Posts Tagged ‘expectations’

experience it

01/05/2012

Think about your last disappointment. Was it a movie you saw? A book you read? A date you went on? Or maybe it was just this past New Year’s Eve? Now that you’ve brought it to mind, ask yourself: “Why was I disappointed with the experience?” Chances are we’ll say something like: “The movie wasn’t as good as the previews made it out to be,” or, “The girl was attractive but had no personality,” or, “I didn’t find someone to kiss when midnight struck.” All valid reasons for disappointment. All understandable. And all our own fault.

accepting the blame for disappointment

Disappointment has one strong inherent implication, and that is that we expected something out of the experience based on our subjective view of past experiences and stories. We expected it to be good or bad, exciting or nerve-wracking, awkward or blissful. Now imagine a life of no disappointment.

Having no expectations is a powerful place to be. It allows us to enter every situation with a blank slate, with Locke’s tabula rasa. Why is this powerful? Because we go into everything with an open mind, not allowing stress to invade our mind or tensing our shoulders. We’re always pleasantly surprised, being closer to understanding that there is no good, there is no bad, there just is what is.

Accepting blame for something like this also teaches us another invaluable lesson. And that is humility. According to nearly every religious and philosophical doctrine, pride, or the sense of self, is the basis for all wrong, or all sin. That’s because it makes us act out of selfishness and greed, in direct disregard to others in order to advance ourselves. Imagine humbling ourselves by accepting the blame of what we deemed a negative situation. Imagine the power, the self-control, that brings.

don’t judge

We create our own reality. If a situation was bad, it’s because we made it bad. A car accident isn’t a bad thing. It’s an opportunity. For what? That’s up to us to figure out.

So when the next “negative” situation arises, we should take a step back and examine:

  • Why is this a bad thing?
  • What was my immediate reaction?
  • Why did I react that way?
  • Am I alive?

Then look closely at our answers (although the last one shouldn’t require too much deep thought). If we still have trouble grasping the concept, it can be helpful to turn to this famous Zen story for help:

Once there was an old farmer whose horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer said.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” the farmer said.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“Maybe,” the farmer said.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well thins had turned out.

“Maybe,” the farmer said.

The neighbors viewed the events transpiring at the farmer’s home with judgment. Things were either good or bad, and their emotions were akin to a roller coaster in response. That’s exhausting and stress-inducing, which means it’s harmful to our health (literally) and takes years off our life. The farmer, however, kept an open mind, devoid of judgment, devoid of expectations. He was relaxed and in the flow, never allowing a circumstance to determine his emotional or mental state.

This philosophy is a mental attitude we adopt through consistent application, which will include its fair share of failure as well as success.

If you haven’t already, give it a shot – you may be pleasantly surprised.

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caught between worlds

10/25/2011

It’s an interesting dynamic, the position I find myself in these days. I’ve only recently found that I no longer fit any particular mold. Better yet, I can no longer pretend to fit any particular mold.

Before, I had a socially respectable and acceptable office job, worked the traditional 9-5 lifestyle, and for all appearances I thrived in this Midwestern working culture in which I had immersed myself. I fit a mold. Granted, it was one I didn’t care to be a part of, but I played my part and I played it well. I threw myself into my work, I made appropriate social and personal connections, and I gradually moved upward in the white collar food chain.

When I went out somewhere and got introduced to someone, I would tell people where I worked and could watch their eyebrows raise in a moment of genuine curiosity as they told themselves, “This guy’s secure. Must be doing well. Who’s that hottie across the bar?” It’s a natural phenomenon for the world to judge you based on your occupation. It’s a form of identification:

A: How’s Jeff doing?
B: Great! He’s working downtown at the science center!
A: Well good for him!

A2: Hey how’s [insert name here] been?
B2: Funny you should ask! S/he just got a job in [insert city here] as a [insert title here]!
A2: Oh, how wonderful!

The only other things that affect social status as much as occupation seem to be marital status, babies, and geographic location. Your occupation serves as a method by which people can identify you, discuss you, and categorize and file you away for future reference.

How do you get categorized by people when you have no occupation?

the nicaraguan chronicles

I recently spent nine days in Nicaragua, bouncing around from city to city, hostel to hostel, meeting dozens of new people from all over the world. When they learned that I’m only traveling for a week, they ask me what I do back home in Cleveland. I’m still struggling for that perfect answer. If I say I cook, they assume chef. If I say I work at a bar they give me an idle “Cool” and dismiss me. If I say I just quit my job and am currently working on writing a fantasy sci-fi series, they say “That’s awesome! Have you read Harry Potter?”

It’s funny…I thought I would fit in with the transient hostel-jumping, world-traveling, lost-soul crowd that I found in Central America. Truth is, I’ve never felt more out of place among people than I did at these hostels. Maybe it’s because I expected to fit in so well. I always try to go into something with no expectations, but failed miserably on this point. I went in with the expectation that “these are my people,” and came back with the stark realization that I have no people.

I’m in il purgatorio della vita, and there’s no place I’d rather be.

