It’s a double-edged sword. A two-faced creature. The stuff that either makes dreams come true or shatter into itty bitty tears. It’s the glue between relationships – personal or professional. It’s what raises the bar for a lot of us or, if not met, can disappoint and crush.
No. It’s not love.
Expanding on yet another post I wrote almost two years ago about boxes and labels and expectations being a big part of that, I’ve come to another crossroads in my still-developing life. I’ve been willing to accept that I cannot be contained, cannot be categorized, and I’ve reveled in that freedom. But it wasn’t enough. Others still criticized and pushed their expectations on me to be a certain way and, though I stood my ground, I’d found old habits threatening to resurface. I felt guilty and wanted to bend to their will.
So this time around I’d made it perfectly clear. Do. Not. Expect. Anything. From. Me. I am who I want to be, not who you want me to be. Not my job to fulfill your expectations.
It was easy for me to wrap my head around the fact that their expectations were their issue. Not mine.
Some people complied, some people didn’t and that, honestly, annoyed me because, damn it. I expected them to respect my request.
Ahh, but I’d gotten caught in my own box of expectations, didn’t I? It didn’t occur to me until my cousin mentioned that she was waiting for someone to do something and it wasn’t panning out. She then added, “Oh well. That’s my expectation. Gotta let it go.” This ah-ha moment hit me like a nice 2 x 4 across my ego. I had to release the expectations I had of others. Yeah, I know. I said “duh,” too.
It’s brilliant. Obvious and simple, but brilliant. I’d thought of all of the little expectations I’d had of other people and I just had to laugh, starting with the expectation that others will release their expectations of me. A close second was how events or situations should turn out. Unpredictable at best with all of the possible outcomes, it was far easier to release that expectation then to try to control something I had no control over.
So, yeah. This expectation thing is a two-way street, a journey that if everyone took, could very well circumvent a lot of frustration. As much as we might like to, we cannot control and we cannot predict what another will do. We can only observe and try to respect.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
I had no idea that the gap that launched me into single status could possibly get any wider. I can see now, though, how inevitable it would be, for as I kept taking steps backward, slowly turning away from the disaster my life had become, and finally running like hell, my scenery changed, my viewpoint cleared, and my vision sharpened. I found myself standing in a place my ex would never understand. The rules regarding school work, curfew, healthy eating – the rules that united, albeit loosely, the ex and I together – soon became the mother of all disagreements.
Seventeen years ago, as part of my efforts to be the “perfect” mom, I adopted other women’s examples of what raising children “should be,” even if it didn’t resonate with me. Man, was that exhausting. I had rules up the wazoo and fought to keep them in place. And the boys fought back.
But eight months ago the blinders dropped to my feet and I found that I had forgotten to preach what I practiced. The solution was so simple.
Let them be.
Which is exactly how I prefer to be treated. I don’t want anyone telling me what to do or telling me what path to choose, so why should I do that to my boys? Sure, my body may be older, but my children’s souls are just as experienced as mine. These boys aren’t mine in the possession sense. From a spiritual point of view, I don’t have the right to put borders around their spirits and make them the exact image that society or even I believe to be true. I’m here to guide them, not mold them. They know who they need to be. Besides, what a waste of time when quite possibly after 18 years, they’re going to do and be what they want anyway. I know I did.
It is my belief that we come into this existence knowing what our life path is. The road map has already been printed up, although our free will sometimes overrides that map and takes us on some wild side trips. When we truly deviate off that path,though, it doesn’t go unnoticed. Don’t we feel the discord when we want to go one direction and someone tries to convince us otherwise? Especially if the only source of righteousness is in their own mind? Or what about compromising on something we truly believe in?
My mother pushed me to go to college because it was what I “should” do, yet all I did was spin my wheels, lost a lot of brain cells, and ran up a student loan that never should have been. Besides, halfway through the first year I realized I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. This is one area I won’t push my boys on. No amount of lecturing is going to make this the right choice for them. True motivation must come from them. Otherwise it becomes my job to keep them going, a burden that will have us both resentful.
