“Expect nothing. Hope for everything.”
I have these two meditation books (as in reading and reflecting type “meditation,” not “ohm, ohm” meditation; I would so suck at that!) which I read every morning, one for AA and one for Adult Children of Alcoholics. Sometimes I read them and think, yeah, okay, whatever, but last week I read one of them and there was the above quote. It hit me; I am not sure why, but it did. And along with my little six-word-meme mantra I have been repeating to myself, it has been bouncing around in my head for the whole of the weekend.
Okay, Jesus, let’s be honest here. Sorry, I reverted to old bad habits there for a second, in an attempt to make myself appear more together than I actually AM. I know EXACTLY why that hit me so hard: because I have such high and unrealistic expectations of people that it has really caused me problems in the past. In my relationships, in my friendships, in my dealings with the kids…the list goes on. And for me, a natural consequence of having such high expectations (and I have them of myself, too, I might add) is that of course people can never live up to them, which in turned reinforces my very basic belief that 99% of the people in the world suck, will let you down, will hurt you. Can’t be relied up whatsoever. It ALSO doesn’t help that there have been a goodly number of people-starting from infancy-who have also reinforced that very basic belief. I have been in therapy, I know the reasons for why I am the way I am, but sometimes knowing the problem doesn’t really offer a way to solve it. And for me, in my life, what this boils down to is control. Having such high expectations of people is just another way to try to control them, to manipulate them into doing what I want them to do/say/feel. Again, I know why I feel the need to control, it just isn’t as easy to actually give that up.
And the second part of that quote, the “hope for everything” part? Oh, yeah, because THAT is so much easier than letting go of expectations and control. Puh–leeze! See, for me, hope is a dangerous emotion-it feels very scary to me to have hope, because so often, in so many ways, it has come back to bite me in the ass. I have hoped and prayed for-well, for lots of things, and then when it doesn’t happen-or more importantly, doesn’t happen the way I think it should, well, doesn’t that just more strongly reinforce my negative view of life and people? Yeah, I think it does.
So I have been chanting my two little mantras all through the long weekend, and you know, it is helping. Every time I found myself getting annoyed or hurt or angry with someone, I took an extra few seconds to chant these things to myself, and found that so much of my angst and panic has to do with things not going the way I expect them to, not that anyone had actually done anything wrong, per se. Well, I guess I knew this, really, but it has just been more present an issue lately, one I am making a conscious effort to work on.
And already, I have noticed a difference in the way I feel-and isn’t that what it is all about, how I feel? Because when I feel good and strong and calm, EVERYONE in my life feels better. When I feel sane, the house runs more smoothly, there is less conflict between the kids, and I am much more able to take things in stride. On Saturday, there was an incident with Steve where he wasn’t doing what I had expected him to do, and for a moment, I got pissed-but then I said my little mantra and lo and behold, I was no longer angry. Then yesterday, I had gotten up and chanted this again a few dozen times, and when Steve showed up with two tomato plants-complete with the wire cages and the food stakes, I was able to be totally and completely thrilled because he did it because he wanted to, not because I expected it of him. By the same token, last night he felt free enough to invite me and the two big boys to the movies (Indiana Jones-and I don’t care how old he is, Harrison Ford still gives me a tingle!), because I no longer expect anything of him. It just makes me feel so much better, and Steve and the kids are all already reacting in a positive way. And here is the really, really big thing: I am not doing this for them. It is a definite bonus, of course, but I am so tired of feeling crazy and emotional and out of control; I have to do this for me.
I have no illusions. I know that this is no cure-all, magic trick to fix all of the problems in my life. I know that this-the letting go of control over people, places, or things-is something that I know how to do; I lost sight of in the midst of the seemingly overwhelming problems going on, but it is time to go back. To work harder at doing the things I need to do to stay even slightly sane, because if I am no good to myself, if I feel like this all of the time, then everyone in my life suffers.
Yeah. I think it is going to be a good day today. Because I am not in charge of anyone today save myself. I am expecting nothing from anyone, but oh, hoping. It feels scary, and huge, and…right.