Friday, May 13, 2011

No Expectations. Just Joy.

Expectations are interesting things. They are like little pictures in our heads of how things and people are going to be. Sometimes we put so much stock and determination in those pictures (that we created), that the real things can't hope to match them.

My lovely husband took me to Ireland two weeks ago, to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. This was a trip I had been waiting for my entire life. I have a bit of McGuire blood, and have felt the Irish in me since I was a wee tater-tot. I knew I would go someday, and I've had a LOT of time to daydream about it.

Well, I nearly died of shock when the hub told me he had figured out how we could make this trip--financially-speaking-wise--and that I was for really reals going to the Emerald Isle. I took off like a Tasmanian devil, planning and plotting and packing and purchasing. And before I knew it we were jetting across the Atlantic, in a reverse (temporary) immigration.

We got there, spent two great days in Dublin, then headed out to the west coast. Which was what I had truly been waiting for. This was where the real Ireland was going to begin. It was going to be green and quaint and perfect. There would be music every night floating on fairies outside my windows, and we'd be "Top o' the morning"-ed and "May the road rise up to meet you"-ed every few minutes.

I imagined that each town would be teeming with ruins and dolmens, druids and harpists, shamrocks and Colin Farrell. I would dance in pubs and sing on cliffs and the luck o' the Irish would be with me.

And it was. It did. Everything was pretty much just like this.

Except I couldn't see it. Not for a while. I spent the first few hours in each town we visited fighting down disappointment. Trying to match what I had imagined with what was before me, and finding it all wanting. And I was mad.

Excuse me? This place had disappointed me. This place wasn't performing up to expectation. This was my dream-vacation! Ireland was supposed to CATER to that! What was it's problem? Nothing was like I had pictured. Some of these towns were *gasp* modern!

Well, eventually I began to realize that my attitude was wrecking our trip--or at least a few of the mornings--and I needed to figure out what the deal was.

After some thought, I realized that the deal was this: I don't get to demand that anything or anyone perform or behave the way I dictate they do. I don't get to make up a story and then hold someone or something else responsible, or worse, captive to it.

Instead what I get to do is pause for a moment and learn what something or someone has to offer--all on it's own. I mean, really see it. And then appreciate them for it. Once I realized this, I began doing it. Which set Ireland, and myself, free. (Also my husband. Who was relieved of his resident trip-harpy.)

And guess what? Ireland was awesome. Much better than anything I had dreamed up. Much more beautiful. And deeper, quieter, funnier, happier, more tragic, harder-working, boot-strappy, musical, and utterly, completely wonderful.


Bet it's like that with people, too.


Robin said...

I've thought about that stuff a lot, too. I get attached to stuff. I get attached to the way stuff has always been. I don't want different stuff or different people or different places.

I have to remind myself to shut up and pay attention to the music that the new place sings and then trust that I'll get familiar with it and that I'll feel good about it all again when the music is part of me.

That's hard for me.

Lynn said...

EXACTLY! I have that same struggle to shut down my expectations and learn what things ARE, not what I want them to BE. Have to live in the moment, not life in what we think the moment is.

Just Another Hat said...

How awesome that you finally got to visit Ireland. Glad to hear that everything worked out. I, too, am very much guilty of high expectations (my husband reminds me of this all the time) and miss out on so much. I'm trying to mellow out and just appreciate. I know it will take time, but I'm working on it.

Janiel Miller said...

Thanks, Hat! It was wonderful.

You all are right: it's hard to let go and just float while you wait to see how things are. It feels secure to have expectations and then hold on to them. But it's just more frustrating that way. The letting go-thing was a revelation, and I saw things I never expected. *sigh* We're always evolving, right?

deannascanlon said...

So glad you and Bruce got to go! We talked to Bruce for a minute yesterday at the ward cleanup and he said everyone there had a story to tell! Doesn’t that remind me of someone----Janeil! Well Rory and I watched “Leap Year” last night and I thought of you almost falling off the clif! Hey when you go to Scotland, can I hitch a ride? My Grandma was full Scotch! (Rory’s family comes from Ireland)

CMSmith said...

Excellent post. A problem so many of us, and I in particular have about expectations. My very wise son once said, "I think the secret to happiness is to approach life and the events in it like a blank canvas. Allow the picture to be painted while you watch. Don't carry in a pre-painted picture and hope to make life fit." So wise at so young.

Romina Garcia said...

You and I sound as though we have very similar personalities. For some reason lately, I feel that everything was "better" in hindsight. When I am in the situation, I don't feel as though I am enjoying myself. Yet when I think back to the event, I think back to it with fond memories.
Perhaps that is just a part of life?

Janiel Miller said...

Deanna! That would be grand. :) And I'm sorry, but we drove those roads Amy Adams was walking down in that movie, and no way was she wearing 6-inch stacked heels on those things. But Ireland IS that gorgeous.

CM - Your son is amazing. What mature insight. I posting that on my fridge, if you don't mind.

Ah, Romina, this does sound familiar. In my case I believe it is all about worrying rather than embracing the moment. Worrying about the past (mistakes, unresolved things), worrying about the future (is this all going to turn out okay?),and worrying about now (this isn't what I thought it would be). Which makes me not enjoy things as much. And then yes, in hindsight I see more clearly and realize how great it actually was.

Personally, I don't think this has to be how my life is. That's what I started to learn on this trip. Once I let go of expectations (and worries about the past and future), and just let things happen how they would, I started enjoying the moment. It was trippy letting it all go, because I wasn't used to doing that, and holding onto the worry/fear/expectation felt secure. But letting go allowed me to see what was really happening around me. And it really was great, and I really did enjoy the moment.

Takes some work and getting used to. But judging by the comments on here, there are a LOT of us who struggle with this stuff, and a lot of us who'd rather not.

I have to analyze things when I'm in the situation to figure out why I feel the way I do. Usually there's something I'm holding onto that's making me unhappy. Letting it go isn't really that much of a risk, I've decided. I mean, I can always grab back on again, right? Except now, I'd rather not anymore.

Embrace the moment, my people!

Russo said...

Janiel, I love how you enter into a blog post-it always flows so well. I adore the pic of you and your hubby. you look positevly happy together. Cute hair BTW!