……………………………………………

The next ten blog entries will be entitled “the nicaraguan chronicles” and will detail my first international trip to a country that’s not Canada. Stay tuned and hope you enjoy!

it rained on her wedding day

10/05/2010

(This is kind of a follow-up post to a spring posting.)

It rained on her wedding day.

Photo by Mike Lotz

It poured, in fact. All weekend. Without repose. And it’s still going.

Wedding pictures needed umbrellas. Bridesmaids were covered in goosebumps as they shivered with the groomsmen’s jackets draped around their shoulders.

There’s a sort of ephemeral elegance in rain on a wedding day, an intangible sense of the intrinsic nature of love. The soft pattering of raindrops on your face as you’re racing from photo shoot to photo shoot. The water accumulating in your hair til you give it a good dog-like shake and splatter anyone within a ten-foot radius. It reminds you that marriage isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. It’s bickering. It’s burning dinner. It’s the mistakes made. It’s weathering storms.

lost in a moment

The wedding day should never be perfect. For it is in the imperfection that we find perfection. That one crystalline moment where all in the world is right as rain, pun very much intended. Ideally, we can make all of our moments like that, but that would require me delving into meditation and enlightenment, which is not the purpose of this blog post. So for now, for the unenlightened masses of which we are all a part, we have to feel that moment where we are present and everything is perfect in its imperfection.

Personally, I prefer rain on the wedding day. I’ve never been a huge fan of the white wedding. I think it’s superficial and overly extravagant, and opportunistic people who know they can profit from them capitalize without remorse. Twelve-year-old girls are taught to fantasize about their wedding and are looking at wedding dresses by the time they’re 18. They imagine this incredibly perfect day where everything goes right, everybody gets along and the sun is a shining starburst in a clear blue sky. And then they get married and those beautiful storm clouds roll in and the cold, fat raindrops start to fall. It’s a dose of reality right when the bride and groom probably need it most. After all, you have to have rain to have a rainbow.

my moment of (im)perfection

It was my sister’s wedding this past weekend, but here is my moment of (im)perfection. I say it’s imperfect because when it happened, my head went in between my brother and sister’s and the one thought that briefly went through my head was, “Jessie’s head should be in the middle.” 🙂

This took place after the three of us cleared the dance floor and danced to an Irish drinking song by Buck-O-Nine. And then, of course, this naturally followed:

Muscle beers! Yeah!

We keep it classy, folks.

the nuts and bolts

04/16/2010

What do you dream you could do with your life? Is there something you wish you could do that you think is probably not going to happen? If only you had the time, the patience or the money, right?

We all have a perception of what fulfilling our dreams should be like. But when we get down to the nuts and bolts of the operation, it’s not as glamorous as it always seemed it should be. The whole “grass is greener” thing.

For example: I love music. It’s one of the numerous cornerstones of my life. So I decided a while back that I wanted to learn to create it, as opposed to just reaping the benefits of other people’s creativity. I was so motivated my junior year of high school that I asked for an acoustic guitar for Christmas…and I got it! I expected to be hammering out a song or two within the month.

I lost my motivation within the week.

some assembly required

I let it sit in its case for a while – a while being a year. Because I learned something as I began to strum my chords and pluck my strings: learning to play the guitar was hard! Switching between chords and playing intro riffs to the simplest of songs wasn’t all cheese and crumpets! Stairway to Heaven doesn’t sound so cool when you mis-pluck every other string in the intro. And when a guy can’t get past the first riff in one of his favorite songs, it doesn’t take much to get demoralized. I’ve decided that every passion or skill set should come with a disclaimer on the box reading, “Some assembly required.”

I knew I had to practice a hell of a lot more if I was going to get as good as John Mayer – he looked lonely on that stage all by himself! But practicing can be frustrating enough, let alone not seeing a bit of improvement. The perception I had was that I was going to train hard and practice all the time until I got wicked good! By the time I was 22 I would know every song anyone could name – the cool ones anyway. I’d be able to stand on a stage with Phish and jam with them – matching ’em tit for tat. I would own six or seven guitars because, well, don’t all awesome guitarists own a bunch of guitars?

The experience was a bit different than I anticipated…

That’s how it is with anything in life, though. We all have this perception of where we want our destinies to lead and who we want to become. But when we actually try to walk that road, we realize it’s really more of a path than a road…there’s dips and crannies we get our feet caught in and trip ourselves up…and it’s a bit more uphill than what we thought it would be…and branches keep hitting us in the face…

You dream of getting in shape. You’ll have that coveted six-pack, buns of steel and those sweet lines on either side of your abs leading down to your crotchal region (thank you Ron Burgundy). But after a couple weeks or months at the gym, you start to take days off – just here and there! But watching Housewives of New York or going to happy hour becomes more important. One six-pack takes priority over the other, and the goal is lost.

the nuts and bolts…

You dream of quitting smoking. You want your clothes to stop smelling and your taste buds to regenerate. You want to be able to run a mile without coughing. You see the light at the end of the tunnel, but then you start to walk toward it. You do well the first few steps. But then you’re out for a few drinks and everybody’s outside the bar blackening their lungs without you. The desire grows and your steps start to slacken. You have one cigarette – just one! – and then you buy a pack again. Your last pack…then you buy another one, and the goal is lost.

