Expect Everything, Get Nothing

I met someone new. That first week was pretty great. Each morning I would wake up to a text from him. We would talk and text throughout the day, and he would send me off to sleep with a sweet ‘good night’. Quickly we found ourselves seeing each other four days in a row for various reasons. After months of reeling and healing from my breakup, suddenly all this attention gave me the thrill of being alive again!

Sure, somewhere in the back of my mind, experience and wisdom were standing on the deck of the ship waving red flags so big you could see them from outerspace. I had been here before, many times. Soaking it all up and not thinking it was eventually going to drown me was foolish. And yet, I turned my back to the flag bearers, and gulped that water right down as if it were the last time I was ever going to taste it.

And then it happened. A Monday morning after a long and perfect Sunday together I awoke, checked my phone, and all it showed was the time.

The weight of the disappointment that I felt was instantaneous and crushing. I went to yoga and sulked my way through the class. I tried to sit down and write but nothing came. I filled my day with distractions. As the week wore on, I became more and more sensitive to all the friends that weren’t returning phone calls, that weren’t inviting me out or making plans. I put off doing my own work because I was way too consumed with trying to manage the disappointments that came from my own expectations. The more I tried to manage them, the angrier I got with myself and the more desperate my need to connect with the people in my life became– and who wants to hang out with a disappointed, angry, desperate person?

Years ago, the man who taught me how to meditate said something that has never left me: In order to be disappointed, one must first make an appointment. In other words, disappointment is virtually unavoidable when we make an appointment with expectations.

So let’s try a little exercise together. Go back to the beginning of this article, and find the first moment I made an appointment. Go on, I’ll wait…

No doubt, many of you are thinking about the texts, the excessive communication, the hanging out. And while valid, the real seed is in the start: I met someone new.

“Someone new” is a blank canvas that I can throw a whole mess of paint on. “Someone new” is an empty vessel for hopes, day dreams and expectations. And while getting excited about something new and positive in one’s life after some dark and hard times isn’t a bad thing, it’s also easy to get carried away with.

To my knowledge there is probably no way we can stop ourselves from having expectations on some level. It’s when we ignore the things we have learned along the way– the previous experiences, the messages, and the red flags that we get ourselves into trouble and fall into the ditch of disappointment.

People will never live up to the expectations we put on them in our heads and hearts. Not because they don’t want to, but because they just aren’t capable of acting out what we are imagining or creating for them– for us.

Of course not getting the job you really wanted is disappointing. The relationship that comes apart; a friend you have devoted time and energy to who does not reciprocate– it’s all disheartening… but also, it’s a huge opportunity for growth.

Inside this sorrow, we must take a magnifying glass to the situation and find out exactly where the trigger is so that the next time the trigger comes up, instead of taking that appointment to disappointment we sidestep it.

So back to Mr. New Guy. If I’m so busy throwing my expectation-paint on this new canvas, I’m probably not giving myself enough time and space to see how this person is actually showing up for me. I’m blindly living in what I want it to be, not what it actually is. Within this space is when we are able to see and feel exactly what is being offered. This is the moment when we choose to make the appointment or not.

And hey, if a guy wants to text me at 6am everyday I can’t stop him. But from now on it needs to happen for a least a few months before I start redecorating his living room in my mind. Maybe for now I’ll just keep my phone in the other room.

Artwork by: James Ormiston.

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