Adjusted Expectations (4-min. read)

baby-1107333__340I remember how uncomfortable and downright ornery I’d get at times as a new mother. Despite talking with actual parents of actual babies for guidance before our firstborn arrived, I expected a newborn who would sleep all night (nope, for both our kids). I expected to feel confident as a new mom – you know, that mothering would come naturally for me (yeah, right).

But, our sweet, little angel taught me that there’s the Theoretical Baby, and the Actual Baby. And they’re definitely not the same.

Being a parent is such a blessing. But, my first steps into parenthood yanked me out of expectations I’d imposed on myself without even realizing it. I could tackle challenges on the job with relative ease – but, all that confidence went down the drain as a first-time mom. Is she eating enough? She’s not burping – is that okay? What does that cry meeeean?!? Shouldn’t I know the answers to all of these questions?!?

The tiniest person in our home slammed all of my rigid expectations on the ground and danced on them. I had to adjust to new sleeping patterns and new sounds and a new uncertainty that left me second guessing everything I did. And that uncertainty irritated me.

Because I’m a recovering perfectionist.

It took me a while to recognize that fact. It took me even longer to understand that being a perfectionist has an awful lot to do with expectations we place on ourselves and others. Too often, those expectations are not realistic nor flexible (I’ll complete all 22 items on my to-do list TODAY!). And when we don’t meet those expectations (I only got 3 items done?!?), frustration usually shows up.

At age 46, I know that I know this. Yet, I forget it from time to time.  So, life’s journey bops me on the head to remind me that being rigid in our expectations can dampen our spirits, our creativity, and our peace of mind. Take, for example, a recent head-bopper.

I heard of an upcoming holiday musical program, and I became determined to get my dad there. This time of year can be extra tough for elders, especially if they’re missing their home of many years, or loved ones who’ve passed away. That’s true for my dad. Sure, he’s a tough cookie. But, I knew hearing traditional carols and familiar songs would lift his spirit.

What started as a noble intention, however, morphed into something else. I started running with scissors, imagining we’d enjoy a lovely ride to the church, arrive early, get great seats and enjoy angelic music, our hearts lifted and faces smiling. And that we’d ride home in peace and joy holiday-style, recalling our favorite moments and songs.

It’s what I expected, clearly and firmly.

Well, the angelic music, lifted hearts and smiles were all there, front and center. Dad loved the program, as did I.

But the full, actual experience of our little outing also required loading Dad in our car in cold rain. Almost hitting a family of 6 deer en route. Settling Dad in the Overflow Room on arrival because the church sanctuary was jam-packed. Parking up the street and around a corner. And running back to the church in the rain to join Dad inside.

And, once the program ended, doing it all in reverse (minus the deer, but add a restroom stop for Dad).

And about 6 minutes into our drive home, Dad forgot all about the lovely music we’d just enjoyed and lamented instead about missing a church service 6 hours away in Virginia.

Yep.

It seemed our mountaintop, musical experience together was already a distant memory. And, in that moment, I had a choice: Let go of my expectations and go with the flow, or resist and have a pity party.

I resisted, wallowing in silent disappointment at a party for one.

I forgot to be what I am as a caregiver, countless times each day: nimble, open to whatever comes my way, adaptable. It’s one of many ways to stretch and grow in the Flexibility Department.

By the time we got home, I remembered that simple fact and started letting it all go. Dad and I moved onto other topics and enjoyed the holiday music on the radio. My big a-ha? I’d triggered my own disappointment, hanging onto expectations of how something should be, or someone should react, or something I should have done but didn’t. With clarity, I saw it all, plain as day. As I surrendered, I laughed at myself. And I swear I could hear life chuckling with me – at my initial expectations AND at my resistance to adjust to the reality in front of me.

We can go overboard with our expectations – and stress ourselves and others in the process. But, when life knows I need to be reminded, it whispers: “Stay flexible, Karin. Ditch the rigid expectations. Go with the flow.” And when I listen, I feel lighter and see clearly.

So, make plans and hope for the best – doing so is okay and logical. But let’s also extend grace and flexibility to ourselves and others along the way. And don’t worry: When we need it most, life will toss a reminder our way about those dastardly, strict expectations. Catch the reminder, and go with the flow.

Your Turn: Do you place rigid expectations on yourself and others?
When life urges you to adjust those expectations, do you listen and do so?

