After reading the Classic Peanuts comic strip in this morning’s paper I said to my husband, “Lucy is expressing my sentiments.” In this, she tells her brother she always wants to get her way and when he assures her this won’t happen, she says at the very least she’d like to know ahead of time when she’s not going to get it. I feel the same way. I can deal with disappointment, but I adjust better when I have plenty of warning.
December is the month everyone — children and adults — wants to get their way, whether it is receiving a particular gift, having all the relatives get along without a squabble, or just surviving the shopping/cooking/baking/traveling experience without feeling drained and stressed. How fortuitous then to come across a blog post by Leon Babuta, zenhabits.net, called “Toss Your Expectations into the Ocean.” Mr. Babuta reminds us that, typically, we carry around expectations wherever we go, expectations for ourselves and others. We have fixed ideas about how others should behave toward us and how they should act in the world, as well as about what we deserve. Since no one, including ourselves, ever lives up to our expectations completely, we feel angry or disappointed.
He recommends, as an alternative to holding expectations that can’t be met, that we try to live without them. If we can’t do that, then the next best thing is to recognize what’s going on when we find ourselves frustrated because we believe someone let us down. “Accept it and let it go,” he says. I still prefer Lucy’s fantasy of receiving advanced notice when our expectations are not going to be met, but I’ll think about letting go the next time I don’t get my way.