As I sat on the flight for a work trip, I decided to write a blog about this idea of expectations causing chaos. You might guess this was born out of, like so many of my blogs, personal experience. If so, you are correct!
In fact, three specifics situations have not only sparked the idea for today’s edition, but they have put my “Elegant Evelyn” to the test! I must say Frantic Franny swept in a few times about to wreak havoc but fortunately, EE calmed her down… somewhat!
Here’s the scoop…
Rude woman at restaurant bar area refusing to move down a chair with her dinner date so my parents could sit down.
May I ask who says no to this?! Especially to people who are older? I’ve never refused to move and, in my memory, no one has ever not accommodated it as well.
And what on earth was up with the gentleman with her? He was clearly embarrassed as he looked down at his shoes while she spoke to us… but not enough to step up.
I’ll admit it… this really triggered me. You just don’t mess with my parents nor anyone I love!
But I had a choice. I could let FF (Frantic Franny) or EE (Elegant Evelyn) handle things.
Fortunately, I had the luxury of a few seconds of confusion which allowed me to gather myself and say “Ok” and walk away. It’s didn’t hurt to have my mother staring at me while she telepathically told me to “let it go!”
The thing is… I was expecting them to react the way I would. And yes, the flame was fanned due to the fact my parents were with me and were tired and really wanted a seat… but thanks to my mother and EE, not only did I not react, but I LET IT GO. It’s not as if I would have in the past started yelling or created a scene but instead, it would have put a damper on my evening. I would have sat there ruminating in my head about how rude they were and expending my energy and joy on what I could not control… all the while missing out on enjoying my company, the food, and the overall beautiful atmosphere and experience.
Now, this may seem like a silly, small, and ridiculous thing to even discuss but it’s not. The “small stuff” is where we can practice the art of how we really want to feel by choosing our reactions. It’s easy to default to your knee jerk responses when someone disappoints you with their reaction… but it also messes with your reality.
I live in a condo building where we have common areas on each floor as well a wide hallway outside our doors. It’s understood that when adding any artwork, furniture, etc. you first obtain the approval from your neighbors. Since moving in 3 years ago, I’ve made a great effort to not ruffle feathers and stay in my lane… in fact the thought of putting anything outside my door in the common area was something I was very hesitant to consider…until I had a table that didn’t fit in my condo due to my niece moving in.
So, we moved it outside the door and I popped a note under my neighbor’s door double checking if it would be okay. I couldn’t imagine it would be an issue but I sent out a friendly note anyway with an added “have a nice Thanksgiving!”
A few minutes later we noticed a note had been quietly slipped under our door as well.
“Dear Meg, Thanks for asking but we would prefer you find another spot for your table. Thanks.”
My niece and I looked at each other with our hands over our mouths…and started laughing. I exclaimed, “oh come on!” … and she looked at me and said: “but you asked them, Meg!”
Why is it that she’s wiser than me? I think it’s been this way since she was about 4.
Anyway, the point is she’s correct! If you ask a question, you must be prepared for three things to happen:
Which is a great segue into the third situation. This one is much more personal but let’s just say I really pushed and pushed for a person to react in a way I thought they should because that is the way I would react (or so I thought… because let’s face it, until you are in another person’s shoes and experiencing their experiences, you really can’t say what you would do.)
The result? I wore myself out trying to get inside their head, figure out the truth, and convincing them they needed to give me an answer to make ME feel better.
Oh my. Elegant Evelyn was just shaking her head.
The thing is, when we hop over into someone else’s business by expecting an outcome, an answer, or any kind of preferred behavior…we really let ourselves down. In fact, it only creates more suffering for ourselves!
Keep in mind these situations weren’t anything awful and no one did anything “wrong” … they were simply moments in time and interactions with fellow human beings where deep down I was hoping for an outcome and missed it each time by a long shot.
So, it got me thinking…
Will I ever get to that “Zen” space of not wanting, even at a small scale within the microfibers of my emotional being, for people to respond the way I want them to?
“Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.”
I’m not sure who originally said this but my friend Gretchen uses it often.
I go back and forth on it because I think when you are in any sort of relationship (your team at work, friendships, partner/spouse, family, etc.) isn’t it normal to expect them to adhere to certain rules of the game?
Following through on promises
No. Absolutely no. 100% no…. according to my therapist
A funny thing happens when you stop releasing expectations of others… you begin not caring as much what people think or expect of you.
Now if you would have told me years ago, I’d be writing that last sentence, I would have laughed. The majority of my life I’ve prided myself on being helpful, anticipating other’s needs, and being an excellent people pleaser. I loved the gold stars of “you are so nice!” … “you are so good to me.” …” you are the kindest person I know.”
And when I wasn’t? I became undone.
Undone with anxiety, worry, regret, you name it.
Ironically when I place those same kinds of expectations on others, I create those same results.
Does not having expectations mean you become a doormat? I don’t believe so. I think it’s more of a recipe and the ingredients are…
Stating your needs
Letting other people decide if they are going to meet them
You deciding if the outcome is something you can live with
Gosh, this seems so… grown up!?!
What it all boils down to is this:
YOUR REACTION=YOUR REALITY…. and STAY IN YOUR LANE.
After dinner with my parents, I went to bed feeling grateful for my calm reaction. Because of it, I was able to enjoy the time with my parents, savor the delicious food, and actually meet a new friend who will be joining me on a walk with Birdie and her dog!
After Kelly and I read the note, I was grateful I did the right thing by asking my neighbors their preference… and that they actually were honest!
And that person I was bugging to react in ways I thought I would? It turns out I am not in their shoes and they are fighting their own battles trying to make it through this journey of life like we all are.
So, I encourage you to join me in releasing the need for others to mirror our reactions. Wouldn’t it be a boring world without contrast? Without opportunities for you to grow and learn and step up your way of being in the world?
So, thank you, neighbors, thank you, lady, at the bar, and thank you, dear friend, for being my teachers in an accelerated class of personal growth this week! I look forward… well, kind of :)…. to future lessons and tests.
See you soon,