Monday, January 14, 2013

The Expectation Game


My youngest daughter plays the expectations game the way I always have. I'm trying hard to get us both out of that habit. There's hope for her. She's only nine and hasn't has as much time to lay down those pathways in her mind. Me, I've been at it for a long time and so creating a new rut inside my head is a bit more of a challenge. It's one I'm up to working on, but it's going to take me some time. Let me show you what I mean.

With Evelyn, my daughter, it's simple things like being told that she has choir practice on Monday. Remind her of this on Sunday and she sinks. She is in a fairly exclusive chorus, one that she had to try out to get into, but it hasn't gone exactly as she had hoped. Too much singing, not enough meeting new friends and being able to chat. (She holds chatting as a very high priority and who can blame her?)

When she hears that she soon has choir practice, well, it sets her off. Her mind tumbles with all sorts of expectations of all the pitfalls that await her. She spirals down and it sinks whatever else is going on for her in the present because she has lost herself to the expected future.

I try to talk her out of it. "Just don't think of it," I say. "Forget I mentioned it." No dice. Then I try another route: "Hey, let's think positively about it instead of thinking about all that could go wrong!" Hearing that line now, I imagine what its effect on me would be. Yeah, I'd want to slap the person saying that to me. I imagine Evelyn wants to slap me too. It's admirable and surprising that she hasn't belted me yet.

So what is there to do?

The solution lies in looking at myself and then being sympathetic to her situation. That's where most solutions lie.

Tomorrow I'm going to lunch with my mother. If you have been reading these essays you know that my mother and I struggle with one another. It's not that we fight so much as that we are on opposite sides of a narrow but deep canyon. We can pretty much hear and see one another except when the wind picks up or the fog rolls in. But getting across seems out of the question. We can't figure it out. More than once we have considered just jumping. We could probably make it, but there's too good of a chance that we would fall short and be swallowed by gravity and darkness.

With all that in mind, it's hard not to have expectations about how lunch will go, yet I'm letting expectations go. I was going to say that I'm fighting expectations, but that's not right. I feel them coming on, along with nervousness, and I'm kind of nodding at them. It's as if to say, "hey, there, nervousness. How you doin'?" Then I'm letting it pass.

It's not that I get nervous about eating a meal with my mother. That's pretty easy. But I'm hoping we can talk about things that matter and maybe start to advance our way into some kind of relationship that does a little more for both of us. Most of the responsibility for this is on me. I have to make changes and be accepting of things. I haven't made those changes heretofore or been very accepting in the past, so it feels like a lot of work. It makes me anxious. But then I remind myself that we're going for lunch (to Sparky Town, in case you want to come along) and we can only do what we can do.

I haven't told much of this to Evelyn, though I've told her some. I'll tell her more after lunch because I want her to know how it goes for me. I want to let her see how it is to struggle with anxiety so that she knows she's not alone. As a child I had no idea that my mother suffered the same feelings and confusions that I did. She wasn't able to let me know. The good news is that I can let my daughter know and I can let my mother know too.

None of this is guaranteed to fix the world, but none of it can hurt. Besides, I've got no expectations about it. I'm just living life in the present. About the only expectation I have is that I'm sure to write on.