I woke up this morning feeling disappointed, cranky and resentful. I could not immediately find a reason but soon traced it to the realization that no one had contacted me the day before with any special plans for today. Not only that, I thought with rising indignation, no one had texted or called to wish me a happy Mother’s Day yet.
I looked at the clock. 8 AM. I almost laughed out loud.
I realized that my old frenemy, Expectation, must have visited me while I was sleeping and before I’d even opened my eyes she and I were well into our misery-making for the day.
Still mentally shaking my head over my own ridiculousness I went about preparing for the day. My phone sent me this reminder, “WA blog this week.”
I wonder, I mused, if expectations and writing tie in together?
Expectation, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary is “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case, and, a belief that someone will achieve something. Skimming through the net, I read opinions saying that expectations come with a sense of entitlement, as if owed to a person, and that an expectation is an assumption something will come true, often with little or no effort.
Oh. Well, let’s see. There was the expectation my first novel would be a best-seller, despite the fact I lost interest after my first revision. There was that expectation that the flying magazine would hire me on as a regular columnist, after they’d accepted a grand total of four of my articles. What about the expectation that by this time in my life I would be at least a little bit famous, even though most famous authors sacrificed a great deal more of their lives than I was willing to give.
I did some more delving. Apparently, lots of people have trouble with expectations when it comes to their writing. Curious to see how they handled this, I discovered that here was an example where semantics altered my viewpoint in a big way.
Try replacing the word “expectations” with “goals” for an example. A goal is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as “the destination of a journey.” Journeys generally have a map or a plan, and we follow that. If there are delays or obstacles we might be frustrated but we don’t take it on like it’s an affront to our persons, a betrayal or, most importantly, a theft of what belongs to us. In other words, with an expectation we think we already own something, where as a goal is something that we know we are working to own.
Or here’s another word to use instead of expectations. How about aspire? “To direct one’s hopes or ambitions toward achieving something.” Again, reminding me I don’t achieve what I want in writing (or anywhere else) by expecting. Honestly, taken out of the shadows where the word expectation likes to hang out, how silly does this sound? “I expected I would be a best selling author because I deserved to be – was entitled to be – assumed I would be.”
One blogger talked about her effort to rid herself of all of her expectations. She felt they hindered her greatly. I’ve taken a dislike to my own expectations these past couple of years as well. Ok, I decided this morning, I’ll make a list of mine and see how many I can get rid of. So as I went through my day I wrote down some, but not all, of my expectations in life.
I expect to be physically independent. To be free of a life-threatening disease. To have running water, a comfortable home, electricity, a reliable car, to afford everything I need and more, to travel several times a year, to have my job as long as I want it, to live a life unafraid of assault, prejudice, harassment or injustice. To be surrounded by family and friends, and the list goes on.
I use the word expect here because it seems I believe these things are my right, what I should have, and in all honesty should just be mine for the taking. Have I earned them? Sure, I work, I invest a lot in my family, I “choose” to live in a safe community. But so do millions of other people in this world, or at least they would if they could, and we all know how that works out for them.
Instead of expecting my children to outreach to me, I asked my daughter-in-law and grandchildren if they’d like to go to the mall with me and get some lunch. My son was working and had already seen to their kids gifting her with presents earlier. We ate hot dogs and French fries by the water fountain and she bought me a special Chinese drink while the kids played on the merry-go-round. My two out of town kids texted beautiful Mothers Day wishes and later on my oldest son and his family picked me up for the movies and dinner.
At the movies, surrounded by people who love me, my heart filled with gratitude. Typing this, I am grateful for the privilege of belonging to a group of talented and dedicated writers. Thinking of the book I published and the articles and stories I published, I realize I’ve been blessed with the opportunity these all found a place where they could be read and appreciated by people I’d never met.
I cannot afford to befriend expectations anymore. I will replace that old word with aspirations, goals, and hopes. Today was a wonderful day, empty of expectations and full of warmth and gratitude. Tomorrow I look forward to setting goals for my writing, and ridding myself of any more expectations that life, or my life as a writer, owes me anything.
Post Script: I’m curious. Have any of you traveled this journey of expectations and writing? If so, what did you discover along the way? If not, do you have thoughts on this viewpoint of expectations?