When we live a life filled with expectations, we create a pressure cookie for disappointment.
I know that this statement is a broad generalisation and not always true. For instance, if we expect nothing from ourselves, we’ll achieve it. Not great. We need to set reasonable expectations for ourselves. Furthermore, if we expect nothing from those that matter to us, we can make them feel worthless and insignificant – the last thing we ever want!
My problem was (and still is, to some extent), expecting too much. I expect myself to achieve too much, and fail hopelessly every time. This disappoints me and leads me to feel that, since every effort is an inevitable failure, I shouldn’t try at all.
I expect myself to not have to do as much as I do have to do. I feel that I should only have to do half of everything that needs to be done, and that I should be able to have some “me” time. Since that’s not really practical or reasonable right now, I get frustrated and start to “steal” time from other place. I spend a few more minutes on Facebook than I can reasonably justify for work. I spend a few more minutes cloistered in the bathroom, reading my book. I take longer in the bath and put off doing the dishes. After a week of this, I have a heap of dishes, a laundry FULL of dirty clothes, and the screaming, wooshing sound of deadlines flying by. I also have a pair of grumpy, understimulated children and a bewildered husband.
I expect my husband to love me the way that I love him. I’ve spoken in the past about Love Languages, and while I know that the way he receives and shows love is not the same as mine, I expect it to be. I expect him to process stress the way that I do (find the problem and fix it at any cost), not the way he does (go to bed till the fit passes). I become disappointed in what I see as his lack of delivery, and frustrated by his lack of action.
I expect my children to magically achieve their potential now that I a) home educate and, b) have overhauled their diets. They should instantly be free of head aches, mood swings, concentration challenges and sore tummies. Somehow all of this should also address their low muscle tone and make them strong. When they aren’t instantly perfect, or when they have one of those days – you know the ones, where a single English worksheet takes four hours! – I become despondent and doubt my decision to home educate. In fact, I doubt all my life choices and dissolve into an unproductive puddle.
It is true that I’m an extremist, and that should be borne in mind.
However, the gift of expectancy breathes life into our family.
When I face the new day with expectancy, excited about the possibility of achieving my Three Important Tasks for the day, eagerly anticipating my morning run or pilates session, I can’t be disappointed. The anticipation adds to the joy of the action itself, and makes the day a landscape punctuated by eager expectation and fulfilled goals. In a nutshell: satisfaction.
When I enjoy Papa Bear’s differentness and realise that I can learn so much from his view of life and approach to challenges, each day becomes a classroom, or better yet, an adventure, a mystery waiting to be uncovered. What will I learn today? What will I become? How will my perspective change and grow, making me a better person? It becomes almost impossible to stay in bed when faced with a whole day where I can meet my beloved’s needs, help him to achieve his potential, and learn about him and from him along the way.
When I see each moment with my children as a moment for all of us to learn, when I realise that whatever I say is absorbed into their growing self awareness like water into a sponge, when I understand that English and Maths serve a limited purpose and are not the final point of lifelong learning, I can seize each opportunity, each window into my children’s souls, capitalise on it, and help them become the best that they can be. I can teach them balance, self-discipline, acceptance, generosity, hard work, sensitivity, strength and so much more. I can comfort them when the work is hard, and rejoice with them when they master it. It’s a journey, with maturity as the end product, not a university degree.
This lesson is far from over, but writing it down helps to remind me of these truths and fills me with awe at God’s grace and mercy that He would take the time to teach these truths to a hard heart like mine. I wondered how a Christian could truly know the joy of the Lord, and here I see it so clearly. Stop expecting things to be different and start anticipating the joy of what already is.
Hebrews 13:5 “Be content with such things as you have.”