I Expect, You Expect, We All Expect

“Expectations were like fine pottery. The harder you held them, the more likely they were to crack.” -Brandon Sanderson, The Way Of Kings

I dejectedly put my winter coat back on this morning.

After the last couple of weeks of warm(ish) weather, it was a hard thing to do. We’ve had a taste of spring and it’s a huge tease for those of us that look forward to the warmth and longer days. Have you noticed how after having a few 65-70 degree days, when the thermometer dips back down in the 40s, it feels absolutely frigid? Our bodies are no longer acclimated to the cold temperatures the way they are day after day in the winter months. Once it gets a bit warmer, we start to hope, and (dare I say it!) expect the warmer days.

We expect that it will warm up by March, by Easter, or by the equinox. We expect that when daylight savings time comes, it will be comfortable enough to ditch the winter coat. We do this to ourselves all the time, especially with our moods and relationships.

Many times I expect something and I don’t even realize it until I’m disappointed, and only after thinking it through do I process that I wanted a different outcome. We all have our baseline beliefs about the world and our relationships, and here are some examples:

  • We expect that the world around us will follow a sense of order and logic
  • We expect that people we love won’t deliberately hurt us
  • We sometimes expect that if we properly treat our mood disorder, it will not relapse or worsen
  • We sometimes expect that if we’ve “done everything right” than reward should follow
  • We sometimes expect that others around us are also interested in doing the right thing 

Obviously, these statements are not always true. At times, we relax into these philosophies about the world and only when they are challenged do we confront the discrepancy to understand our disappointment, anxiety, and pain. This emotional process can compound any that is already being triggered. For example, the death of a very young person tends to challenge our expectations and beliefs about the world. Children are supposed to outlive their parents. Young adults are supposed to have a whole life ahead of them. When events such as these call our expectations into question, it can compound the grief process. Sadness and devastation is certainly a typical response, but expectations that go unrecognized or unprocessed can get us stuck for longer periods of time.

Be aware and cautious of your expectations. Knowing that you are hoping instead of expecting can make a world of difference. If your response to a situation or mood seems disproportionate or irrational, try to get to the bottom of what you’re feeling. Just like the weather, our feelings are not always linear, logical, or rational. Just because our calendar says spring has begun doesn’t mean it won’t snow (at least in the Mid-Atlantic!) What we can do is be understanding with ourselves and our loved ones. We can know that there are times we hoped or expected more, to grieve the difference-the empty space between what is and what we think should be.

Spring will arrive here eventually, but I’m going to switch to hoping I don’t need my coat next week.

2 thoughts on “I Expect, You Expect, We All Expect

  1. Doing away with expectations was my New Year's Resolution. I realized I was always disappointed because nothing every lived up to my fairy tale expectations. So I've been working hard at trying to not have expectations and to accept and, hopefully enjoy, things as they happen. Some days, as you might expect, are better than others.

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  2. I couldn't agree more, and you are wise to take notice! We can all benefit from the mindfulness of staying in the moment, and not pinning our expectations on people or situations. While it's difficult, I find that it does get easier with practice. Some days are better than others for all of us. Thanks for commenting and my very best wishes to you.

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