Today, Dan handed me four pieces of paper. I loved what he did with them and how much fun we had ripping the paper that had the word "Guilt" on it, and how we giggled as we crumpled a few more pieces of paper to concretely rid ourselves of toxic feelings. One paper said. "Expectations"
I read this more pensively than the others and hesitated at my instinct to rip this one to shreds too. I held the paper up high, high over my head, and groaned, "That's where mine are - for myself." Dan's eyes smiled and urged me to lower my hand. His smile told me it was okay and to not judge myself for doing so. So I did. I brought my expectation (piece of paper) down and looked at it squarely in the eyes. I realized my expectation was too high and too unachievable for today. Disappointment would be inevitable.
I had to change my expectation, as I have had to many times before, and as I know I will many times in the future. It felt alright to do it. I didn't feel like I was letting myself down or anyone else. I just let the paper down, felt lighter, and felt kinder towards myself.
Often in life, we set high expectations for ourselves and others. Mummy used to say to me when I was still learning to set them for myself - expectations only disappoint. She's mostly right about that. Most people, even those we love radically and wholly, will sometimes surpass and often not even be close to the finishing line of our expectations relay. Accordingly, I have had to make an addendum or two to her counsel.
1. Unmet expectations will disappoint: When life doesn't go/people don't show up as hoped for, an expectation is incomplete and is forced to end itself. Or it lingers, uneasily and sickeningly to torment the holder and the person(s) the expectation is targeted towards. This can be sorely disappointing. Many of my loved ones have disappointed me, and I have disappointed many. Knowing that unmet expectations can lead to heartbreak, shock, surprise, and sometimes even a significant shift in a relationship, doesn't stop me from having expectations. It does help me brace myself a little more for unmet expectations, and allows me to be surprised when they are exceeded.
2. Hold yourself and others to high standards: To add another compounding brick to this fortress of expectations, there seems to be a tension between expectations for others and myself. I do think having expectations can be indicative of believing in one self and others, and believing in our abilities to grow and be better versions of ourselves everyday. In that respect, I think it's great to have high expectations for oneself and others. Often, I will have higher expectations of me than of others. And I can be devastated sometimes when I don't meet them. But that doesn't stop me from holding myself to high standards and lovingly supporting myself to meet those standards.
I guess I'm still learning to forgive myself when I don't meet those high expectations. And change them when necessary. Even if it's on a piece of paper.