 

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18 thoughts on “Adjusted Expectations (4-min. read)

  1. Pingback: Bees & Buttons (1.5-min read) | stretch & grow

  2. Pingback: Hurry Up and Wait (2-min. read) | stretch & grow

  3. Jermal A Quinn

    Karin. I love this. This really hit home for me and tied into a conversation I recently had with my friends in our morning prayer circle. I think it is important for us to be more flexible in our relationships with our loved ones because our love must be as God’s love i s for us, unconditional. Our expectations can cause us to lose focus on the reality which is our loved ones inspire us to be our best version of ourselves. Expectations of how they will recieve our love, how they will experience our acts of love or if and when the will reciporcate our love takes away from the true spirit and intent of our acts of love. You are an amazing woman Karin and God sees your acts of love as they pour into and overflow wihin the lives of those you love. You inspire me to be a better person and I love you with all my heart.

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    1. stretch&grow Post author

      Beautifully said, Jermal – and so deeply appreciated, more than I can convey in words. Loving others the way God loves us can be a tall order; yet we’re called to do so, aren’t we? 🙂 The irony is that we’re blessed in the process in countless ways, but we sometimes don’t truly see it until after the fact. So human, we are. 🙂 Thank you for reading, for sharing your thoughts and always being in my corner. Love you much!

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  4. Whitni

    Thank you Karin . What a beautiful blog that reflects your spirit. It reminds me of the song , It Is Well With My Soul. Wouldn’t it be great if we could sing that with sincerity in all situations ? Thank you for the reminder !

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  5. Kyri

    Great writing Karin! And thanks for the reminder to adjust my expectations about many aspects of life. I definitely need the reminder. Like you I am a recovering perfectionist. Lol

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  6. Sharon H-B

    Thank you, Karin for yet another thought-provoking piece. I just did a mini-binge (I was 3 posts behind! *gasp!*) and didn’t realize how much I missed your voice.

    I could go on and on about expectations: Adjusting, resisting, releasing, being boosted and battered by them. I could go further and tell you exactly how timely your essay is for me, but this is a public space, right? So, I’ll spare your millions of faithful readers the details.

    Ah, great expectations…so natural to have inasmuch as we reflexively develop them from life patterns and histories that we cannot escape and often experience by rote. B will follow A, correct? But the trick, of course, lies in our willingness and ability to be flexible and resilient and our knowledge that we can always learn to expect something new, or better yet, nothing at all.

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    1. stretch&grow Post author

      You hit the nail on the proverbial head, Sharon! 🙂 A million thankful hugs to you for reading and sharing your thoughts. Reading your words reminds me we need to catch up on all things life again very soon – maybe including how this post was timely for you? 🙂 Hugs to you!

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  7. Alisha Carr

    With a military family background I was often conditioned to have everything be a certain way…the house…the kids…hair…you name it. In response I became a free spirit. Go with the flow. Any way the wind blows. But in my 42 year old brain I still have those expectations embedded and it drives my family nuts. Thank you for your gentle nudge into releasing these expectations and the guilt that it carries of not holding myself to expectations. It’s okay. It’s alright. Life hands you lemons…laugh and make lemonade. Don’t forget to laugh. Quit taking yourself and life so seriously.

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    1. stretch&grow Post author

      Alisha, I love your free spirit response. My hubby calls me bohemian in my soul (true statement). 🙂 And I love the reminders you shared at the end – excellent in every way! Thanks so much for reading and chiming in, 🙂

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  8. TJ Hibbler

    Although I’m pretty laid back in most areas of life, my expectations in the “education” area of parenthood can be stressful. I’m always questioning…are we making the right decision? As crazy as it sounds, I take some pride in not being a perfectionist. LOL. I’m learning a lot about you thru this blog. All good things of course. You’re one of my favorite people. I always say your writing style reminds me of my favorite author…J California Cooper. Makes me want to grab a cup of coffee…even though I don’t drink coffee…it just sounds cozy. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. stretch&grow Post author

      Right back at YOU on favorite people, TJ! 🙂 Thanks so much for reminding us that even the most laid back folks can feel stress. I’m completely humbled by the J. California Cooper with a side of coffee compliment (seriously, I love her – and decaf mocha coffee- too). Thank you for reading and, now, following the blog! xoxoxo

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    1. stretch&grow Post author

      Hi Sheila, I hear you loud and clear on living in the moment. Being present takes work and, at least for me, a lot of patience with myself. One day at a time, as our elders say. 🙂 Stay well and thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.

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  9. stretch&grow Post author

    Janel! You get the “First Responder” award! (Okay, it’s not an actual award, but soooo appreciated nonetheless :-)!) Thank you for taking the time to read the post and for sharing your comments. Love you much!

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