Last night was the annual Harvest Festival at my daughters’ elementary school. It was a fun time, good food, great music, the kids had their faces painted, won little prizes, and even brought home a couple pumpkins. Yet our 6 year old stayed awake for a hour and a half afterwards, sobbing quietly in her bed because we left before she wanted to.
I find it so interesting that I had been writing about the very topic she was having trouble accepting. She couldn’t let go of the idea that things didn’t turn out the way she expected (which apparently looked a lot like staying out all night) so she tossed and turned until eventually she cried out.
There is a saying I’ve heard a couple times that goes something along the lines of: ‘Everything I’ve ever had to let go of had claw marks on it.’ I recall it taking a few minutes to digest these words and the imagery it brought to mind; a scene likened to that of a scary movie or maybe more along the lines of the deep, grooved scratch marks Wolverine, of X-Men fame, leaves with his claws.
This saying struck a real cord within me, leading me to wonder: What is it about letting go of expectations that scares so many of us? For some even the mere thought of letting go and surrendering an expectation can bring upon an onset of anxiety.
When we make an expectation of ourselves, what our lives “should” look like by a certain age, or how events “should” unfold, in essence it is as if we are carving these ideas into stone. “This is what will happen when I do A, B, and C.” “By the time I reach this age I will have X, Y, and Z”. Then the unfortunate day comes when expectation and reality collide and those stones begin to crumble.
In this moment some will take a step back, regroup and change courses. At the same time, there are those that will grab the mortar.. working harder and faster, trying to catch the falling pieces, rushing to put their stones back together, as they “should” be.
The problem with expectations is how devastating the results can become when they are not allowed to crumble, or fall away. There is no room for happiness or light in a clenched fist.
Happiness stems from realizing the sometimes harsh truth that nothing is promised. Not even tomorrow. With that knowledge comes the freedom to be happy now, with life, exactly as it is.. in this very moment. Surrendering one expectation at a time slowly opens that tightly drawn fist, till finally we are left with an open hand and the flexibility of rolling with the punches.
Each of us deserves to be happy right now. It’s true, happiness is not a destination. It can be attained this very second.. If we are willing to let go of those old ideas, those ones set in stone long ago.
After all, what it really boils down to is this: if today was your last day on Earth, would you have wanted to have spent it miserably fighting circumstance to make your expectations come to fruition or would you have rather relished in the beauty of the sun, the laughter of friendship, and enjoyed the gift of just being?