Birthdays (though I love them dearly) tend to be the most disappointing day of the year for me. It isn’t that I haven’t had wonderful celebrations of all sorts over the years. I’ve had a life full of thoughtful and considerate people pulling out all the stops to make the day special, and I am grateful for each of them. But each March 23 I go to sleep thinking that I’m going to wake up a completely evolved me as though the entire year that’s passed since my last birthday is supposed to occur over the course of that one night’s sleep and life will be significantly improved and more exciting when I wake up.
I have these grand expectations about this one day a year where the world stops and turns to look at me and smile because it is my day. Success is supposed to stalk me, boys are supposed to swoon, at the very least everybody is supposed to remember that it’s my birthday and treat me likewise. But the day arrives, I do well at some things and not at others, boys notice me or they don’t and half of my closest friends don’t remember what day it is, and life barrels on like any other day. Every year it happens, but then I have 365 days to forget that it happened and build my expectations again and each birthday boasts that same old feeling. It is like the joyous version of that moment when something tragic happens in your life and you’re shocked to find that your daily tasks don’t stop to weep with you.
Expectations are funny things. No one can pin point exactly where each one comes from, probably a combination of how you think life is playing out for other people and the dream world created by the movies (and I don’t just mean Inception). I’m surrounded lately by people who have extremely high expectations for the people around them; for their roommates, for their boyfriends, for their family members. I’m sort of a go-to girl for people who need to vent and I’ve discovered that many of these people are disappointed in the objects of their expectations because they aren’t psychic. Their boyfriend can’t just sense over text that they’d like to have heard from him sooner. Their roommate had no way of knowing that they were feeling excluded.
There are a few wonderful, emotionally intuitive, hyper-sensitive, constantly-aware-of-others type people in this world and I love them. They bring something truly warm and fulfilling to my life and constantly surprise me with their ability to notice. Then there are people who get to have those traits for a little time when it’s important through the power of the Spirit and I remain in awe at the Lord’s ability to time out their entrances and exits in my life’s performance. But for the rest of us, the rest of the time we’re just standing up to our neck in water and doing our best to accomplish what we have to without drowning.
It’s so hard to be open enough to say how you feel or voice your expectations to the people you expect things from, but if you never do, how are they to know? It’s a fine line to walk because you can’t go through life expecting nothing from anyone, just for that feeling of pleasant surprise when someone anticipates a need or actually does something right, but nor can you go through life expecting everyone to know your needs and have the time and inclination to fulfill every one or you will feel nothing but disappointment.
I’ve decided lately that some people and their affections towards me will be the toy that comes with the meal, but you can’t expect to get your primary nourishment from them. When you go through life like that, expecting the meal only from yourself and the Lord and taking everyone else where they are, as the prize that you get as a bonus, not the thing that you depend on for existence, suddenly your relationships improve with the people around you and you find that you have a full toy box and a full belly.
I don’t think it’s wrong to expect things from people. I find that, when people treat me as though they expect a lot from me, I expect a lot from myself and stretch to meet their assumptions and expectations, whereas people who treat me like I’m slumping or slinking or slacking tend to make me want to do just that. But when your expectations for another person are weighted with the pressure of defining them in your heart and mind, and not as building them up from an already solid foundation, you will create an unfair environment for the people around you and nothing, no matter how special or unexpected will manage to please you.