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

 

Category: Expectations

Easier Said Than Done

Hey!

Long time no see!

I won’t bore you with the usual litany of “oh I’ve been so busy I couldn’t possibly find the time to write!” That would be both slightly untrue and… a total cop out.

The honest reason that I haven’t written in a while may be:

A) It’s scary to talk about your life and thoughts and opinions and have them accessible by anyone in the world with an internet connection.

B) I do not believe that people are inherently interested in what I do every day (like what I had for breakfast or that I walked my dog) so I try to create blog posts that add value, in however small a way, to people’s lives. And that’s hard. Ok, pity party over.

C) I realized that in all my bravado about “letting go of expectations” I had created a ton of expectations about the blog. I wanted to have so many posts a week, I wanted to create a strong social media presence, I hoped to attain a decently sized following eventually, I felt that posts had to be a certain length. All those expectations made it more like a chore and less like a fun thing that I wanted to do. And nobody was making me do it. So I stopped. And then I didn’t start writing again because I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to keep writing as much as I “felt like I should”.

D) All of the above.

It took me a while to finally answer this question, and even longer to decide what I was going to do about it.

I decided that I am going to try my best to practice what I preach and move forward with the blog without my previously held expectations.

Well…

At least with a mindfulness that the expectations that I have set for myself are completely arbitrary and that I can acknowledge them without giving into them.

And I’m going to start that off by making this post short and sweet!

I won’t try to sell you on the usual, “I have a ton of exciting stuff lined up so come back soon!”

If you like reading, check back now and then. When I think of something to write, I’ll post it.

It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.

The Welcome Surprise of Low Expectations

Having high expectations for something is an easy way to set yourself up for disappointment. Maybe you heard that a movie that just came out is “literally the best movie ever made”. You go into the movie expecting a visual masterpiece and a plotline to rival the works of Shakespeare.

When the movie is over, you agree that it was good, but probably not the best movie ever. What’s more, since you went into it with the expectation of watching the best movie ever and it didn’t live up to that, you probably like that movie a little less than you would have if you went into it with no expectations.

I was recently happily surprised by a situation in which I had no expectations for myself while I was practicing yoga. I started doing yoga about four months ago, and while I love watching people who are good at yoga maneuver their bodies into elegant poses, I know that I am a long way away from that.

Occasionally I get impatient with myself and wish that I could progress with yoga more quickly, but most days I am ok with where I am at, and I am ok with the fact that the journey to more strength and flexibility will take a long time. I also know that I am not very flexible, especially in my lower body.

That was why, when my heels touched the floor in downward facing dog, I was ecstatic.

In downward facing dog, your hands and feet are on the mat and your butt is up in the air, with your body in the shape of a V. I remember in one of the first yoga classes that I ever attended, the instructor said to think about your heels coming all the way down to the mat in downward facing dog. With my heels four inches away from the floor, I thought she was crazy.

If I had any expectation about my heels touching the mat, it was that it would happen after years of practice. Honestly, though, I didn’t think about it much. I just enjoyed stretching out the backs of my legs in downward facing dog.

Then, one day, I was practicing yoga at home following a video online. This was after about three months of practicing most days, but not every day. Toward the end of the video, I went into downward facing dog and it happened! Both heels touched the floor!

I was so excited that I couldn’t even go into Shavasana, the final resting pose that you are supposed to end your yoga practice with. Instead, I ran into the other room to show Husband, who was happy that I was happy but not quite sure what all the fuss was about. The dog, on the other hand, was super happy about all the running around and excitement.

Most of the reason why this was so exciting was that I hadn’t expected it to happen for a very long time. If I had expected my heels to touch the ground after one or two months of practicing yoga, just like expecting to watch the best movie ever, I would have just set myself up for disappointment.

Yoga practice has been a great way for me to embrace the moment and release any idea of how things should be. I have become better at tuning into my body and accepting where I am every day. Since that first time my heels touched the floor, I have had days where that has happened again, but I have also had many days where it hasn’t, and I’m perfectly ok with that.

