Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Weight of Expectation

Grandma is home from the hospital, tottering around on a walker that we all know is just for show. She will abandon it as soon as she thinks she has used it long enough. It seems like we are all afraid to use a crutch or to lean on someone.

Scratch that.

Let's be honest with ourselves. And by "ourselves," I mean "myself."

I don't like to rely on anyone. Contrary to popular opinion, this is not because I think I will seem weak or incapable. I know who I am, and weak or incapable is not part of who I am. The problem is expectations. My friend Michael Dean (executive chef at Bread and Wine in Chicago, shameless plug for him) said once a long time ago that you should never have expectations because that raises the possibility of being disappointed. At the time I only half-believed him and came up with all kinds of reasons why that was bitter and cynical (which it might be, but still).

For the past decade or so, though, I have come to realize the truth of this situation, and for the past five months it has hit home hard. I got lazy with expectations; I stopped doing things, saying, "Well, I know I CAN do ______, but I don't really want to," and I expected Dane to fill in. This, of course, led to arguments when things weren't done on my schedule, but it also led to an atrophy of my DIY muscle and helped me take him for granted (on the plus side, this also helped me focus on my school.).

So now I am faced with the job of being two parents and the prospect of running a school that I would not have started had it not been for Dane's unflagging support. I had to jettison the school for a year, and now it all boils down to one thing.

Fucking plumbing.

It seems like every toilet, sink and drain decided to go Tango Uniform on February 17th. Guess who normally handled plumbing? Since I was wandering around in a fog, every decision meaningless and stupid, I didn't make one for myself but instead relied on other people to make them, but when all the family went away I was faced with the thorny problem of a shower faucet that leaked, two toilets that ran sporadically and a bathtub drain that didn't drain.

Karmic retribution. Why plumbing? Dane and I were both born under the zodiac sign Pisces, associated with not only being awesome (natch) but also being, well, watery. Or maybe it was because I always called Dane to fix it. Who knows?

So I called a handyman for the leaky shower faucet (and hung over his shoulder the whole time, with the exception of the part where I put on kneepads and crawled under the house twice to turn off the water, which was total bullshit except the handyman was a wee mite scared of spiders, so I did it), then started on the business of the toilets. Those were an easy fix (needed flappers in the crappers, as Dane would say).

For the bathtub, I stood in two inches of water every time I showered for two months before I finally got a drain snake and made some magic happen. I don't know why it took me so long.  I do know that the whole time I was doing it I was pissed. Pissed that Dane is gone, pissed that I am alone and have to do these ridiculous jobs myself, pissed at the dog who won't stop puking (and, indeed, puked on the bathroom floor while I was clearing the drain, which sucked but was relatively easier to clean up than when he pukes on carpet, which is more often than not), pissed at myself for taking Dane for granted, pissed for being stupid about plumbing and then pissed for being pissed because why should I have to know everything and being wrong or ignorant is okay.

There is no resolution to expectations, maybe. Maybe as humans that's just what we do. I feel like I am in recovery mode, Expectation Addiction (EA), curable only with a lot of ridiculous household chores, like plumbing and cleaning gutters and remembering to watch the tire pressure and change the oil in the car.

Or maybe I just need to show more gratitude. Maybe being grateful is the key. Pretty sure gratitude won't take the trash out, but it might be the key.


  1. I have learned a couple of things about expectations in my life. Some was learned academically and some what learned through the school of hard knocks.

    When expectations are poorly managed, four negative emotions emerge: anger, anxiety, sadness, and/or shame. Any one of which can be destructive in any relationship or situation.

    ANGER: When people are prevented from seeing their expectations realized, they often respond with anger.

    SADNESS: While it is much less intense, it is no less hurtful. When the expectations of your partner, your friend, your colleague, your child are simply lost, ignored or forgotten in the busy and frenzy of life, there is sadness and even a feeling of being unappreciated.

    ANXIETY: This can become your emotional pitfall. I often feel this way when I don't really know what someones expectations of me are. Y

    SHAME: When it is clear you have failed to meet the expectations of the other person (or sometimes even yourself) you feel embarrassed, ashamed, unworthy.

    The point? It happens. Expectations ride us all the moments of our life. They key - to my opinion - is not gratitude but rather the proper management of those expectations. The sanitation department expects you to have the garbage curbside on a certain day by a certain time. Have it there. Manage the expectation!

    1. Sometimes it is easier, I think, to expect nothing and just get what you get (and don't pitch a fit!!).

  2. I am HUGE believer in our expectations being directly related to our level of happiness in life. I am so often guilty of confusing how my expectations are really more about "me" than they are about "them." I join you in releasing myself and others from expectation along my journey.

    Also, re: home repair. I often look at many things that I think I am incapable of accomplishing this way: I look at those who have accomplished it and think "If they can do that, I certainly can!" (I learned this phrase from my textbook narcissist brother. But, it has served me well to empower myself to accomplish so much more than I might have tried before.) As a rule of thumb, I know I can do anything from the wall out. If it's inside the wall, I will assess the need to call a professional. (Electrician, plumber, etc.)

    You can do any repair yourself! And, it sucks that you have to. Much love and cheers.

    1. You're right; I know I can do these things. And you are also right in that it is awful that I have to do them. It's whittling down a life built around three people to a life that can be managed by two, only one of whom is an adult who should be expected to manage certain things.

  3. As I read this I am not thinking that you took Dane for granted. You are simply describing marriage. Yes, you able to fix these broken things, but Dane was capable as well. I would be SOL if my husband were suddenly to disappear. I am unable to fix a thing. I'm not kidding. It is okay that you relied on him. That is what husbands are for. It is okay that you argued, because best friends understand one another and forgive each other. Yes, be grateful for all the wonderful things he brought to your life, especially your daughter. Be grateful that you, with Dane's support, started an incredible school. And yes, be pissed that your life has been changed forever. But I don't feel that expecting things will ultimately lead to disappointment. If your expecting to win the lottery, well, you'll probably be disappointed. My point is that your friends and family are in your life to support you and help you. You should expect that they will listen to you, give you advice (wanted or not), help you fix toilets, and love you no matter what you say or do. I feel that if I couldn't expect these things from the people who are close to me, then I don't really need them. I do agree that being grateful is key. I wish I had some more profound thoughts for you, but I don't. I just want you to take the world off of your shoulders for a bit, and smile. Not a your taking my picture so I'll smile kind of smile. But a real, I'm happy at this second, smile. Then you may return the weight of the world to your shoulders. Or maybe just half of the world...XO

    1. Thank you for this. I am grateful for YOU. :)