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Painful Expectations

What is the first thing you think of when the word pain is said? For me it’s physical. The kind that is out of our control. Disease, Death, Fractures … it happens TO us. 

Next I think of mental and emotional pain, when people act malicious. Someone for whatever reason wants nothing more than to see my soul crushed. 

Okay Joy, you’re thinking, why are you making me think about all the painful things in my life? Hold on, don’t check out yet! 

I also have realized another source of pain, something more subtle. It’s a special thing that has the audacity to ruin something without ever lifting a finger. Without ever saying a word, growing a single cell, or releasing a raindrop. This villain is Expectations, and it is within your control. 

  1. Talk about it. 

Childhood Joy had big expectations for her birthday. Nothing crazy like a private jet to Rome, or a Gucci handbag (she didn’t know she could dream that big). She wanted to wake up on her birthday morning with a brand new bedspread, and a gift at the foot of her bed. As a mother I would never dream of doing this, some level of sorcery would be required to change bedding during a child’s sleeping hours. But that's not the reason why I will never know this joy. You see, I never expressed this expectation to anyone, the quiet unuttered dream quietly rose and died inside me every year. (Yes, multiple years, I know!)  

  1. Don’t let it fester.

And these unspoken expectations festered into resentments. I have other examples as well, gifts I wanted that I never spoke of, hoping that my husband would spontaneously think of through our non-existent mental bond. Or even something as simple as how a certain Saturday would look.

I had expectations for new relationships in my life, that these people would take me under their wing, and help me when I needed help knowing through some non-existent mental bond. I expected mentors to grow and take me to coffee and nurture me all without me ever asking for such things. 

  1. Ask for what you want.

When I realised these resentments or rejections (or both) were from MY INTERNAL EXPECTATIONS I was shocked. But this made sense, I had never expressed these hopes to anyone! I did this to myself. 

Slowly I began to express my expectations, first in small things - like “I’d really like it if we could go for a walk this weekend,” and eventually asking a woman to mentor me. 

Communication is so valuable - everyone said yes when I asked for these small things. 

  1. Learn to recognize grief.

But it did not alleviate all of the hurt my own expectations had created. Some of them have evolved into grief, but recognizing that and knowing the root cause as my expectations has made it so much easier. 

  1. Lower your expectations.

Maybe this is terrible advice, but lowering my expectations has also been helpful. I do not assume everyone I know will read this. And because of that expectation if 1 person does, and tells me they enjoyed it, that will make my day. And if that one person is Lisa Greig the editor in chief, my day will still be made.  



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