There is a quote often attributed to prolific author Anne Lamott:
Expectations are resentments under construction.
I have been thinking frequently about this quote – and this concept – recently. The overriding concept there applies to me dealing with myself but also others dealing with me. I have blogged a number of times during this series about the self-centric portion of this idea.
All the “shoulds” and “should nots” along with the list-making of things I want to accomplish during all the free time . . . these are all parts of me setting expectations in my own mind. Of course, the end result is me feeling angry and resentful and guilty – beating myself up for not being productive enough or creative enough or whatever “enough” I am not achieving.
I am working hard on this, and I do feel I am getting better day by day.
The part that I haven’t written about yet is the external expectation piece. I suppose I have myself to blame for part of it. After all, most of my public facing social media presence has a strong focus on positive things: gratitude, great meals, amazing cocktails, inspiring quotes, etc. That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel negative things. I am human after all and I’m not such a Pollyanna that I refuse to accept the bad with the good.
That focus on positive, however, is not about avoidance. It is an active choice to be a voice for positive energy in the world. It helps me by focusing my mind on gratitude even during the worst of days and I hope that it helps others.
Sadly, one of the downsides of that public focus on gratitude is that some people seem to think it means I am always positive and available 100% of the time to join them in whatever project or experience they think might be fun at the moment – a Zoom call, an online interactive fitness class, a webinar, a virtual hangout, etc. Don’t get me wrong. I love doing fun things with my friends, but during this current situation there are moments when the best I can do is to take one breath after another and focus on my own well-being. There are times when I cannot even fathom the concept of speaking to another human being, much less being emotionally available to project a positive image.
I have moments – sometimes days – when I feel emotionally crippled and unable to do anything but the barest minimum of things to just get through the day. At those times, I have to cut myself off and I often ignore phone calls, ignore texts and messages, and sometimes just turn everything off so that I don’t have to have any interaction with others.
I suppose some people will consider that selfish. That, of course, is their prerogative and comes – surprise! – from their expectations of me. See how that works? If you assume someone will act in a certain way, yet you do not inform them of that assumption, then you only have yourself to blame when you are disappointed.
I fall into this trap all the time. I freely admit that I set expectations of others and get hurt when those things don’t happen. What I realize is that I have set myself up for failure. In the same way, I hope others will cut me some slack and realize that if they feel disappointed because I have not done something they want, or said something they desire, or responded in a way they have hoped I would respond – it’s not because I am a bad person and actively trying to hurt them. It’s because I simply had no clue what they wanted from me or – worse, that I am in the midst of an emotional meltdown and simply cannot handle anything more.
I speak to myself as much as anyone else here when I say: COMMUNICATE!
I am so bad at this sometimes. I have to get better at letting people know what I need rather than assuming they will read my mind. It works the other way around, too. If you are someone who wants something from me, just tell me. Don’t assume I will be psychic enough to read your mind. Then please be compassionate enough to understand if my answer is “no.”
And for the sake of all that’s holy in the universe, don’t get passive-aggressive and try to “guilt” me into giving you what you want. That’s the absolute worst-case scenario of this whole situation. I promise to extend the same respect to you.
I choose now to release my expectations of myself. I can only do as much as I can do at any given moment. As for others, they will either release their expectations of me or they will feel resentment towards me.
Their choice. Not mine.
It’s only Quarantine if it comes from the Quarante province of France. Otherwise, it’s just Sparkling Isolation.