Okay, perhaps my title for this post is a bit dramatic, but maybe you know what I getting at… Sometimes when we expect too much or expect something very specific of others, we will be disappointed. And sometimes we can avoid that disappointment by simply letting go of our expectations.
I have a ritual on my commute home from the office. When I’m about a block or so away from home, I take a few consciously deep breaths & I attempt to prepare myself for the impending reentry into full-on home life.
I think my kids are swell & yesterday I had no problem, after getting off the bus, imagining their sweetness. I looked at the moon (which is coming earlier & earlier on these crisp fall afternoons…) & just breathed. I imagined the pleasant evening that awaited me. I couldn’t wait to be reunited with my family!
Then my phone buzzed with my partner’s special ringtone. “U coming home soon?”
Well, that was a buzz kill. No matter! It seemed snarky, but I was sure he didn’t mean it to sound that way! Another breath. Ah…
Onward to warm domestic bliss!
I walked passed the neighbor’s Halloween decorations (a life-sized Freddy Kruger, some mutant baby dolls, a two-headed snake skeleton… you, know, the usual…), and there was my house, a soft glow emanating from the windows, welcoming me home. It seemed even more inviting for its absence of gore &, instead, the tame decorations my son had excitedly set out.
Upon opening the door, my son ran to greet me. Then he announced his sister (who was toddler-running at me) was being annoying. “She keeps crying!” he complained. On cue, she turned around and ran, crying, to bury herself in my mother-in-law’s legs. My partner barely looked up from dinner to say hello. My son begged to continue our game of Risk & stomped upstairs when we said “not tonight.”
It was late. I should have seen this train wreck coming from miles away! But instead I was blissed out on some hodgepodge of the best moments of the last week or so. I was focused on my own expectations, as if the world (or at least, my tiny corner of the world) was somehow obligated to match my own state of mind.
It’s not that I wasn’t looking forward to seeing my family. It’s just that wrapped up in my own thoughts, I hadn’t allowed for them to be as they were. Just as they were, in the midst of the messiness of family life.
Midway through dinner, as my partner gently guided my son through his own big emotions (& after I had snapped at him, somewhat annoyed), I realized my error.
This was exactly where I wanted to be in that moment. These were the exact people I needed to be with at that time. All of us, together. No matter our moods. No matter our challenges. No matter our flaws & human-ness. It was perfect.
Later, my son told me about how, as the water drained from the bathtub, he realized that anger can really stick with you after the moment has passed. He said he had let his annoyance with his sister linger & ruin his dinner. When he told me this, I could see that his whole face & body had lightened. The anger had drained out of him with the bathwater. And I fully let go of my own anger & disappointment (& my expectations), too.