Virginia Alice, author of "HONOR ONE ANOTHER: The ABCs of Embracing Our Spirit Within," writes about social media, wellness, and writing.
Embracing Life’s Expectations and Disappointments
Have you seen the movie, Dan in Real Life? It’s a holiday movie about life and parenting and disappointment and adjusting our thinking – about so many things. At the end of the movie, Dan tells us the one thing we should teach our children is to live life always planning to be surprised. I absolutely love this, as it’s so true. When we live our lives planning to be surprised, rather than planning life to be a specific way, we can live more fully. And rather than being constantly disappointed, we may even be pleasantly surprised.
Growing up, we all have expectations and face disappointments. I remember discussing a few years ago with my momma about some of the expectations I felt she and my daddy placed on me. She was quick to tell me they only wanted the best for me and any overly high expectations I had of myself was all on me. This took some deep thinking on my part and a few years adjusting to the idea that she could be right.
The First Big Disappointment
As I mulled over our discussion, I thought back to the first time I recall being disappointed. I was in the fourth grade, and it wasn’t because I didn’t get something in particular for my birthday or money or even candy. With eight children, my daddy’s income was usually always spent on necessities such as food, personal hygiene items, and gas. If we received gifts, it was from our grandparents or aunts and uncles for Christmas and maybe our birthdays. No, my disappointment stemmed from expecting to be done with school – soon. Instead, I discovered there were eight more years to go, as well as something called college after that.
When I was placed in the first grade, I thought it was only a temporary place to hang out while my parents cared for my seven siblings after me. When my momma asked me why I was so upset and I tried to explain, she said I just needed to deal with it as there were no other options. I continued going to school, hoping for a miracle. Of course, I might have felt differently if getting good grades or making friends was easier for me. As it turned out, school lasting longer was only the beginning of disappointments or unfulfilled expectations.
When you have expectations, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.
— Ryan Reynolds
More Expectations Are Tested
As I got older, I faced disappointment in other ways. When I changed schools in the middle of seventh grade, I came back to my prior junior high expecting all my old friends to still be my friends. But while I was gone, they had made new friends. The only thing left to do was to make new friends.
Then, after high school, there was the time I graduated from bookkeeping school only to take a job as a secretary/receptionist, as I didn’t have enough first-hand bookkeeping experience yet. And, when I moved to the “big city,” I took a job at a local university with the most beautiful of campuses. But soon, bored with my position, I found a more challenging job but in a less desirable location.
Throughout my young adult life, I was continually tempering my dreams and expectations. Of course, as some doors closed and others opened, life took me in unexpected directions – like marriage. But once married, my expectations were tested again.
Marrying someone on night shift proved to be more challenging than I had expected. Instead of movie nights and more dates of camping, fishing, or at the Riverwalk, we lived separate lives. Sure, there were a few times when we worked the same hours, but it didn't last long. For a few years even, I was a single mother, hanging out with girlfriends and doing my own thing. And twenty years later, as hubs slept on the sofa after being up early and working a long day, I’d find myself going out to dinner or shopping with friends, sewing, or playing games on my tablet or phone.
My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance, and in inverse proportion to my expectations.
— Michael J. Fox
Reaching the Here & Now
It wasn’t until I realized hubs would be retiring soon and, as we worked toward transitioning from the city to his hometown, that I realized the next chapter of our life was upon us. Now that we’re retired, and have been for about six months, we’re working together to find a sweet spot in our lives where disappointments aren't common and expectations, for both of us, are met.
As I look at our “little casita” (future guest cottage) and how it isn’t finished yet, I could be disappointed. But somewhere over the years, in all this figuring out about disappointments and expectations, I realized I’d rather adjust my attitude and be happy during the process. I’ve realized the fun is in the building and anticipation of getting from A to Z. And I’m sure moving into our temporary living quarters will be great, just as all the waiting, planning, and building of our “big home” will be as wonderful, too.
Learning From Yesterday
Since I’ve become more flexible and open to compromise, I realize life is what it is. I’ve learned not to live on what-ifs and could-haves, as this only cheats a person of time in the here and the now. And right now is right where I want to be enjoying life. When I look back on that disappointed me of long ago, I would tell that fourth grade me that it’s okay to be disappointed and suggest she learn to be flexible. I’d tell her not to waste too much time being discouraged about what cannot be changed, but rather look for what can be and go from there.
Now that I am here, I'd say the key to managing expectations and disappointments is to be as realistic as possible and to plan ahead for things like college, career paths, living location, and hobbies. Expectations are like living our life always in hope, and unmanaged expectations can break a person’s spirit. But once we realize it’s okay to have expectations, or over-sized hope, we can embrace life’s disappointments and expectations with courage and anticipation. This is how we can relax and enjoy life better.
I encourage anyone reading this to talk with the younger people in your life about managing and embracing their ups and downs. Discuss with them how they can face their disappointments. Help them to plan for either a better outcome next time or being ready to change directions if they need to. Let them know everyone faces disappointment.
There's a victory in letting go of your expectations.
— Mike White
Today, I'm living my life with the anticipation of being pleasantly surprised – as the country girl I once was, now enjoying morning walks in the fog, or as the sun rises, and evening walks as the sun sets and daylight fades. And I am eagerly planning each day for productivity, yet I am remaining open to flexibility.
And, yes, every day I'm still holding onto hope – for the best that this life has to offer me.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Virginia Alice Crawford