The purple squirrels
Updated: Mar 20
Are you looking for yours too?
Well said. Another great wisdom from Brene Brown hits home today.
My expectations come back at me,
all the time.
And ouch... they hurt.
What are expectations?
Expectations are hopes, wishes from ourselves, or from another person, or from life itself that,
something will happen the way you envision it,
someone behaving the way you hope them to be,
something happening at a particular time,
something that you hoped to achieve at a certain time
The fact is that life doesn't work that way. I mean, we can't control life.
I know this. Damn it. I know it by heart that things don't go as planned, they are delayed, they are messed up, people get busy, they are scattered or lost... Life is never as I planned. and it's disappointing.
Then, why I am feeling so bad still when things don't go the way I planned or when people let me down...
Those hard and rhetorical questions of mine...
Expectations are heavy and messy. They broke into million pieces of disappointment and resentment when not fulfilled and they make you bitter.
They can toxify a relationship so easily or even end it before it starts.
Worst of it all, they are most of the time, invisible. It does take a huge conscious effort to bring them to our awareness.
As if it is not enough, unfulfilled expectations have this bad habit to come back at you at your backside and trigger unworthiness and low self-esteem. Thinking that the other party did not do a certain thing and disappointed you because they did not value your time or even worse, didn't value you as a person...
When an expectation goes unnoticed or unfulfilled, I have this exact tendency to self-blame and shame myself that I expected too much from the wrong people as if it was my fault that I feel bad...
I think I set the tone for my latest disappointment episode well enough (and the reason for this post),
so here is what happened.
As a newcomer, as you can imagine I am eager to find new friends, families, community -- basically, find my people in a new country. I am determined to find and participate in my community here in Canada.
I know how hard it is to belong to a place when you really don't have people that you can talk to from heart to heart. So I love meeting with people, virtually, of course, to find other families like us and connect with them.
It's not easy to find and meet new people in the middle of a global pandemic.
I know. I know. But we try. We still try.
In our little quest with my husband, "to find our people" we keep trying to meet new people.
We tried connecting with another family recently over Facebook who also happens to have a toddler at the same age as our daughter (yay!) hoping that we will relate to them and thinking that we have so much in common...
The expectation here was that we will be able to meet with them (virtually) and get to know them.
To me, this didn't seem like a big deal. In the evening our house is calm after our daughter goes down. So we tried to set up a virtual meeting in the evening. Twice.
As you can imagine from the way this post is going - it didn't go so well.
Actually, it didn't happen at all.
We didn't even get to meet with them, let alone getting know them...
I felt bothered and irritated that for two consecutive days we couldn't make it happen even though we tried to be flexible on time, due to some issues on their end we ended up canceling it altogether.
I found it hard to empathize with the fact that twice they canceled on us... telling that their daughter's bedtime is very irregular and that they can not plan anything for sure...
I felt very disappointed.
I looked deeper into this disappointment and why I was still feeling that stingy feeling towards a total stranger?
Deep down, rather than seeing it simply as a scheduling problem on their end,
I came to this fast conclusion that probably they didn't want to meet with us truly. For some reason, I thought they were not willing to make this happen with us.
I got upset.
This behavior bothered me on several levels;
First, as I am personally very strict about my plans and commitments. If I say at 4pm, I am there at 3.55. I am proud of myself as a prompt and very reliable person. (some people call me uptight, high maintenance, or rigid. Oh, well...they might have a point)
So I have this belief that if someone cancels on me twice, I can not call them very reliable. (Basically, they are not like me)
Secondly, I felt like I was robbed of my chance to meet with a family (that I was desperately wanted to get to know)
and last but not least felt that I was not valued.
Swimming in these negative feelings, I decided to write this down and take an anthropological view of this event.
The bitterness of disappointment is hard to grapple with.
When my expectations go unmet, starting questioning my self-worth and feeling the shame,
I usually find myself being in my perfectionist pants and poking people around as The Judgmental Kumsal with a stick. Well, I know that that's my armor.
Rather than counting all the possible bad characteristics of a family that I have never ever met with, I decided to take a step back, and not to catastrophize things for a second.
