My mom gave me plenty of great advice over the course of her lifetime.
Don’t “should” on yourself. (I should do this! I shouldn’t have done that.)
Don’t date men you wouldn’t consider marrying. It’s a waste of your time and theirs.
Don’t expect people to be more than they’re capable of being.
But my favorite, and one of the hardest ideas to actually execute is this:
Try to live a life free from expectation.
It’s a tall order, particularly for someone who likes to plan ahead the way I do. I mean, how can I be expected to painstakingly plan a trip and then not spend at least a little time dreaming about all of the wonderful things we’ll do while we’re traveling? Or watch my children excel at their passions and not start to worry that their journeys might not end up looking as traditional as maybe we’d expected all along?
The hardest part for me though, as the ultimate people-pleaser, is the experience of feeling as if I’ve failed to live up to others people’s expectations. In trying to make everyone happy, it’s almost inevitable that someone will be disappointed. It’s the classic case of an effort that ends up being “jack-of-all-trades, master of none.”
Recently, we had a huge event in our lives. After an incredible 22 year career, my husband was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. We found out in late-January, and began planning immediately for the ceremony that would take place in late July. We were so blessed to have so many family and friends make the trip to upstate New York to share in the celebration with us, but it necessitated a lot of planning to make sure things went as smoothly as possible. I took absolute joy in the preparations, and imagined that the days in New York would be such a special time for our loved ones. I wanted everything to be so perfect, and worked hard to make sure it wouldn’t be anything less.
The build-up over those few months was so overwhelming, it was rather easy to keep from imagining how our personal itinerary in Cooperstown would actually unfold. For once, despite being told by the Hall of Fame staff that so graciously guided us through the process that it would be like attending our own wedding all over again, we somehow managed to arrive in town with no real idea of what to expect. And guess what?
It was ten times better than we could have ever dreamed.
I suspect it’s because during our time in Cooperstown, we were able to finally relax and live moment to moment, enjoying each experience as it came, relishing in the surprise and wonder of it all. We were so busy, there wasn’t really time to think about what came next. It was such a joyful experience to watch the faces of our family and friends as they celebrated alongside us, so proud of their uncle, brother, son, dad and friend. It felt as though we’d pulled a rabbit out of a hat, and managed to relish my husband’s accomplishment with the perfect amount of reverence and revelry, and that our friends and family had done the same. It was a beautiful sense of relief.
After the festivities were over, we loaded up our car and headed to the East Coast for a planned beach vacation with several families we’re close with. Here’s where I made a critical mistake. For months leading up to it, I’d had very clear EXPECTATIONS for that part of the trip. I’d made lots of plans in advance, with set ideas about how things would unfold. I’d predicted we’d be so relaxed and relieved to have all of the baseball festivities behind us, that we’d be ready to mix and mingle all week long, so I scheduled group dinners and outings that included dozens of kids and adults. Any other time, it would have been a dream for all of us to be together that way, but I hadn’t planned for how exhausted we’d be after such an intense and emotional week at the Hall of Fame.
Here is the the thing about expectations. If you don’t have any, you can’t be let down.
We ended up retreating more than we’d planned to at the beach, which was ultimately a healing exercise for our souls. We spent time recharging our batteries, and reminding ourselves how amazing the Hall of Fame experience had truly been for us and for our children.
We went back to the happy place in our minds and spent the rest of the week there.
Fortunately, our friends had arrived at the beach with no expectations of us, and so they completely understood when we acted like hermit crabs and retreated into our shells for the remainder of the trip. That was a true gift from true friends. We are thankful for that show of grace during a time when we needed it most.
I’m so grateful for everything my Mom taught me, and it’s during growing experiences like these that I miss her the most. She would have reminded me to have an open heart and to continue to live in the moment. Just because it hurts to fall short sometimes, doesn’t mean I’ll ever stop trying to be better. At friendships. At family relationships. At life.
After all, the little cracks in our heart are ultimately what let the light shine in.