As I posted here on July 4, I’ve a habit of celebrating independence from something a bit more meaningful to me than the overthrow of our British friends. Past years, I’ve tried independence from fear, for example, or from judgment. This year I felt myself dreading one or two events set for July 4. So I decided to try to free myself from expectations for a day: twenty-four hours practicing complete openness to whatever would happen.
Even as I made the decision, I felt fear threaten to tie my stomach in a knot. My left brain rebelled: “If you don’t act to ensure things don’t go wrong,” it demanded, “how can you expect them to work out right?”
Turns out my left brain holds a secret pun center. “Very funny,” I replied. “I expected more of you, by the way.”
My Independence from Expectations Day started early, at a community breakfast/fundraiser for our local Fire & Rescue team, and ended late, watching our town’s fireworks display from our water tower hill, or, as I like to call it, Perspective Point. (There’s nothing like a view of this whole gorgeous valley, its surrounding hills and mountain ranges, its oncoming weather systems, to remind me that I occupy a tiny spot of this large planet.)
And it all worked out beautifully. I fell off the no-expectations wagon once or twice – that was to be expected. (Take that, left-brain pun center.) When I noticed expectations creeping up, I shooed them away, clearing space for unexpected delights: a person close to me exhibited far more patience and forbearance than fear let me imagine. My body became more active with far less pain than anxiety let me anticipate. Each moment unfolded without my control. Beautiful things happened anyway. My friends in Avolition played a tremendous outdoor set at the city-wide celebration, their powerful vocal harmonies and energetic musicianship sounding far better than the 20-plus mile per hour winds should have allowed. (Note: they sounded the best, the very best, about seventy-five feet southeast of the stage, inside the third Sani-Can. Gloriously unexpected.) Food, drink, and sleep all delivered profound, unpredicted satisfaction.
Since that day, I’ve slipped. The last couple of days, especially, expectations came back in full force to wreak their usual control-seeking havoc. In the middle of it all, a very dear friend said to me: “You know, I’m as scared and insecure as you are. I just want acceptance.” I wonder, do we have to grow more independent of our own expectations to offer that acceptance, to our loved ones and ourselves?
I expected it to be more difficult to let go of my expectations. I expected the results to be at least partially disastrous. I expected to find I needed to shift back into control mode, right away, to keep life in line.
I was wrong. Then again, I kind of expected that.