I tried following these steps to stop the shame storm in my mind and try to calm my mind after this disappointing episode and look at things in a calmer and more objective way.
I believe they worked to a certain extend, so it's worth sharing my "findings"
1- Give the benefit of the doubt
"Are you sure the story you are telling yourself is absolutely correct?" I ask myself after a disappointing event.
As a scientist, I love facts. So I ask myself "Do I have all the facts?"
Maybe things are not the way you think you are. Maybe they are.
The fact is that you don't know the whole story.
You could ask them?
This requires tremendous vulnerability. To tell someone, "hey what you did was not what I expected, can you please explain what's going on here?"
It's a highly vulnerable situation. I know, it is going out on a limb but sometimes it is worth it. And it is necessary if you want to build a relationship...
If they are willing to share and be honest on their end, things could get better.
In case of asking, there is a chance to access their side of the story and maybe feeling compassion towards them after hearing their part. It's worth a try...
2- Retreat back and think
And, that being said - Compassion is the antidote to resentment.
"That's what she said..." you can think.
Yes. That's what I said.
I remind myself that I do not need to reply back and react while I am feeling resentful, disappointed, and upset.
Take a break and chill.
End the conversation and decompress somewhere else.
It is not possible to think rationally when you are upset or angry.
I find it very liberating to stop interacting & think about why people behave the way they behave.
This comes after thinking "Are these people crazy?? Why they are acting this way" part,
after I leave my judgmental-pants aside and get into my big-mature-girl ones...
I try to take an anthropological perspective and try not to let things go under my skin.
People have all the reasons they behave in idiosyncratic (crazy?!) ways
Plus who says there is only one right way...
People always have their reasons to behave the way they do and it's up to me to understand and accept them as they are.
which brings us to the next point...
3- Set a clear boundary and Let it go.
You can only control so much...
You have a choice to either accept a certain behavior or not. If you deem that you can not, then kindly but firmly assert this idea of yours and wish well to the other party.
You can hold on to your resentment or just let it go.
I mean resentment is really like drinking poison and waiting for another party to die.
It is ridiculous!
And you can only change a person so much...
Well, actually not at all. You can not change another person at all!
So either you take them as they are * aka acceptance * or let it go.
You define the behaviors that you are comfortable with. If you think you can not function with someone who cancels on meetings at the last minute (that maddening "something came up!" phrase)
just let them go.
(for the sake of everyone!)
After all, we are all human.
Imperfect and messy.
We fell short of other people's expectations and our own expectations ALL THE TIME.
Let it go, wish them well, and continue your day.
My parenting motto is "Do not ever judge a parent. Everyone is doing their best"
You know this saying: "I was a great parent before I had a child..."
I was "that parent": So judgmental and knowing it all.
Well, what did I know...
Now I am slowly becoming more and more human, less judgmental ( did I say slowly...)
Imperfection is better than being The judgmental-pants.
I know what it's like to be a parent,
I know what it's like to be scattered at times,
I know what it feels like at times that your life is a mess.
I get it. So I wish them all the best in their hmm "spontaneous" life I guess...
My take from today's interaction is that;
Perhaps this other family is not in a good place where they are ready to connect with another family.
I give them the benefit of doubt that they are doing their best and let them be.
We don't have to do anything with them at the moment. I wish them well and good luck.
(And I am left feeling so grateful that our daughter is sleeping through the night and giving us much-needed sanity that this other family is desperately craving for...)
4- Keep up the hope
I find this last part the most difficult for me...
After going through this cycle of expecting - not getting- disappointment and resentment - letting go...
I feel like losing my hope at times.
That I will ever have find my people;
People that hold on to their commitment,
People that I enjoy being with,
People that enjoy being with us as a family...
Well, I do try to keep the hope up.
That there are people out there that won't cancel on us twice and that we will enjoy our company.
People who will call back by themselves and say " hey? I missed talking to you. Do you have time for coffee?"
I do believe in the existence of those people.
You might call; purple squirrels for them, perhaps.
Hope is a dangerous thing...
January 14, 2021
Image courtesy: Canva