I enjoy yoga much more when I think about it as a journey, instead of a time to push myself into perfect poses. You can think about life in much the same way. It is a journey that will be much more enjoyable if you take the time to enjoy where you’re at each day, instead of just rushing to get to a place where you think you’re supposed to be, such as having a certain job or relationship status.

The key to enjoying the journey is not holding onto expectations about what a yoga pose should look like, or what you should be doing at a certain point in your life. My heels touching the floor in downward facing dog was a lightbulb moment for me about how great it can be to have low expectations.

Of course, I don’t want to have low expectations about everything in my life. I still want to have goals and things to strive for, but I hope to hold onto my goals without turning them into expectations. It’s great to have something to work towards, but much less great with the unnecessary pressure of expectation.

So go on, enjoy the journey, and open yourself up to feeling surprise and joy over the little things.

From Breadwinner to Housewife

First thinking about it, it sounded great. I get to quit my job and become a housewife?! Sign me up! Sure, I figured I would do a little more cooking and cleaning than before, but then I would have most of my time to myself.

I had this image in my mind of a housewife living a luxurious lifestyle including coffee dates with friends in the middle of the day and regular manicures. I knew that would not be me, though – and not just because it is too hot in Grenada to drink coffee. Being the wife of a medical student means lots of debt, a tight budget, little time with Husband, and lots of time spent doing the housework of two.

Let me back up a little bit, though.

From a time well before marriage and medical school, I always thought of myself as a strong person who wouldn’t ever change my life path just for “some boy”. I was an independent horse girl, and Husband (Boyfriend, at the time) knew that he would always be second to my horse. I had been riding for far longer than I had known him and he respected my commitment to riding, my passion.

While we were dating, we were essentially financially independent from one another. We had our own vehicles and were able to move about as we pleased. Looking back on it now, I see that we were moving through life on two parallel paths.

Then, on a glorious summer day, surrounded by our family and friends, we were married. It was a joyous next step in our relationship, but I really didn’t think that marriage would change things that much. We were already living together. We had been dating for three years. I figured we would continue on exactly as we had, but with new titles and joint tax returns.

One short month after we were married, Husband started medical school in Grenada. We were both well aware of the fact that if I didn’t want to give up my life in the US, I wouldn’t have. Truth be told, though, I was feeling burned out and thought a change of scenery would be a great way to re-connect with where I wanted to go in life.

After a brief period of time exploring the island together, classes started and Husband hit the ground running. That was when I became responsible for every aspect of our lives outside of his studies, and at first, I misunderstood what that meant.

I thought it was going to mean doing a little more laundry than I was used to, not changing the laundry schedule that I have always kept because that schedule doesn’t fit his needs. I thought it was going to mean making more of the decisions, not making the majority of them because it is more important for him to be studying.

I really grappled with this feeling of making changes to accommodate Husband. It sounds terrible, I know, but hear me out.

On the one hand, I knew that he is in school, he is incredibly busy, and him being in school now is something that is going to contribute to our future together. He is busy because he is driven to succeed in a difficult field and I am super proud of him for that.

On the other hand, I pride myself on being an independent person who wouldn’t change who I am for someone else. I also refuse to fall into gender roles and being the good wife who has a clean house and a hot dinner ready for her man when he gets home is not at all what I aspired to be.

I always had goals, and I attained them for myself. But when I was no longer sure what those goals were, or what direction I wanted my life to go in, and I seemed to be turning into the good little housewife without her own goals or aspirations, I began to resent doing the things that were my side of the bargain while Husband is in school.

It was only after a lot of reflection that I was able to understand the source of the resentment. I realized that instead of walking on two parallel paths, we needed to be walking on one path, together. His path was the one leading to a more stable future, and he had already made room for me on it, so I finally decided to leave my path and join him on his.

He is leading us down this path right now, but I know that will not always be the case. And now that we are on one path together, I am not doing things either for myself or for him, but everything we do from this point forward is for us.

Now, I feel like instead of doing things for him, I do them out of respect for him. And out of respect for me, he is giving me – as he always has – the time and space to try new things and have fun.

