Last Saturday, my husband and our two daughters enjoyed dinner together. Everyone had enough. Enough food, enough time to talk, enough love. No one was snippy, and laughter was abundant. Somehow the dishes were done without anyone having been asked.
I have been learning to hold lightly my expectations. Expectations about how the meal should go, how my daughters should talk to me, their father, and each other, how long the meal should last, and how we end the meal. Expectations about what kind of mother I am—gentle, reliable, generous, patient.
If we can hold lightly to our expectations, we are less likely to be disappointed. We can just be with and learn from other people and from our own mistakes.
“Expectations are resentments under construction.”Writer Anne Lamott
Holding lightly means that we can be delighted, not disappointed. Rather than crushing what we love in our grip, we set it on our fingertips, and hold it up to the light. We can make room for compassion–for one another, for ourselves.
When I hold lightly to judgment, I make room for curiosity. And if I can be curious, I can make room for surprise, joy, and connection. Generosity, creativity, and love have more room to bloom. Holding lightly allows us to see our own imperfections and those of others with gentleness and grace. Our jaw relaxes, a smile comes to our lips, we laugh, we leave lighthearted.
How about you? Is there someone or something that repeatedly disappoints you? Do you get your hopes up—that things will be different? That you’ll be different today than you were yesterday? That someone in your life will finally be exactly the way you want them to be? That your mother will stop asking when you’re going to get married? That your friends will know exactly the right thing to say after you’ve had a disappointment at work?
Are you holding onto hurts from the past? Are you waiting for the person who hurt you will understand how deeply hurt you are, apologize in just the right way and only then can you forgive? What happens when they don’t? or it isn’t? What thoughts and stories intrude upon the moment. What judgements fill your head and your heart? Do you tell yourself, it’s not fair?
Are you working harder than the other person to make something happen? Have they stepped away, leaving you to hold the rope while you wait for them to be different from the way they are?
Learn and Relearn
Holding lightly is not natural for me. Relaxing my fingers, opening my hands to what is and what could be is not something I’ve been able to once and ta-da! it’s done. I’ve had to learn and relearn how to accept life as it is.
“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”Joseph Campbell, author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces
I don’t know how our next family meal will go. We may revert to the old distractions and minor conflicts. One of the kids will be on her phone, the other will sigh. But I, holding lightly, won’t be disappointed.