"Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching,
and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be.
I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape."
~ Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Jan: "Did you see this ad, isn't it amazing?"
SMO: "Yes, it's very cool. The pictures from the wedding are stunning."
Jan: "Yeah, yeah, the photographer wasn't very friendly though."
SMO: "What do you mean?"
Jan: "Well, I kept to trying to chat with her, be friends with her, but she was pretty cold and didn't talk very much."
SMO: "Hmm, was she rude to you? She did have a job to do, taking those amazing pictures. That takes focus and concentration I imagine - - not a lot of time for chit chat."
Jan: "No, she wasn't rude, but she sure could have been more friendly."
SMO: "I'm confused. Did you hire her to be your friend or to take amazing pictures?"
Jan: "Obviously to take the pictures."
SMO: "She did her job then - - really really well. We're looking at a national magazine here. I don't understand what the problem is. Why are you upset about her demeanor - - six months later?"
Jan: " ."
Our food order arrived.
Okay, I admit, I couldn't resist challenging her whining in the way that I did. I know I was a little snarky in my comments, I intended it. Jan is one of those people, who thrives on sustained gossip, drama, and pettiness. I don't roll that way and in this conversation I couldn't help myself to try and shut her up. But the story has stuck with me through the years with a greater lesson - - Expectations. And in these months since Boomer's passing, this story with Jan resurfaces in my mind semi-regularly.
We have expectations, of people, places, things, outcomes - - you name it. More often than not, we do not verbally articulate what those expectations are - - like Jan not articluating to the photographer she expected her to be her friend, spend time chit chatting AND take amazing pictures. We mentally and emotionally attach ourselves to these unspoken, and often unrealistic expectations. These are false expectations, created completely from our self-cherished delusions and uber-active, hungry ego. Every time these false expectations aren't met we grumble. We whine. We suffer. It's always self-inflicted pain and misery.
Boomer and I use to have plenty of conversations about expectations, some productive, some not. Some insightful, others not. Some created balance and harmony, some arguments and heartache. Boomer use to say to me, "I may not be a man of alot of words, but I'm good listener." This proved true in both good times and miserable ones. When he'd want to go on a rant about something, and I'd challenge him on his false expectations, "Did you say you wanted X?" or "Did you tell your friend to stop talking about X because it bothers you?" Even when they appeared directed at me, "Did you tell me about X? How was I suppose to know X if you keep it a secret?"
In all fairness and honesty, it's a two-way street. I've done the very same things, many times, throughout my life. Harbor secret frustration, pettiness and self-suffering because of having unspoken, unrealistic expectations. Truth is, expectations period are what get us in trouble. One example, I had an expectation that a visiting guest in our home, who at the time, self-professed to be making boat loads of cash, would cough up the dough to rent his own car while he stayed with us. Ooops, my bad. You may agree that my expectation is a fair one - - not entirely. I didn't inquire what his intention was, remind anyone that we only have one vehicle, and outlay my view of what would work or not for any of us. Needless to say, I didn't have access to the smo-vee for four days, I was pissed. When I got in the car on day 4, the tank was on E, that was just a log thrown on my flame. It took me two weeks to work through my emotions and own my false expectation.
People will be who people are. We are all operating from a different emotional and social developmental place, yet we treat one another as though we're mind readers and that we're all on the same page, at the same time, at the same level - - this is our path of least resistance; the path where we don't have to take any personal responsibility and opt to point blame elsewhere other than the one in the mirror. This path is the road to self-induced suffering and the house that resentment built. We are responsible to develop our personal awareness and acceptance to that. From there, we can become more accountable, realistic, release our suffering and angst when we take accountability for our part.
An expectation is resentment in training. The foundation of the house. As with Jan, she was so falsely attached to her expectation where six months later she continued to moan resentment toward a photographer who did absolutely nothing other than deliver amazing work - - her job.
In the days, weeks, months following Boomer's passing I slid down this very rabbit hole, more than once. It started with just being shocked with who was offering and giving support to me to do the work that death creates, I was very grateful. Where I slipped was putting my focus on who did not provide support, who proclaimed to care about Boomer, and now that the going got tough, there was a deafening evacuation stampede. I was stunned, hurt, and livid. I lost my way in appreciating those who were there unconditionally, and so generously sacrificed their time and resources to help me, to help Boomer, frankly even helping all those who ran in the other direction. Yet, I all I could do was focus on the runners. I'm so embarrassed. My thoughts obsessed on it constantly. One morning, while I was meditating, I started to hear Boomer's voice, "SMO, what are doing? They're being who they are, remember? You are not anyone more special that people will treat any differently than they did me." Ooops, my bad. There was my quiet, ever-listening beloved, bitch-slapping me with some of my own material. He was right. I was mentally and emotionally carrying a false expectation and reacting, from my bruised ego of self-righteous, self-importance and grief, to people who were incapable of being any different than they knew how.
My next tumble down the hole came when I was experiencing this boomerang around responsibility of my late-husband's estate. It isn't my responsibility, yet the work kept coming back to me to do, again and again. I was on the receiving end of someone else's false expectation that I would willingly do their job without question, and I wasn't speaking up or doing anything about it other than grow increasingly angry, frustrated and annoyed. None of which was helping my grieving and healing progress but masterfully created the boomerang of my pain. That's when Boomer chimed in to me again, "SMO, what are you doing? You haven't said anything about what you're willing to do here. You'll continue to be bullied and treated like a doormat until to you express your boundaries and limits." My false expectation on this one, was that I didn't think I needed to express my boundaries and limits. Ooops, my bad.
For the second time in as many months, I associate my personal experience and journey through love, loss and abounding transformation to a Dickens' novel (read Perspective). Much like Pip, I have been adopted and orphaned. I get it, my expectations have been great. Greatly unrealistic and unspoken. I have fallen and am rising. I know the meaning of friendship, the meaning of love, and gratitude through the teachings I have received from Jan, Boomer, and others. I continue to become a better, happier SMO - - peaceful, content and resentment-free.