In the months past, I’ve gotten a clearer view of who my boys really are. Without the shoulds masking their true source, I’ve been able to appreciate their way of thinking. I’m beginning to understand what makes them tick and why they don’t fit into the boxes I’ve been trying to put them in.
Sex, drinking, drugs, school, safety, curfew – those are issues I will never compromise on. Honestly, though, I have no control over their ultimate decisions on those topics, but I’ve made damn sure they know what the consequences are if they deviate from my “recommendations.” So, armed with that information, it’s their decision as to what outcome they desire.
Some may think this is the wrong approach or the lazy way to parent, but it is actually very difficult at times. To stand back and watch their actions put in motion a set of reactions (whether they be mine or someone else’s) makes me want to peek out from behind splayed fingers. It’s nothing short of a challenge to stay back and let them do damage control. On the flip side, when they are really thinking it out and the outcome is in their favor? It’s awesome.
It felt good to finally release the ties, because forcing the boys to do what they clearly do not want to do didn’t resonate with what I was all about – freedom of choice and independence. I’ve let my boys make choices of when to go to sleep (though the connection between late nights and being tired the next day still hasn’t sunk in), meals, what school classes to take, and friends. As long as safety isn’t an issue and they’re not hurting others, I’m good.
Which might explain why they gravitate to me and not to the “other.” That “coolness” factor I seem to have with the boys and their friends is, I believe, actually the elation they experience when they connect with who they are.
Think about the people we tend to gravitate toward – those who speak to and understand our souls. Not those who contradict or repress our fires, but those who stoke it, feed it, and encourage it to rise.
My boys’ path is their own. I’ll be there to dust off their knees, put a band-aid on a broken heart, give them advice on hangover cures, and I’ll give them room to fly, because they’ll need it to get over the Grand Canyon-size crevasse of thought that yawns between “the other half” and me.
We all do it. Or rather don’t do it. We don’t always say what we think. You know what I’m talking about. We’re on the verge of saying something, but then we cover our thoughts with sighs and forced smiles.
We put on that façade because…sometimes it’s just easier. Easier to slip out of the conversation unnoticed. Explanations usually only complicate the situation, opening the door to more discussion and blatant exposure of our soul. We are called on to answer questions that sometimes catch us off guard, tricking us into revealing more than we had ever intended. With everything so transparent, we are up for scrutiny with emotional poking and prodding and curious interrogation.
So, instead we come up with pretty words, smoke-screen phrases, trick-of-the-light diversions that lead our companions down one alleyway, while we’re running like hell the down the other, looking for the nearest dumpster or empty doorway to hide in until the perceived threat passes.
Or maybe that’s just me.
Okay, so I tend to hide sometimes. Even when my heart screams yes, my mind slaps me upside the head and says, “Are you nuts? What are you thinking?” For years the tides of emotion in my house began and ended with me, and for some unknown reason, my emotions were law. Me. My emotions. As if I had any expertise in that field. Go figure.
So, to maintain a steady stream, I dubbed myself the dam keeper. And it became a way of life. But it doesn’t serve me anymore, and now I’m working on my letter of resignation.
As part of my “rehab,” I do let loose. There are playgrounds I let the Wild Child run amuck, giving only a brief show of concern when the Wild Child gets too…wild. But some neighborhoods are dark and silent, familiar, yet…not. I tend to explore those with a bit more caution, making sure each step is solid before moving on. But the Wild Child is always there, egging me to run through those streets barefoot. Some days she’s so much fun to follow, and I lose track of myself. Carefree one moment, waking up the next with such an emotional hangover, thinking…Yikes! Did I actually do that?
Ah, but we’re all works in progress, and I’m certainly no exception. I would even claim that none of us are the same as we were one, five, or ten years ago. Shedding behaviors that are counterproductive – just like ridding our closets of the clothes that don’t fit us well anymore – is key, and huge to our growth.
It may be hard to part with that comfortable pair of sweatpants, but, baby, if it doesn’t look good, if it’s worn out and tired looking? Yeah. Just give it to the Wild Child. She’ll know exactly what to do with it.