by Daniel D. Maurer
Great. Expectations. Expectations suck. I hate expectations. Mostly because so many of them don't ever materialize. Apparently I love them too, because I keep having them. Here's a list of typical expectations I have in any given time:
- Why didn't you click 'like' on my pithy, insightful comment on Facebook? I expected you to click 'like.'
- My boys sit downstairs and play on their screens after I told them to turn 'em off. I expect them to follow my rules!
- Why doesn't a multinational corporation behave like a family-run business? I left a complaint and they didn't respond. I expect them to respond to me!
- The AA meeting I attend decided to run this evening's format as Problem and Solution. I don't care for that format. I expect you to feel the same.
- The battery on my nifty battery-powered, ecologically-designed lawnmower is dead after a winter stored in my garage. I expect the damn machine to work when I want it to!
- I sent that book proposal four months ago and you still haven't gotten back to me, O Wise-and-Holy editor. I expect people to care about all the important work I do!
- Hey! I was just nice to you, and you weren't very nice back. I expect people to be nice in return when I started the niceness.
And so on.
I've asked myself time and again the usefulness of any expectation. Isn't it a part of planning? Don't other people do things, because they expect A, B, or C to happen? Aren't I acting as a responsible adult, a mature parent, a reliable employee, an insightful writer or a thoughtful husband because I expect people and events to happen in a certain way?
Well, no. Not for me, anyway.
But that's not because expectations are somehow evil or inherently life-destroying.
It's because I wrap up my ego and need to control people and outcomes solely on what I expect will happen. I think Dr. Robert Burney put his finger on the greater issue at stake:
Which is what leads me to talking about my cat, and what she's taught me . . .
I grew up with dogs. I own a dog now. He's the fourth German Shorthaired Pointer I've had in my adult life. I like dogs. I understand dogs. And for the most part, you can expect things from of a dog.
You say speak, he barks. You say heel, he heels. You call him, he comes. (Okay. Not all dogs are as obedient as mine. I get it. However, mine is.)
I never liked cats much in my pre-recovery life. Mostly because you don't own a cat.
They own you.
You are simply living at the behest of them. You can't really expect much from a cat. In fact, the more you expect from them, the less they will give.
But the reverse is also true—the less you expect from a cat, the more they will delight you with their antics, their love, and an overwhelming desire to teach you that you really don't know shit about this thing called life.
A cat knows that you shouldn't wrap up your ego in expectations. Life can throw you a curveball . . . or an opportunity at any time. When my cat sees a mouse, she skillfully stalks it with the hope of catching it. But she knows there are no guarantees. She has no expectations. And her ego isn't wrapped up in whether or not she catches it. No. She knows the grace and skill with which she performs life's tasks statistically will realize what she wants, eventually. She just has to keep at it.
Maybe I'm going overboard with this comparison. Maybe this is just another weak attempt by me to spit out just another of the myriad of "inspirational stories" that don't amount to squat in the long run.
But I don't think so.
The fact of the matter is that we can learn a lot from a cat about expectations and what they can do to our serenity if we depend on outcomes and responses from "the other," the stuff "out there" to determine how we feel about ourselves.
It boils down to this simple belief: You have very little you can control, but that's okay.
Before I had a cat, I think I was saying the serenity prayer backwards:
God, grant me serenity to accept the things I want to change; the courage to change the things I cannot; and wisdom . . . the hell with wisdom. I know what I'm doing. Amen.
The fact of the matter is life is mostly chaotic; life is still wonderful, and; life is horrible and no one's getting out alive. So what are you going to do about it?
Me? Well, I'm going to take this moment like my cat Chloe would—I'm going to chill the heck out and take each moment as a gift. Because that's all we really ever have.
About the author
Princess Chloe McMuffin owns Daniel D. Maurer, the writer who chose to write about her. She has no expectations that anything good will come from Daniel's writing, but if it helps someone . . . hey, that's cool. Daniel keeps the blog Transformation is Real and despite Chloe's insistent urging to think otherwise, he expects people to read the brilliant writing he puts up on the site.