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

 

Tag: comfort zone

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.

Connect: One Idea on How to Make the World a Better Place

I had the most touching interaction with a stranger the other day. I was walking out of the post office carrying a box and my unnecessarily large purse. I got into my car and was arranging everything on the passenger seat when I heard a voice behind me.

An older man had walked up to my open car door and as soon as I turned around, he said, “I wish to be of assistance. Do not panic.” With that, he gently closed my car door and was on his way.

I was struck by the quiet kindness in the man’s eyes and the kindness of his gesture. As I drove home, I replayed the moment over and over again in my mind, and I began to tear up.

Most of the time, if a strange man followed me to my car and walked up to the open door, it would have made me nervous at the very least. This interaction was different, though. I immediately recognized his demeanor as kind, and his words were honest and comforting.

He wasn’t looking for the thanks that I uttered to my closed car door as he walked away. He just saw that I had my hands full and genuinely wanted to help me out.

Of course, I would have had no trouble closing the car door myself. But had that man walked past my car without taking a moment to interact with me, I would have missed out on a moment of feeling connected to another human being, and feeling that you don’t have to know someone to care about them and making their day a little easier.

Then another thought occurred to me. How is it that we live in a world where shootings and bombings are commonplace, but where a simple act of kindness by a stranger was enough to leave my teary-eyed?

In a world that is so vast, that is populated by so many people, how is it that we still feel such a large void when it comes to feeling a connection to the people around us?

I wish I could say that I had the answers to those questions. Or, better yet, I wish I had solutions. But I don’t.

I do know that we crave a feeling of closeness, connectedness, and honesty with other people. Look at the success of Humans of New York or Post Secret. While it can be much harder to seek a connection with strangers in real life than it is online, that makes those real life connections even more enriching.

The discourse that surrounds having meaningful interactions with strangers tends to focus on helping other people or performing random acts of kindness. While that can be a great place to start, I believe the sentiment could – and should – go much deeper.

In thinking about what we can do to help people, it is easy to think about it in terms of what we are willing to do for other people that will make us feel the best about ourselves. I might feel really good about myself for giving $20 to the homeless man as I walked by him on the street, but it may not have been the most effective way I could have helped him. Maybe a few honestly kind words would have made his day more than the $20. It is easier, though, to put money in his cup and keep walking.

I think that a more effective way to think about “helping people” would be to think about what you could do to show someone that you see them and that you care about them. And I mean really see them. Understand them. Respect them. Empathize with them.

The man who closed my car door the other day knew that I might feel nervous that he approached me. He understood that, respected that, and was able to put my mind at ease before I even had a chance to react negatively. And even though he knew I might react negatively, he put himself out there anyways.

These are the types of actions that can start to make the world a better place to live in. If we could all look at our neighbors or the people we pass as we walk down the street and put just a little bit of effort into seeing them as individuals, absent of any judgment, the world be changed for the better. If we then took that seeing and understanding and – even occasionally – showed those acquaintances and strangers compassion and caring, the world would be a much better place.

I’m not saying that it is going to be easy. I’m not saying that I am good at it. But it is something that I am going to work on. Instead of giving sympathy to strangers, I will work on giving empathy, and making their day a little better through honest interaction.

It is something that can be applied on a much larger scale as well. Think about groups of people who are different from you. Maybe they are different in their age, race, gender, religion, or any other way. Make an effort to see things from their point of view. It may not be comfortable. It will likely challenge a lot of the assumptions that you had about that group. It may be difficult, but it needs to be done.

In a world where we are connected on so many levels, we are divided just as often. We identify ourselves as being part of certain groups, ranging from gender and race to political affiliation and which sports teams we like. If we surround ourselves with only others who are like us, it then becomes easy to see people who don’t fall into the same groups as “others”, but we must resist that urge.

It will not be easy. It will not happen overnight. If you are doing it right, you will be uncomfortable at times and pushed outside of your comfort zone. But start small. Start somewhere.

Start, perhaps, by letting a stranger know that you see them, and show them that in some way – no matter how small – that you care about them.

How I Accidentally Climbed a Mountain

Ok, I knew that I was going to be traversing a mountain. But I think the term “hike” must be used very loosely in Grenada.

You see, when I signed up for a “hike” up Mount Saint Catherine, the tallest mountain in Grenada, I was expecting to trudge up mountain trails, get some nice scenic views of the rainforest, and have really sore legs the next day.

What I got instead was crawling through mud, using ropes that were probably secure to pull myself up the side of the mountain, and a healthy dose of fear for my life.

It all started out innocently enough, though. We began with the usual bus ride, where the one-eyed driver managed to not drive off a cliff in the winding, mountainous interior of Grenada by the grace of some higher power. When the road got so steep that the bus could go no further, the hike began.

