Letting Go of Expectations

From hectic life in the USA to island life as a stay-at-home-wife, this blog follows the musings of an anxious Type-A as she learns to slow down and tune in to the important things in life

 

Month: October 2016 (page 2 of 2)

On Having Bad Days

I feel like I’ve been having more bad days than usual lately. They haven’t been terrible days. They have just been the kinds of days where you wake up late, continuously trip on invisible objects, miss the bus, and inevitable drop something all over the floor and make a huge mess.

If you are having a bad day, I feel like there are two ways that you can handle it:

  1. Decide that today is not your day and wait until tomorrow comes for things to go your way, or
  2. Change your perspective. Take the opportunity to get to know a different part of town if you take a wrong turn somewhere. Instead of getting mad at your roommate for drinking all the milk, be grateful that you have someone to share rent with who is actually pretty cool most of the time.

If number 1 jives with you – and let’s be honest, we’ve all been there – maybe go to bed early so that you feel refreshed when tomorrow finally arrives. If you want to make today a little better, maybe treat yourself to one of your favorite things or try some techniques for improving a bad day.

Maybe you don’t want to wait until tomorrow to feel happier so you give the second one a go. I also usually take this opportunity to blast Shake it Off and Let it Go. Even if you can’t control what is happening in your life at the moment, you can always control how you think about it, and that is sure to make you feel better!

Oh wait, there is also a third way to deal with having a bad day:

  1. Have a bad day, change your perspective and look at the positives of the situation, still feel upset/mad/frustrated, and then get frustrated with yourself for not being able to feel better.

This third option creates a wonderful downward spiral of feeling bad, trying to make yourself feel better without success, feeling worse, repeat.

For example, I bought a beautiful pot roast from the local butcher and was super excited to try out a delicious new recipe with it. I even went out and bought a Dutch oven to make this thing happen. As I’m letting the pot roast cook away in the oven, I joked to Husband about how I hoped that there would be liquid left in the Dutch oven when I took it out of the oven (Fun fact: Ovens in Grenada don’t have temperature gauges. My choices are 1 – 5!)

A minute later I smelled something burning. My guesstimate of the oven temperature had been way off and I had in fact cooked all of the liquid out of the Dutch oven and my greatly-anticipated pot roast. I was crushed, and Husband rushed to the store to get a few items to salvage dinner and my spirits. I tried to think of the positives of the situation: the pot roast was edible, I’m lucky to have a husband who was willing to drop what he was doing to make me feel better, and I had just learned how not to cook a pot roast. None of it helped though, and I felt ridiculous that one over-cooked piece of meat could make me feel so lousy. In my defense, I LOVE food. But still. Cue downward spiral.

The best way that I have found to break out of the downward spiral is to consciously acknowledge what you are feeling at the moment, and sit with it. Don’t try to change it. A friend recently told me that she would think to herself how she was feeling, and follow it up with, “and that’s ok.” For instance, you might think to yourself, “I’m angry right now, and that’s ok.” I have found this to be so helpful in breaking the cycle of trying to change how you feel and ultimately making yourself feel worse.

Don’t get me wrong, sitting with negative emotions is not the most pleasant experience. I feel like it is natural to try to do something to get frustration and anger and sadness to go away so that we can replace them with better emotions, but when trying to fix it makes you even more unhappy, someone has to step in and change the pattern. And that someone is probably you. It is ok to feel frustrated, mad, sad, or upset when things don’t go your way. It is natural to feel those things, and the only person saying that you can’t or shouldn’t feel those things is you. So give yourself a break, take a moment to feel how you’re feeling, then go about your day. Chances are, letting go of any thoughts about what emotions you should be feeling at any given moment will have you feeling better, or – at the very least – not feeling worse.

Then you can get back to jamming out to Taylor Swift.

My Biggest Expectation

Growing up, I always thought about what my life would look like when I was older. I think most people do. We fantasize about the job we will have, the person we will marry, where we will live, the places we will travel to. While this is all well and good, it can put a lot of pressure on your adult self to live up to the life that you dreamed of having when you were younger.

My own dream life goes something like this: go to a great college, get a job changing the world where I am constantly engaged and paid well, meet the man of my dreams and get married, buy a nice house, save money for traveling the world in my free time, have two kids and watch them grow into well-adjusted members of society, and eventually retire and grow old with my adoring husband, children and grandchildren. Because I was horse-crazy, my dream life also included owning a small farm for my horses (plural) and competing as far up through the levels of Eventing as I could.

Even with these grand ideas about how our lives will unfold, we know that we will encounter some bumps in the road. Relationships are hard work, and it’s not always going to be easy. Having kids leads to countless sleepless nights, a messy house – and finding cereal where you would least expect it. Maybe you won’t get the job you want right away. Maybe you will have to move farther away from your family than you would like to. It sounds cute, from a distance.

But even my young-adult self thought, surely things will go mostly according to plan, right!? And for a while things did. I graduated from college, but I did not continue on to a higher degree as I previously thought I would. I got a job in my field right out of college – which I feel extremely lucky about – but it wasn’t a job where I felt like I was changing the world. I did meet the man of my dreams and get married, but then the future quickly became murky.

As we were planning our wedding, he was also applying for medical school. When the dust of the medical school application process settled, it was clear that we would be moving. To Grenada. An island. In the Caribbean.

Fast forward and here we are, married and living in Grenada! How cool is that?! While I fully realize how lucky I am to be living on a Caribbean island for the next couple years, it also threw a huge wrench in my ability to meticulously plan out every last detail of our future. Where will we be in two years when we return to the US for clinical rotations? Where will we be after that for his residency? With Zika spreading and the impending mountain of student loan debt that we will be in, when will we be able to start trying to have kids?

Another wrench that the move has thrown into my ever-important plans is that it’s really hard to get a work visa in Grenada. Which means I am, currently, a stay-at-home wife. Woe is me, right? But on the other hand, it has forced me to come face-to-face with the fact that I didn’t feel like the job I had before coming here was right for me, and that I don’t even know what I want to pursue as a career path.  The whole basis of my future – getting a job that I find fulfilling, where I am helping others, and that ideally pays well enough so that my family can live comfortably – doesn’t exist. I feel like I should have accomplished that by now, or that I should at least be on a clear path to getting there. But I’m not. And I’m going to try to be ok with that.

I’m going to try to be ok with that because sometimes, I think the biggest expectation that I have for myself is living up to the timeline that I created for my life. It is my biggest expectation, and also the one that causes me the most grief. Right now, my life is not on the track that I thought it would be on, and in some ways I feel like I’ve failed because of that. What I have realized now, though, is that if things went the way I thought they were supposed to go, I would not have had the time to reflect on what career I want to pursue. I also probably would not have had the opportunity to live in another country and get to know it’s culture and people. And I definitely wouldn’t be living somewhere as beautiful as Grenada. It can be hard letting go of your perfectly formed plans, but once you’re done lamenting their loss (and by all means, take that time), take a look around. Because it’s possible that the new direction that your life has taken you will give you just as many – if not more – opportunities than the path you thought you were supposed to be on.

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