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 don’t like being put in boxes. Boy, girl, dork, popular – those are boxes.”
“Sorry. But…” I wanted to know something. “How old are you?”
“Age is a box.”
~ From the pages of What Happened to Lani Garver by Carol Plum-Ucci.
Boxes confine. Boxes limit. Boxes keep things in and boxes keep things out. The only boxes I like are the ones that I put in storage because I have no use for what I’ve put in them and probably won’t for a long time. Like my high school yearbooks, my first lock of hair, hospital bracelet – stuff like that.
Labels are just like boxes. Slap a label on a box and we’ve got a perfectly, pin-pointable, predictable product. What happens when said product doesn’t perform in the manner the label on the box specifies? We send it back and get a full refund. In our eyes, it didn’t fit into our basket of expectations, and it gets the big, red Reject stamp across the front.
Same as putting labels on people. We label them, expecting certain characteristics and we are surprised and sometimes angry when prim and proper Mary Jane is caught dancing on the tables at a seedy bar, or the virtuous Mrs. Goody-Goody is caught washing down pills with a vodka tonic. How about Miss America showing some skin in pictures taken eons ago?
Society loves doing that – putting people in boxes and writing labels on them in big permanent markers. It’s easier to keep track of us that way. It keeps us in line. But that makes us feel like we have to live up to someone’s expectation – a heavy burden to carry.
One of the many problems with boxes, though, is that they create a finite atmosphere from which we can take our next breath. How can we be one way when we are supposed to act another?
I find it difficult to label myself, so normally I don’t even try, but as part of a workshop headed up by Kristen Lamb, we were asked to make a list of words to describe ourselves or how others would describe us. It was eye-opening, to say the least.
After I had written the word “calm,” I immediately wrote “explosive.” “Cautious” was followed by “impetuous.” “Focused” fused with “scattered.” One hundred words later, I was still not able to get a very clear picture of who I was – it was blurry at best.
Taking the time to write those words was a wonderful exercise because it made me realize I am all of those words, yet none of them, or maybe a bit of each, in a very –ish sort of way.
That probably explains why I could never hold down a traditional job. Most jobs have very specific boundaries in which to perform. I don’t do boundaries. Guidelines maybe. Boundaries never. Abiding by leases, contracts, rules, and regulations makes me break out in hives.
The same goes with time. Clocks are too regimented and too confining. I rarely give an exact time for when I will be somewhere. I know myself too well. It’s always 1:00-ish, noon-ish, or afternoon-ish. I’m often teased about it, but it’s an expected and accepted part of me.
So there you have it – the nuts and bolts of who I am – or who I’m not.
How about you? Do you fit into a mold? Can you identify yourself with just a few words? Where is your comfort zone? Let me know! I’d love to compare our lists!