About ten minutes in I was panting and hoping that the 12 liters of water that I brought for the day would be enough. To my great relief, though, the trail started to level out after that and we were able to enjoy a stunning view of the ocean.

ocean view from mount saint catherine hike

After a period of hiking through the rainforest – and occasional deep mud – we came upon a spot where a clump of tall bamboo had fallen away from the mountain and was obstructing the path. One by one, we clambered over the bamboo.

As I was putting all my weight on the hand of the guy helping me up so quickly that I just about pulled both of us over, I thought, “Wow, we are getting to do a little climbing on this hike! How exciting! Surely this will be the hardest part.”

I could not have been more wrong.

Eventually, the path got very steep, and we had to start climbing. Only it wasn’t quite climbing.

The mud that was a mere nuisance on the flatter path behind us made the vertical cliff walls that we were climbing treacherously slick at points. Okay, maybe they weren’t vertical cliff walls, but since I have the climbing skills and upper body strength of a toddler, it sure felt that way.

In any case, the going was slow, slippery, and much more closely resembled climbing than hiking.

Above us on the path, I could see that the trees cleared. The first few people who made it to that point exclaimed that everyone had to look at the view when they got there.

I continued climbing and finally reached the clearing. I looked around to see…

Nothing.

We were so high up on the mountain that everything was shrouded in mist, and all I could see was the frighteningly narrow, steep path extending a little way above me and a very little way below me.

I panicked. Suddenly, I couldn’t find good handholds or footholds to continue climbing, and I was stuck, clinging helplessly to the side of the mountain.

Luckily, someone that was ahead of me on the trail was able to pull me up the rest of the way. Otherwise, frozen by panic, I’m pretty sure my fellow hikers would have had to turn around early and get me air-lifted off the cliff that I was glued to.

This bit of climbing was followed by a narrow ridge where the sides of the path dropped out abruptly in places. As I continued, I clung to the plants on either side and kept my gaze focused on the path in front of me, trying to ignore the clouds below the path that I could see through the foliage.

Scurrying across the ridge, trying to stay as close to the ground as I could, I’m sure I resembled some type of Gollum-like creature. Despite living in the Caribbean for three months, I’m still definitely pale enough to pull off the comparison.

After the Ridge of Doom – as I affectionately named it – we came to a place where the path was so steep that there were ropes there to help you pull yourself up. As I was climbing with generous use of the rope, I heard someone below me call out.

With all my weight on this ancient rope and nothing but clouds below me, “check the knots in the rope when you get to the top,” was not what I wanted to hear.

After a good deal more climbing through the mud and dense foliage – during which time I began my pre-emptive panic about how we were going to get down the mountain – we finally reached the top and were greeted by this view!

top-of-mount-saint-catherine

Ok, so the clouds were kind of obstructing any real view that we would have had from the top of the mountain, but it still looked cool, and the howling wind and low visibility made me feel like I was Matt Damon in The Martian when he was stuck in that storm on Mars.

As we ate lunch in the gusting wind and dense clouds at the top of the mountain, I was able to collect my thoughts. Probably nobody had died on the mountain. A few of my hiking companions had done the “hike” before and obviously they hadn’t died.

On the way back down, all I had to do was keep my wits about me, go slowly, and try not to slide off the side of the mountain. Easy peasy.

When all the obligatory top-of-the-mountain pictures were taken, we began our descent. In order to stay as close as I could to the ground, I made liberal use of a technique that I’m pretty sure many professional mountain climbers use – the sliding butt-scoot. Whatever hope I had held onto about not being 100% covered in mud was quickly eliminated.

I descended the scary rope part of the mountain and was once again crouching Gollum-like on top of the Ridge of Doom, where I was waiting for the rest of the group to climb down. There, I reflected that going down the mountain was much easier than I had anticipated, and maybe my preemptive panic had been unnecessary.

It was all downhill from there (ba dum tss) and slowly the path began to widen and become less steep. Just after the adrenaline wore off and I was sure my legs were going to give out, we reached the bottom of the mountain. I never thought I would be so relieved to see our one-eyed bus driver as I was in that moment.

As we careened across the narrow, mountainous roads home, I began to reflect on the “hike”. I was proud that, despite my exquisitely unobservant nature and arm strength comparable to that of a T-rex, I had made it to the top of Mount Saint Catherine and back without becoming the target of a search and rescue mission.

Now, I am home. I have scrubbed the mud off my scraped and stinging skin and I am so sore that I need to hold onto something to lower myself onto the toilet, but it was worth it.

In all seriousness, it was a great way to push myself out of my comfort zone. It was yet another example for me that when I get out of my own head – like I did on the way down the mountain – things are not nearly as bad as I think they will be. Also, I went on the “hike” with a group of awesome, helpful, encouraging people who made the day fun, and it is definitely an opportunity that I am glad I did not miss out on.

Maybe next time, though, I’ll find out what is involved in a “hike” before I go.