‘Expectation is the root of all heartache.’
‘Stuart, I’ve found the perfect campsite! An eco-yurty-no wi-fi type place with a strict ‘no noise’ after dark rule. It’s perfect!’ Said I, enthusiastically, last week. A week before we pitched up in God’s back garden. That’s a week of day-dreaming about peace and tranquility; of toasted marshmallows on hand carved foraged sticks; of uninterrupted views of the Wye Valley’s majesty. That’s a lot of high hopes.
High hopes which were obliterated before the tent pegs even made it out of the bag. Annihilated by the arrival of three primary schools and their ‘we haven’t come away for the weekend to be quiet after 10pm’ attitudes. It was clear there would be an enormous gulf between my expectations and the dawning reality.
Defeated by a white Transit van with its eight rowdy occupants blocking our heavenly view, I turned my attention to the campfire. Ah, the campfire. Such a romantic addition to the ‘get away from it all’ adventure. The reality being as far removed from romantic as could be. Thanks to the unseasonal rain and high winds, our poxy arrangement of newspaper and kindle was in no mood to catch light. ‘But I’ve got two bags of marshmallows!’ I protested. ‘I want to toast my marshmallows!’
Forty minutes later and four pairs of eyeballs temporarily blinded by thick smoke, we gorged on our squashy treats. A brief moment of bliss suddenly punctured by the appearance of the Transit’s BOOM BOOM BOOM portable sound system. ‘Inconsiderate gob-s****! F*** camping!’ I said to Stu as I sulkily tucked myself into my ice cold tomb of a sleeping bag.
As we lay next to each other in mardy resignation, Stu whispered, ‘You know what sweetheart? You set your expectations too high. You’re always disappointed, as you expect people to act exactly how you would, and when they don’t, you flip out.’ Hmm, whilst this wasn’t what I wanted to hear as the sound of Miley Cyrus carried across the campsite sky and into my personal space, he was right.
When we expect others to behave in a certain way, we are unfairly placing our high-hopes on the shoulders of others and then reeling at the unexpected and disappointed outcome. The fault lies with us entirely and not the noisy campers of the world.
Many a wise soul advocates a life free from expectation; a life savouring each new experience without preconception. No preconception = no disappointment.
Furthermore, when we expect a certain outcome from a situation that inevitably fails to deliver, we prevent ourselves from enjoying the new experience altogether. This is particularly apparent at weddings and holidays. Events that have taken much planning and anticipation. We’ve all seen the bride melt-down because her cupcakes aren’t quite iced to perfection. She expected her day to be perfect, and when reality serves, the emotional consequences are catastrophic – ‘My day’s ruined!’
Having no expectations of people and events is no easy feat to accomplish. I’m fully on board with the theory, but will need to work hard on the application. When I stay on a campsite with a strict ‘no noise after 10pm’ rule, I expect my fellow campers to pipe down come lights out, preferably before; when I gift £100 for a friend’s honeymoon contribution, I expect a thank you not exceeding six months; and when I buy another birthday present for a kid in my child’s class who I’ve never heard of, I expect the little person to post forthwith a scrawly thank-you card. And when these simple acts of good manners don’t occur, I huff and puff around the house bellowing, ‘Jeez, what’s wrong with people these days?! Where’s the bloody thank you card?Ignorant b******!’ And that’s not good for my cortisol levels.
But, all of these expectations only serve to harm me. No one else is aware they’ve ‘let me down’; the issue is entirely mine. And it took a ruined camping trip for me to realise this. So, who’s with me in greeting each day without expectation? Who knows what joy and surprise awaits us when we expect nothing from our new day.
‘If things start happening, don’t worry, don’t stew. Just go right along and you’ll start happening too.’
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