Yesterday I had to endure what I would call an unpleasant dental procedure. One of my teeth had simply been worked on too many times to repair the now cracked filling and my dentist advised me to get a crown. I stifled my gut reaction – aaaah, no not that, not all of that painful drilling, PLEASE! – and accepted his advice. It was do it now, or do it at some indeterminate date in the future when the filling became damaged again. As I sat there clutching the arms of the dental chair, attempting to ignore the sound of the drill, it occurred to me that I was being silly. Dr. Ken knows me well enough after many dental procedures to make sure I’m thoroughly novocained before he brings a drill anywhere near my mouth. I was so numbed that I couldn’t move my lips for about 6 hours yesterday. And what I realized as I gripped the chair was that it wasn’t really hurting, it was simply my expectation that I would get a screeching nerve pain that had me so stressed and panic-y. Today I am so happy that I took care of this tooth because it has been causing me stress for weeks, and my expectation of treatment kept me from making an appointment.
Yesterday I shared how my high expectations for Monday night’s dinner turned into a merely adequate meal because of timing problems. And yet, this led to my inspiration to make a much better dinner the following evening.
Expectations… I believe they’re at the root of many of my stresses, parenting included. I’ve attempted to take a laissez-faire attitude with the girls’ rooms and clothing since they have become teenagers, turning the responsibility over to them. I expected that sooner or later they would be as horrified as I was by the indistinguishable piles of clean and dirty clothing in their room and decide to do their laundry on a more regular basis that included putting the clothes away right after washing. Annie has become a bit better at this, especially since she has had to deal with roommates at college. But there was no sign that Louisa was ever going to operate as I expected she would. It reached the point where I couldn’t live in a house with a room that was as messy as her room. My expectations had been unfulfilled, and my stress levels went through the roof as I tackled what had become the massive task of digging out her room. Was it her fault? Not really, she was perfectly happy the way things were. No, it was entirely my fault for creating my own expectations founded on the basis of … nothing.
It’s the point in the holiday season where I’m looking at my remaining gift buying and trying to decided whether I’ve purchased the right things or enough things for different people on my lists. I don’t want to fail my imagination of the expectations of my gift recipients. I’m becoming very distracted and unfocused ruminating on my recipients and how disappointed they will be. I expect that I should deliver the joy in abundance to each and every person, especially my children, and I expect that I will fail. This isn’t because anyone has ever told me that I’ve disappointed in the past. It’s my own expectations of their expectations, once again.
Take those yummy looking cookies in the picture above. Yes, another situation where my self-expectations weren’t met, and it caused me stress. I had committed to make something for the school bake sale recently and, for whatever reason, the muffins I baked caved in. Maybe my baking powder was stale? Or maybe I forgot to put it in? I’m not sure where I went wrong, but I couldn’t donate them because they looked really bad and would be left un-purchased on the table, a visible sign of my failure. My family ate them, so luckily they didn’t go to waste. But, I was faced with the problem at the eleventh hour of what I should do about the bake sale. Finally, I remembered that we had some tub cookie dough in the refrigerator that Joe had purchased from a coworker’s fund raiser. I quickly scooped out the dough, baked the cookies, and decided to customize the cookies by dipping them into some melted chocolate chips. Did I feel very good about donating something that wasn’t made from scratch? Nope, I failed my expectations. Had anyone specified that donations had to be home-baked. No. Did anyone else have a problem with these cookies, I seriously doubt it.
Until today, I hadn’t given much thought to New Year’s resolutions, but it seems that an appropriate one might be that instead of struggling to meet my imagined expectations of others, or the expectations of myself, I accept things as they happen. As part of that, I need to remind myself to follow in life one of the steps of my Zentangle practice, and appreciate what’s staring me in the face. Cookies that turned out tasty despite a change in plans; a dinner plan that only turned out so-so, but turned into an excellent second night dinner; the reality that my dental work really didn’t hurt and will save me pain and problems in the future.
Do you find yourself ever stressing over imagined expectations?