One of the first expressions I heard when I got into recovery is this: Expectations are resentments under construction. This was up there with “When you’re pointing a finger, there are three pointing back at you” in terms of how much it resonated with me. I’d had overly high expectations my entire life. My first sentence was, “It’s not fair.” I just always assumed the world would deliver whatever I asked of it and was flummoxed and dismayed when that didn’t happen. Is this a Gen X thing? Supposedly it’s a millennial thing. Anyway, I had it. It took being disappointed repeatedly and then examining why I hit such lows when things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to (and then hearing the expression I’m heralding) for me to even understand what I was doing.
Okay, great. So I realized it. What then? I mean, how do you want something but not get dragged down by your expectations?
I think it all comes down to a lack of faith. I’m not talking about religion here but a faith that things are always moving toward a greater good. When I was fired from a job but decided to act as if I thought this change was actually a positive shift, I noticed something crazy: acting “as if” made it true. I felt it. And as a result, I never cried or ranted or resented my former boss. I started working for myself and it was the greatest career break I’ve ever gotten.
The same has been true of my expectations. When I’ve been able to want something but not believe I need it in order to be okay, I’ve either received it or something better. Call me simplistic or Pollyannaish but in my experience, the universe rewards bravery and hard work. It just doesn’t tend to reward us in the ways we expect it to. If we can remember that, we can want things and not be dependent on the results. We can suit up and show up, as the 12-expression goes. We can open ourselves up to the idea that rejection is the universe’s protection.
There’s a poem someone told me about the other day that I feel like perfectly encapsulates this idea. Here it is:
Everything is Waiting for You
Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.
— David Whyte
from Everything is Waiting for You
©2003 Many Rivers Press
Okay sure, it’s about nature. But to me, it’s about so much else.
Thanks for listening. Do you think I’m full of it? Do you hate unsolicited poetry? Do you want to be featured on this site? You can tell me in the comments section below. xxxA