Our expectations are nothing more than the stories we create for the purpose of looking ahead at how we would like life to play out. (I wrote about expectations vs. hope here) As parents, we begin this expectation creation process from the moments after we find out we are going to bring a child into this world. We imagine how we would like it all to occur. We imagine happy baby, hitting developmental milestones, having lots of good friendships, playing sports or dance or gymnastics. We picture middle school dances, first loves, proms, graduation, college and beyond; all before the child takes its’ first breath. Some parents are more attached to these stories than others, but what happens when things play out very different than imagined?
The impact certainly varies based on how attached we are to the story. For me I found, after the fact, that I was quite attached. So attached that after my son’s initial crisis, I was confused and angry. I wondered how we had gotten so far off track. Initially, I had this expectation that things would just resolve themselves quickly, magically and we’d be back on track in no time. As we got deeper into the situation, it became harder to hang on to that belief. The more I had to release my story, the more heartbroken I became. I didn’t gracefully release the story at first, I hung onto it for dear life. I WANTED it to work the way I had envisioned. I railed against it, I grieved it like a death.
Then one day I realized that just because it wasn’t happening the way I had imagined, didn’t mean it was the end of the world. It meant only that I needed to adjust my expectations. In fact, even more, it meant that I needed to let them go completely. The energy spent struggling to “understand” where things had gone wrong was really better spent supporting what was happening in the moment. It was a big shift for me and one that felt like a moment of setting myself free; free to allow the unfolding of what I was experiencing with my son. Free to allow life to take the twists and turns it needed to take.
By releasing my expectations, I found that I was less impacted by the crisis that arose. So much of my initial reactions were wrapped up in the “should have” and “shouldn’t have” mentality. The bottom line was that I didn’t want this to be happening to my son; I didn’t want it to be happening to me. Accepting that it was happening and that it wasn’t “off track” has been a true gift. Now when a situation arises, I do my best to address it for what it is; something happening in the moment without ties to past or future. It’s a work in progress, as all of this is.
Of course, this doesn’t only apply to those of us who are parents, it’s really for those of us who create expectations! If you could release your story and find acceptance in the situation, do you feel that it would help you better support your loved ones or yourself, even if it’s not what you expected?
[Note: It’s interesting that as I am writing this blog post, I find myself directly in the middle of coming to terms with another of life’s expectations not going as planned. It’s a very appropriate and timely topic for me, that’s for sure. Hope I can take my own advice!]
Thank you all for your support, your stories and your feedback! Please feel free to email me your thoughts and recommendations to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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