It was worth it, but it wasn’t easy. It was only when I ceded my expectations about what it meant to be a strong, independent person that I saw that I could be that person and help my husband through medical school at the same time.

Now, I am okay with being a housewife, because I finally understand that this is the best thing that I could be doing right now to help us achieve the future that we want.

And, someday, when I am leading us down the path chasing my dreams, I know that he will be right behind me.

Long Distance Friendship

This might come as a surprise, but I tend to form expectations about how things will turn out in the future. Shocker, I know. I especially do this with things that I haven’t experienced before, and then I cling to those expectations for security. I don’t like things that are surprising or unfamiliar, so having a clear picture in my mind of how things will unfold can be very reassuring.

Coming to Grenada with Husband, I had an expectation about how the relationships that I had with friends and family back home would change. So far I have been proven absolutely wrong. And I am really glad about that for a change.

Don’t get me wrong, coming to an island where everyone I’ve ever known is hundreds of miles away across a vast body of water certainly did change my relationships. It was just not in the way that I predicted.

What I’ve learned so far is that when you live near people, it can be hard to make time to spend with them. You tell yourself that you are too busy, or too tired, or that you will see them next week. Definitely. Probably.

You take interactions for granted because you will see the person again at work tomorrow. Maybe you don’t make the time to talk to someone as often as you should because, somehow, living in relative proximity makes you feel more connected to them than you really are.

When you live far away from your friends and family, though, there is no proximity, no chance to visit them easily, no thinking that you will probably see them soon. While this can put strain on relationships, it doesn’t have to.

Luckily, we live in a time when it is possible to communicate with people all over the globe almost instantaneously. Thanks in large part to this, my relationships with friends and family haven’t stagnated as I feared they would. Instead, they’ve just changed, and not for the worse.

Now, when I communicate with friends and family back home, those interactions seem more deliberate and meaningful. The scarcity of their company makes those emails and messages all the more important to me, and I don’t take for granted the words that we are able to exchange like I did before.

When you are able to spend a lot of time with someone, oftentimes the conversations become diluted with filler just to pass the time. However, when you are no longer able to interact with someone frequently, the conversations become distilled and you find yourself talking about the things that are truly important.

Distance can even open up fun avenues of communication that you probably didn’t use when you lived close to friends and family, such as writing letters. Maybe it’s because gifts are one of my love languages, but when I take the time to write a letter and put it in the mail, it makes me feel much closer to that person. It is also nice to receive something in the mail besides bills!

I’m not going to lie, staying in touch can be difficult. Sitting down to write to your friends is not nearly as fun as spending a Friday night out together. For those of us that are bad at answering texts or messages under normal circumstances, there can be an added layer of complexity when that becomes your only form of communication.

The effort that it takes to stay in contact with people will cause some relationships that were tenuous before to falter, but the effort required to maintain relationships, especially over distance, is not always a bad thing. On the contrary, if you put the effort into maintaining a relationship when you live far away from someone, it will only make that relationship stronger.
Another thing that I’ve come to realize is that living farther away from someone can even increase the amount you communicate with them. The person that I have experienced this the most with is my brother.

Growing up, we were always close enough. As we entered the bustle of college and adult life, we would see each other at dinner nights with our parents and all the extended family functions, but we rarely contacted each other just to talk.

Now that we’re in different countries, I’ve talked to him more on the phone in the last few months than I have in the past year, and our conversations are much more in depth than they used to be. I think that we used to feel closer to each other than we really were because we lived near one another and would see each other fairly regularly. Distance gave us the perspective we needed to see where we wanted our relationship to go.

I don’t think that you need to move to an island away from all the people you know and love to experience this change in communication and relationships. All the change in location did for me was give me a different perspective, and you can change your perspective wherever you are.

All it really takes is a bit of reflection about the relationships that you value, and making a commitment to not take them for granted. Make a commitment to see people more often, even if you just had to work late. Make a commitment to call you grandmother more often. Make a commitment to put even a little more time and effort into the relationships that mean the most to you.

It won’t be easy, but I think it will be worth it. After all, what fun would life be without the people who give it meaning?

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.