(Not so) Great Expectations

10 days ago I went on a retreat. I hadn’t been for 2 years, since I was pregnant with Incredibaby, so I was very much looking forward to it. As probably the most intensely introverted of the builder bunch, I was looking forward to the silence and solitude more than anything. 9 peaceful hours of quiet in the car by myself, my own little peaceful room and 3 days of silence and meditation. This was what I expected, what I had determined I needed.

Despite hemming and hawing and insisting that I would have to leave late after my husband got home from work, I became part of a carpool to the retreat. 9 hours of time alone wiped out. Then I got a call the day we were leaving letting me know that they were overbooked and I would need to share a room. Sleeping in peaceful solitude was crossed off the list. The silent retreat ended up being not-so-silent.
I realized that I had a choice to make. I could let the missed expectations get the better of me and create frustration and stress or I could make the best of it and lovingly and willingly accept these missed expectations and make the most out of the retreat. Which stated me thinking (retreats are good for that) of how much of my stress and anxiety is created by my setting up expectations only to have them shattered.
There are the big things…I expected to get a clean bill of health and instead found myself in a biopsy surgery a few days later.
There are the little things…I expected to accomplish some task or errand or to get through one hour with total chaos or a meltdown.
There are the insignificant things…I expected the chicken to be thawed or the wash to be dry.
The series of prayer books In Conversation with God mentions accepting the “inconsistencies of everyday life” often. The changes in plans, the delays, frustrations…
It is not giving in or not caring or “whatever happens, happens”; it is about offering what does happen to God, giving the hiccups of daily life, big and small, infinite value in uniting them to the cross. It is being aware that I am a daughter of God, a reflection of Him and that everything I do can be filled with love. It is about abandonment to the only thing that can give meaning to my life, letting go of my own expectations and trusting in my Heavenly Father.
And it turns out that, despite my missed expectations, the retreat was wonderful, the car ride chatter was meaningful, sharing a room was no problem, and the lack of silence yielded fruit in some unexpected rich conversations.

“Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span? Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin. But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them…But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides. Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.” Matthew 6:27-34

  • Right Said Red

    So true. When I am in labor, I always say, "optimism disappoints, pessimism satisfies." Obviously not the best attitude. I have trouble finding a balance between just lowering my expectations verses giving them over to God.

  • Mary Alice

    Oh, Tex, please keep writing, because you are hitting on just what I need these days. I think that we both are working on abandonment, but I find that I am also struggling with finding the line between abandonment and resignation — sometimes I decide it is just fine to let everything go to pot and it is my job just to not care so much, to fight my perfectionism, but that is not exactly what abandonment requires of us, instead I need to try hard and care deeply but know my limits and not take it all so personally, and it is really a struggle to find this balance.I am so glad you got to go on your retreat and got so much out of it. Perhaps this is the kick in the pants I need to get to one myself one of these days.

  • B-Mama

    I love all of this. Thank you, Tex. MA, your teasing out of abandonment v. resignation above was also valuable for me to read this morning. GG and I have often talked about this, using ideas such as moderation v. mediocrity. Tex, I think you put it perfectly when you say, "It is about abandonment to the only thing that can give meaning to my life, letting go of my own expectations and trusting in my Heavenly Father." We are living on a prayer and that seems to be the only way to do it!

  • Queen B

    Just what I needed to read today. I am glad to know I am not the only one who struggles with winning the "expectations game". I am also glad to read such wise thoughts on how to get ahead in it.

  • Bethany

    I've posted it once, but a reminder never hurts no matter how many times it's uttered.God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change… the Courage to change the things I can… and the Wisdom to know the difference.Amen


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