, now they want a great holiday. Our ego sets that as a quiet but powerful expectation.

And it comes with strings.

If our expectations are not met we will pay an emotional price. We are disappointed. That is the feeling we get when experiencing the gap that exists between our in-that-moment expectation and our in-that-moment reality. To the contrary, due to my previous context I had it easy this weekend.

1329 Relax and Succeed - Contentment and happiness occur

Nine years of compressed care-giving and earning a living have lead me to experience the same set of rooms, the same set of painstaking and often unpleasant actions, the same frenetic, unpredictable schedule, and the same types of simple conversations and same list of dull tasks, repetitively, for years in a row with no days off. That kind of experience gets etched into anyone’s brain.

I’m not complaining, we’ve found ways to truly enjoy it. I chose it and it has its profound rewards for all three of us. They mostly visit their friends and play games, and it’s made me a better person. But it’s definitely not what one should could call easy or fun, which is why I have the routine. Much of it isn’t very motivating, so the schedule keeps me moving forward. Without it being packed to over-full, I would be even farther behind than I am.

There’s no way one person can get my entire daily to-do list done, so I have to focus on what I can get done and on keeping the biggest fires out. That’s doing well in the current context. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ . All of us will have times like this in our lives. We shouldn’t let our egos think something’s wrong.

I’m surviving that well because of the act of acceptance, but the holiday allowed me to make use of the principle that reality is relative. That’s why I had a great weekend. I had no expectations. I was too busy beforehand to even consider thinking of any. I was simply happily anticipating things being different. Otherwise, it had no parameters, so as soon as we’d left home I won.

Despite the rain and cold and challenges, we had fun playing board games and playing make believe, we covered some river safety, respect for plants and animals, and it felt good to model a positive attitude in difficult circumstances because that will be what will become the kid’s version of ‘normal’ when facing adversity.

On top of all of those benefits, the rain made things smell good, and the river was roaring. I also love the sound of a crackling fire and, thanks to the rain, that one needed to be lit all the time just to stay lit. Despite all of the smoke, I look back on the weekend as having been filled with wonderful freshness. It is a joyous thing to be in the presence of the bright spirit of little kids.

Precisely because my life is so repetitive it was easy for me to appreciate the difference and value that even crappy camping offers. But in principle, this can happen even for people living without that extreme contrast.

Disappointment for any of us will begin with anything below our ideal expectation. We are better to have never used our thoughts to create the expectation at all. Contentment and happiness occur not because our situations are ideal, but because we respond to things in a way that respects our time on this Earth. Life is short. We should enjoy as much of it as possible.

Sometimes feeling bad is what we want to do and we should let ourselves have that kind of happiness too. But when we’re ready to feel better, it’s nice knowing that a shift of focus and a dropping of our expectations can quickly convert a bad experience into a good one. It’s a skill worth practicing.

peace. s

To Be Or Not To Be

1328 Relax and Succeed - Peace is Productive

It’s a long weekend in Canada and thanks to some friends help, the next few days will be first few in close to a decade that I am not juggling my work life with caring for my parents. I’ll miss them, even though that’s nearing 3,500 days with no days off. (They’re great and I really love them.)

Because I have this rare opportunity, I’m also going to leave the facebook page dormant during this time. I suspect you’ll find that acceptable. Maybe even advisable. I just want to sit and not move or be responsible for anything. I might sleep the entire thing.

I think many of you who have been caregivers have a full appreciation of why I would write this, and as the people who read this blog know, we must defend our lives when necessary. While I find difficult circumstances pretty okay, but we do all reach energy limits and I’m at the far, far limit of those.

I hope you’ll forgive me for taking a few days off facebook and for offering only this missive today, but the blog and old facebook timeline and photo section is always there, and as the reader changes so does the content. Plus, once I get a chance to just sit here and do nothing for a few days, I will be refreshed and I’m sure that rewards will spill from that. Peace is productive.

I really do look forward to being back. Have an awesome Canada Day weekend everyone!

peace, s

Family Ties

I recently took the first holiday I’ve had in many years and I spent the entire thing working on deconstructing much of my life to accommodate the care my parents now require. That is not what I would ever have hoped for in life. It’s busy and chaotic and it means my parents aren’t feeling well as I’d like, but this is just part of the deal of being human. They’re 90.

980 Relax and Succeed - Suffering is not holding youLife can hurt. It can force us into experiences we do not want. Being in love entails dealing with extra pain when a loved one is absent. Yin and yang. It’s just built into how life functions. Life is like a ball we’re balancing on top of. Our egos try to stay on the good side of the ball, but but our spiritual and psychological health are tied more to simply enjoying the process of keeping our balance on either side of it, because when we die is when we lose our ball and we have to go home.

There are no problems, we create them with our thinking. We imagine how life should be. But think about how many factors and people and decisions need to happen for that to occur! It’s like winning the lottery if it happens the way we imagine. Life is messy and getting angry or depressed that there’s not better order is to waste your life. You railing at the universe will not change its laws. Learn to surf the uncertainty.

Even as I move in a direction away from my previous goals I’m aware I’m still lucky. It’s amazing that Mom still drives to a church and teaches an exercise class three times a week. At the same time, if something falls on the floor they have to wait for someone else to show up to retrieve it. So essentially I took my holidays to organise being with them almost all of the time so they’re comfortable and safe and properly cared for. That’s most important to me, but that means sacrifices, sometimes of things that mean a great deal to me; things I put many years worth of work into. But this is life. This is where most people get stressed and it’s where I let go.

980 Relax and Succeed - Do you know what my secret is

We can all get physically stressed. We can ask our bodies to do more than is physically reasonable. But psychological stress is another thing altogether. That is something we create for ourselves by what we choose to load into our consciousness. While I am caring for my parents there is nothing stopping me from listening to enjoyable podcasts with them. I can enjoy the food I cook for them. I can enjoy recalling memories from my childhood and all the fun I had in that house with my siblings and cousins. Or I could think about all the things I’m missing out on by not getting to fulfil my original direction.

This is what detachment is: you’re going somewhere but you’re not attached to getting there. When life says, hey, go here and do this and you feel that as a thing you just know is right, then that is you feeling your truth. Others may disagree with what you do but your job is only to trust that feeling and ignore theirs. How they feel about it isn’t relevant if it’s your life.

I’ve always had a great life. I’m not thrilled by some of the parts of it I’ll have to surrender in order to live up to the person I am, but I am a person who values experiences with loved ones more than any other thing and so that makes this decision easy. And I don’t run the universe. It might tumble things toward me in a painful way but it’s also pretty generous a lot of the time so who knows, maybe I benefit a lot more from this than my parents do. Either way, if I’m keeping my eye out for good signs that’ll help a lot with noticing and appreciating positive things that will reinforce my idea that things are fine the way they are.

Have a great week everyone.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.