Expecting Expectation Failure

Call it “new year” syndrome, but I’ve been thinking about the ways I sabotage myself. Considering the things I don’t like about my own wiring, and wondering if they are changeable. We’ve all got things we don’t say out-loud, or traits we keep hidden. I’ve got my fair share of them, and I’m pondering which ones are just unsavory human failings, and which ones actually hold me back.

I’ve focused in on one trait; I’m often tripped up by my own expectations.

As a writer, life is a series of scenes and possibilities. Say one thing and a whole moment, or conversation, or evening goes a different way than it would have if you’d said the opposite. So I spend far too much time over-thinking. I don’t live in this current moment very much. While others might think “let’s go get a nice bottle of wine and enjoy ourselves…” I’m already thinking how everyone get back home. Or which members of the group will have to be chaperoned once they get tipsy. Or how those same folks will have to deal with tomorrow. Yup… I’m a buzzkill.

This future-thinking also means I’m calculating the end result and building up my expectations for that outcome. And this can create a world of no good news. When I’m expecting the worst, and it happens like I think – well, that’s hardly a victory. But when it turns out better than I expect, I’m more caught off-guard than genuinely pleased. Far worse are those times when I have high expectations, as great things can happen which still fall short of my measure and I fail to see the blessing because it missed my mark.

I look back on my accomplishments, my marriage, or some fun excursion and often see – in hindsight – that I was in an enviable position. But in the midst of those moments I was often disappointed in some way. Feeling the gap between my expectations and the often great reality. Only after the fact do I really see how wonderful things were in that moment.

I hate this about myself. And even with this realization I still find myself more likely to brood in a moment than get lost in one. So I’m trying to lose my expectations. To not think what a moment could be, or should be, but only see it for what it is – and wonder at the discovery.

On the other side are the “positive thinker” crowd. Those folks who say everything will turn out wonderfully if you just believe it will. And believe it or not I’ve tried that exact approach. I’ve gone through seasons where I focused on everything turning out wonderfully. I believed in the flowers and candy. I expected to hear “yes” more than “no”. I tried it for a while, in fact. But, that little expectation problem still gets in the way. And I discovered that the people I know who believe in positive thinking are the same people I call “lucky”.

You probably know a lucky person. I know a couple. These are the folks who stumble into good fortune. I’m not saying these people have perfect lives, everyone has struggles and failures just under the surface. No, I’m saying those people who seem to always win the free item, or go home with the pretty girl, or fall into a great opportunity… even while their lives are a mess! The lucky person gets away with a warning, the rest of us get the speeding ticket.

I’ve come to expect this too… and there I go again.

Now here we are… 2011. And as I look out over a new year I conclude I want to be surprised. I want to remove my bar of expectation and be blessed in the now. I will continue to strive for success, because it’s not in my makeup to quit. But when success comes I hope to be lifted on the joy of it like surfer on the wave. I must learn to live in the moment.

I already expect I’ll fail. Which proves just how hard this is for me…

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