the nuts and bolts…

Everybody always seems to see what’s in the distance rather than what’s right in front of us. We see the six-pack but not the 10,000 crunches and captain’s chairs. We see the song but not the chords and riffs that constitute it. We see the marathon but not the two pairs of shoes you go through to train for it. I see my book, but not the 500 pages that need to be written first.

perception vs. experience

We’ve all seen the battle. We’ve all experienced its effects. I don’t want to sound completely downtrodden, though, as many times the experiences do lead to a previously perceived goal. Dreams do come true. You hear about them all the time. These people (maybe you?) have braved the experience and gone on to what they initially perceived their life could be – albeit it never turns out how you think it will. Sometimes it meets expectations and sometimes it doesn’t. But before you find out if your dreams will measure up, you have to brave the nuts and bolts. You have to push yourself harder than you ever have.

Because what’s an accomplishment without effort? Sure, from an outsider’s perspective it looks like you’ve accomplished something noteworthy, but you know the truth of it. You know what went on behind closed doors. If you put “just enough” effort into it to get by, is that really fulfilling, or are you just playing the role assigned to you?

unreasonable happiness

We can’t just lie in wait, stagnant, tepid. We can’t wait on happiness – that’s not how the often-elusive emotion works. People always tell themselves they can be happy after they’ve climbed that hill or rounded that bend. They wait for milestones in life and decide that’s when they can become happy! Grass is always greener, right? After graduation, after you get that rock on your finger, after you get a job.

If you decide to live your life that way, half of it will be empty. You’ll be a walking shell, caught up in the whirlpool that is your mind’s fabrication of “life.” Do you really know what it’s like to live, to truly live, walking around like that? If you ask me (which you didn’t, but I’m telling you anyway), happiness is in the nuts and bolts of life. This blogger captures the essence of that message beautifully. It’s the stuff that normally may not register with your conscious mind until you realize in your old age what you missed.

You don’t need to bathe in money to be happy. You don’t need to be a hero to be respected. It’s the day-to-day living, it’s the mild memories, it’s the obstacles overcome, big and small – it’s the nuts and bolts. These all combine with millions of other facets of living that make up your life. Open your mind and don’t lose sight of what’s right in front of you. Some of us are too far-sighted for our own good. You never know, what’s right in front of you may be the secret to your happiness, whether that happiness lasts 60 seconds or 60 years. Don’t be afraid to taste those raindrops on your tongue. Don’t be afraid to open your eyes a bit more to the small wonders this life can hold.

You may be pleasantly surprised.

plan for rain on your wedding day

03/11/2010

I had lunch with a good friend the other day. She’s getting married in May and the wedding came up in conversation – I’d be kind of an asshole if it didn’t. As we were walking back to the car she said something that stuck with me. She said, “I’m planning for rain on my wedding day.” She already has a personalized umbrella company on standby.

Love it.

As you could probably guess, she’s not an optimist. As I hope you already know, neither am I (cynical realist people, cynical realist). A tenet of my way of life is to go through it with zero expectation. That way you’re always pleasantly surprised. To some this sounds like a safe way out, but it’s exactly the opposite. By not having expectations, I’m able to live a fuller, richer life, not hampered by my emotional response to the results of events about which I expected something more or something less.

happy chuck norris, 70th birthday! (albeit a day late)

Case in point: I was on the ol’ Facebook chat with a friend a few weeks ago. Asked her how she was and she alluded to the certitude that not all in her realm of existence was cheese and crumpets. I inquired as to a more thorough explanation. Her response to my query was as such (do I sound fancy yet?): her boyfriend didn’t live up to her expectations with what he did for her birthday. She had just gotten back from a long trip and she expected him to be so excited to see her. Basically she was just a bit underwhelmed by his emotional response.

Now granted, one would expect one’s significant other to be excited when one returns home from one’s long trip…and there we have our problem. Disappointment caused by expectations. “Our lives are measured not as much by our experience, as by our expectations.” Love, George Bernard Shaw.

step by step

Don’t expect the whole kit and caboodle. If she would have come home with no expectations, she would have been delighted when her boyfriend merely kissed her. But we were taught not to settle. We were taught to shoot for the stars, hope for the best and all your dreams will come true. Now I’m not saying don’t try your hardest at whatever it is you’re doing. You work your friggin ass off and endure the grueling process that is realizing your dreams. But don’t expect them to be fulfilled. This causes you to keep looking into the future and forget about the present moment. And dear lord, that is anathema on this blog!!

As I write my book, it is hard for me to stop envisioning the final product with a bad-ass guy on the cover looking all tough and bad-ass-ish, with 400 pages of adventure and excitement, drama and broken hearts within. I have to keep that scene in mind that’s flowing from my hand onto the paper. I have to keep in front of me the conversation that a supporting character and a nondescript one are having. I have to progress the storyline with each sentence, with each coordinating conjunction, with each punctuation mark, with each subordinate clause. Focus on the moment, and don’t expect the end-result. As John Lennon would say, life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.

When that first friend has her wedding and it downpours, that’s going to be one hell of a wedding day, running make-up and all.