I was chatting with a friend the other day about where relationships sometimes go sideways. The conversation wasn’t really about relationships, per se, but expectations in relationships.
William Shakespeare said, “the root of all heartache is expectations.” I don’t think the Bard is too far off. Yet, choosing to live assuming nothing good will ever come? I’d guess a walk like that would require one to lock the heart up tight and close it off to the possibility of joy. I’d rather walk into the pain that life and love inevitably bring, by making an attempt to focus on my expectations for myself instead of others. Who do I choose to be?
C.S. Lewis wrote on pain in, A Grief Observed. It was written after his wife passed away. He had met his wife late in life and I believe may have never thought he would get to experience a love relationship like the one he had with her, Joy. He said, “We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.” (Their story was done by Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger in the movie, Shadowlands.)
I like that, “the thing is different.” Definitely! The thing, a difficulty, a heartache, a tough path, is always harder when it’s in our own backyard. There is really no way to prepare for pain, no matter all the intellectual knowledge we have about life, love, pain or expectations.
On a different vein, Donald Miller says, “When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” That one I like. It’s a description of letting go of expectations for other people to act in a way you believe is right. The goal would be to allow ourselves to look deeply at our people, and see beyond everyone’s goofy imperfections, annoying habits and general differences. A little bit like looking beyond the curtain of actions to the soul underneath.
Here, Bruce Lee and Stephen Hawking make a bit of sense as well.
“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” Bruce helps us see that living life in order to meet another person’s expectations is a recipe for disaster. We lose ourselves when we do that.
And Stephen encourages us to chill out on demands from others. “My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.”
Maybe the ideas surrounding expectations are so varied that it is just another place in life where we can live and learn, and enjoy the process of discovery as we go. End of the day, it’s generally not a bad idea to offer love to those around us. There are no guarantees of how things in life will fall out but each one has to decide, how will I walk this road?