“Great” Expectations

As I lie in a spa being oiled and kneaded, my mind is elsewhere. I find myself rating the atmosphere, the decor, and the manner and technique of the masseuse. I compare this experience with others. I shouldn’t be thinking, I think. I should be relaxed. Because I am in a spa, I expect to feel serene. Halfway through the treatment, I decide I’m tired of thinking. I surrender to the music, the heat, the touch…

Afterwards, as I sit in the relaxation room in a white robe and slippers, I get talking to an older lady. She tells me that she wasn’t able to have the hydrotherapy bath because she wouldn’t have been able to get in or out of it. She didn’t have the hot stone massage either because the masseuse was afraid of aggravating her psoriasis. I ask her if she’s disappointed. She says, “No because I had no expectations.” She’d enjoyed the swimming pool, the creams and the foot rub instead.

Expectations are usually a precursor to disappointment, anger and agitation. We get depressed because we think things should be different. We think we should be different. We become annoyed with loved ones because we expect them to behave the way we think they should. We cry on our birthday because it hasn’t lived up to the excitement we threw upon it. We feel let down by Christmas because the dinner tasted better last year; the presents didn’t make us / the children as happy as we’d expected; we’d looked forward to having all the family together but Steve couldn’t make it, Martha didn’t make an effort, and then there was that huge fight…

The movie that has too much hype surrounding it rarely lives up to our expectations. New Year’s Eve is often the worst night of the year. We stay in and we feel sad and alone. We go out and we’ve nobody to kiss at midnight and we’re embracing the toilet bowl. And as for sex… we’ve had better, right? Many women admit to feeling let down by sex (or their partner or even themselves) because they expect nothing less than an orgasm. As a result, they fail to let go enough to enjoy the moment-by-moment pleasure.

When it comes to relationships, expectations are often what hold them together but ultimately what drive them apart. I remember being dumped by a boyfriend and feeling disappointed because I’d expected him to be “The One” and it was going to be a pain to have to start all over again with somebody else. How far removed from the present moment is that? A friend told me how upset she was when her boyfriend left her. She added: “I was hoping to spend my birthday with him. I’ve never had a boyfriend on my birthday. And now, I’m gonna have yet another birthday as a singleton.” This guy just wasn’t right for her. It was her dashed expectation that saddened her more than the loss of this particular man.

We feel more at ease in the company of someone who’s not trying so hard to control everything. There’s more room to breathe, to laugh, to just be… So, if we stop expecting so much from those close to us, we’ll enable closer (and freer) relationships. And if we stop building up unrealistic expectations of events, we’ll enjoy them whatever way they turn out. It’s often the impromptu nights that are the most fun. And we end up really enjoying that trip we hadn’t been looking forward to. Why? Because we had no expectations and, therefore, no attachment to the outcome.

Having no expectations doesn’t mean acquiring a pessimistic outlook on life. It means slipping into the present. Enjoying everything as it happens. Letting go of control over ourselves and others. It means less stress and disappointment. It means relaxing into the flow and allowing life to get easier. When we have no expectations whatsoever, that’s when magic can happen…

tinybuddha.com

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