Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Expectations Kill

I have many people to thank for this post, and won't claim any credit for the ideas its premised on other other than what I've learned from their application. Thanks, in particular, to Virgina Satir, and to my Dad, who's been the greatest life-mentor and fatherly sage a son could ask for ...

Expectations kill. 

I had a meeting today with two oncology doctors about Gabrielle and her progress who expressed their delight in her improvement. Get pumped, right?

Wrong. Expectations kill.

In the same meeting, the doctors got up to point to the day in Gabrielle's second 40-day, wall-sized "counts calendar" to show me when they predicted we would be leaving the hospital and going home (we're on Day+54 or something) ... BUT! before I let them point to the date, I told them, "Listen, Amy and I don't expect to be out of here a second earlier than Day+80. We sit in this hospital room all day long and look at that calendar all day long ...  and ... well, if the day you point to comes and goes, how happy will we be?"

I hope Day+81 in the hospital doesn't come. Expectations kill.

About 3 weeks ago we filled up all of the day's in Gabrielle's first 40-Day "count calendar" (the big one on her wall that Amy fills in so wonderfully, noting all the eeny-teeny cellular achievements she makes every day). Like I said, the calendar filled up to Day+40, and about at the same time we were told we could expect to go home in a week or so. By Day+43 Gabrielle was sick again. It was clear she wasn't going home. In the hospital room, though, hung her "counts calendar" all filled up as we sat in the room moving through the Day+40's. The unsaid expectation the filled-up calendar hung around our necks was like an albatross for days. It was totally beneath our awareness until "Dr. Elaine" told us we needed a new calendar. "Duh!" Of course we did.

Expectations kill.

The other day I had in my head that I was owed some special acknowledgement from Amy (details irrelevant). She came home from the hospital, exhausted. Adorning me with special acknowledgement was the last thing on her mind. I said something curt. She replied. I was revved. I retorted. We fought. We wasted 3 hours of our 6-hour-afternoon at home with one another. What did it start with? My expectation.

Expectations kill. Especially expectations of mind-reading.

When people say "You have to," or, "You need to," or, "You should," ... what they don't realize is that their pushing their expectations (about how things should be or how things should play-out) onto you. When they project their expectations on to us, it pisses us off. Right? Right! But you know what's worse? I'll tell you: when you or I say "have to/need to/should" statements to someone else. Why? Because they'll resent you for it ... because ...

Expectations kill.

A mom figures her son will go to a local college and will be home for weekend dinners. A high school girl spends $1000 on a prom dress envisioning grad-night to be super-magical. A dad hopes he'll be able to afford the "family trip" once things improve at work. An elderly Grandma wakes up hoping for a phone call from her kids or grandkids. A Gr.3 student expects a gold star after printing her best large "G" in perfect calligraphic style. An entrepreneur expects "things will turn around this year." You think an event you're hosting will go a certain way.  You do something extra and wait for "Thank you."  You call someone and they don't call you back. You have a baby girl and think she'll outlive you.

Expectations kill our ability to adapt and react. They act as anchors that won't let us free when the gale winds of time are ready and willing to blow us to new and exciting places. Expectations resist reality. They create frustration, sadness, and anxiety.

Expectations kill when our obliviousness to them prevents us from evolving ... keeping us stuck at sea when the currents of life says we should do otherwise.