Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The joy of lower expectations

For much of the time Jeff and I were dating, we were in a long-distance relationship, and we only saw each other on weekends, if that often. Just about every time Jeff showed up at my doorstep, he delivered a lovely bouquet of flowers or at least a stem or two. Imagine my shock and surprise after we got married and all that sweetness seemed to come to a screeching halt. It's not that he wasn't ever sweet or romantic. It's just that we lived in the real world--together--and that level of awesome is too much for anyone to live up to. But, still, I was disappointed and sometimes angry, which didn't inspire Jeff to bring me flowers more often and only sapped the joy out of our relationship at times. I didn't even know I had an expectation, until I would catch myself saying in my heart, "He used to bring me flowers, but he never does that any more."

When I started having children, and when they were big enough, I thought, "I'll just teach them how to put their things away and clean up after themselves, and my house will stay clean." Wasn't I surprised to find out that that is the furthest thing from reality that could possibly be. I have taught the kids how to clean up after themselves, but the house certainly doesn't stay clean. (And, that's not just because of the kids!) This has often led to me feeling stressed and frustrated, and taking that out on the people around me, even though expecting six people who live and work and school at home to keep the house clean all the time is pretty crazy, when you stop to think about it.

It's not just relationships that suffer from the Exasperation of Expectation. Sometimes, I put unreasonable expectations on myself (especially when comparing myself to someone else). Or on other drivers on the road. Or on the washing machine. But I have been learning (and relearning, over and over again!) that there is joy in lowering expectations. 

I don't mean lowering in a sense of becoming negative or pessimistic about things. I mean it more in the sense of letting go of all expectations, so that I can look for opportunities to be thankful for the things that exceed my (non-existent) expectations. That is, so I can be thankful for all the things. I'm working on a new life motto: Expect nothing, appreciate everything. And, you know what, there really is joy there.

My hubby still brings me flowers sometimes. And, since I don't ever expect him to do so, it gets me every time. I'm all giddy and silly, and just plain happy. And, when my kids put their dishes in the sink after dinner, without having to be reminded--or better yet, when they just decide to load the dishwasher because it needs to be done--I breath it in as a breath of fresh air, and my heart rejoices. 

Unreasonable expectations lead to grumbling and complaining--sometimes inwardly and sometimes outwardly--which leads to discontent and unhappiness. But letting go of those lofty expectations provides an opportunity to be thankful and happy in the face of any circumstance. I've been struggling with this the last couple of weeks, so I decided to write it down to remind myself. When I'm out of whack emotionally, I can usually (eventually) trace it to some misplaced or unreasonable expectation. 

If you're feeling overwhelmed with frustration or disappointment or anger, I dare you to give it a try. Let go of your expectations, and let life surprise you with a million little things to be thankful for. And, just see if that attitude of gratitude doesn't make you happy.


  1. Well, I should have read this before my birthday.

  2. Well, it's never too late to lower your expectations! :)


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