If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you’re no stranger to feeling like you don’t want to do anything you’re supposed to do. Today has been one of those days for me. Every time I stand up, I want to sit down and then I’m tired of sitting and I want to nap. Now that probably has more to do with my chronic illness than simply wanting to avoid something on my to do list, but it is also not wanting to work on my next book. Don’t get me wrong. I do want to work on my book, and I even know the next scene I need to write and am excited to write it, but I don’t have the energy to do it justice today, so I’ll try again tomorrow. In fact, I don’t want to think about anything. I feel like I’m in a fog and this is an experiment to see if I can do anything of value while feeling like this, because doing nothing is even more exhausting than doing something.
While I was doing nothing, that is listening to podcasts and playing mindless games, I listened to a Writing Excuses podcast, “Consistency, Inconsistency, and the Crushing Weight of Expectations“, that reminded me about my blogging. When I started this blog, I had no idea what to expect either of the people that might want to read it or of what I might want to write. I didn’t know how often I would write or if this would be sustainable. Over the years, not only has my writing changed but the frequency in which I write has also changed. And I’m okay with that. Dong Won said in the podcast as you’re thinking about experimenting with new things, “Under promise, Over deliver.” In other words you can manage expectations.
As for this blog, at this point in my life, I have to be consistent about my inconsistency. I may not write a post every month and I may write several. It all depends on what’s going on in my life and if I’m feeling the weight of all the other expectations in my life whether or not I can make the time for this. And actually by writing today, I do feel better, a little more energized than how I started out. It also got me thinking about…
That’s a big word. I’m learning more about it all the time. There was a time in my life where the weight of school expectations and my relationship status were crushing. It was too much for me. I decided I wouldn’t be forced into other people’s expectations of me. I switched to auditing classes because learning on my own time and in my own way way was more enjoyable than meeting deadlines. I probably went too far in some regards. I no longer cared what my home looked like. I would say, “Sure, come on over!”, even if my house was a complete disaster. I would tell myself that it was more important to welcome people into my home than to have the perfect spotless house. Which isn’t entirely untrue but there is something about at least trying to have a cleaner house for your guests that makes them want to come back.
I’ve found over the years, that people have expectations about everything. There are expectations about getting married, having kids, schooling, acceptable careers, what food we should eat, how much exercise we need, how much time you should spend with your families, with your friends, which shows and books you should watch or read, what you should believe; you name it and someone somewhere has an opinion about what you should or shouldn’t be doing. They can’t all be right nor can we meet all the expectations.
Let’s be real. It’s easy to feel like a failure when we don’t meet up to certain expectations. And as I tried to point out above, it’s easy to not care what people think of you, even when you probably should care. How do you know when you’ve found a good balance of meeting or not meeting expectations?
I think it boils down to these four factors: Is it true? Is it possible? Is it beneficial? Is it loving both to the one expecting and the one meant to fulfill the expectation?
Is it true? Often when we name the expectation, put it into words, it is easier to see the truth in it or the lack thereof. A lot of expectations make assumptions about you, about life, about others and they aren’t always true.
Is it possible? Sometimes expectations are not realistic. This goes back to “Under promise, Over deliver.” Is it possible for me to write a blog post every week? Maybe but at what cost? If I were to try to update this blog more frequently then it would take longer for the next book in my trilogy to be published. Sometimes there’s a give and take aspect, a compromise that must be made.
Is it beneficial? Maybe you have a chronic illness that doesn’t allow you to do all the things. It might still be worth considering if the expectation before you is beneficial even if it costs you a day or two to recover from. Why are they expecting this from you and have you talked with them about what it would mean for you to do or not to do it?
Communication is key. Every situation and relationship is different and may require different questions to answer. Don’t just let the weight of Expectations weigh you down. Take a moment and reexam whether or not you should try to meet it. Not only will the pressure ease, but you might discover something new about yourself and your friends and family that will make it more meaningful and easier to fulfill.
Which brings us to our last question: Is it loving? Whatever you decide to do: meeting expectations or not, do it in love. Too often I find myself being selfish and not caring for others the way I ought to. Yes, keep in mind your limitations, because we all have limits, but make sure you’re loving people while you do it. Even when we fail at loving people, because we all do, know that there is forgiveness and grace. Know that Jesus loved us perfectly by humbling himself to be born in the likeness of man, he exchanged a throne for a manger, he lived the perfect life and died on the cross, rising again from the dead, all so that we might receive that grace. Is that what you would have expected from God?
Click here to listen to one of my favorite Christmas Songs: Thou Who Wast Rich Beyond All Splendor.
P.S. I expected to finish this blog yesterday but I ran out of time. I suppose I could have left my kids at school and paid for after school care but my kids’ expectations of what they think time after school should look like and the fact that I was picking up someone else’s kid from school outweighed my own expectations of completing this blog in one day. Besides, I don’t really think about paying for after school care as an option even though it is. Which goes to show that sometimes when we don’t think there’s another option, it pays to take a second look. Maybe there is another way forward than what’s expected.