Great Expectations … and Why We Should Abandon Them.

I recently engaged in a dialogue with a friend about keeping score. She was telling me how her mother used to keep score all the time. About social engagements. As in “We invited them so now it’s their turn to invite us and I’ll be damned if I invite them again before they take their rightful turn.”

Yeah. That sort of keeping score.

I’m sure we are all guilty of merciless score-keeping, even if we do choose most times to keep our tally sheets to ourselves.

I bought her a designer purse for her birthday and she only gave me flowers.

We had them to our house for dinner three times last year and they only had us once.

I sent them an old-fashioned snail-mail Christmas card and all I got was an email.

And on and on it goes.

We all expect so very much. And, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, expectations most often equal disappointment.

So why do we continue to set ourselves up for disappointment, time and time again? Why are we keepers-of-the-score so adamant that our teammates play our game fairly? Our definition of fairly, anyway. Why do we huff and puff and get holier-than-thou when we decide we haven’t received our fair shake?

I have no idea. But here is what I do know, gleaned from many years of great expectations: it’s not worth it.

Keeping score is not worth it. It’s a waste of thought, energy and love. Because it all goes back to that old adage – you cannot control another person’s actions. You can only control your response to those actions.

I am an inveterate entertainer. I love having people over. I love cooking for them. I love setting the perfect stage, candles, music, lighting … the whole shebang. I find it fun. And often in the midst of these festivities, when I look around my great room at the usual suspects, I am struck at the large number who have availed themselves of my hospitality frequently yet have never returned the invitation. Never. As in zero times. And I smile. Because they are not selfish or greedy or stupid. They are obviously just not inveterate entertainers. Perhaps they are afraid of opening their homes? Perhaps they are reluctant to ask their friends to bring booze and food (I’m also an inveterate beggar)? Perhaps they feel their abode isn’t suitable for soirees and perhaps they just don’t wanna.

I don’t care. If it’s not their jam it’s not their jam. And I will still welcome them here time and time again. Because when I issue an invitation I do not expect restitution. I merely hope that a good time will be had by all.

Of course there is also expectation in every relationship. Whether it’s friendship, a love bond or family ties, we all have presumptions. How we should be treated. How we should be loved. How we deserve to be regarded. We line up those expectations like little tin soldiers waiting to be attacked.

Nope. Don’t do it. It’s an exercise in futility. Not to mention stupidity. Because again, in most cases, expectation will equal disappointment.

A long time ago I was mired in “issues” with a long-term pal. These issues were bugging the crap out of me because I truly believed that I deserved better, given our long (and colourful) history. She was just not forthcoming. So my then-ever-so-clever husband suggested that I just accept her for exactly who she is (without expectation) and look elsewhere to fulfill the needs she was neglecting. I took his advice. I developed new friendships. I removed all pressure from her. I carried on with a smile on my face and no malice in my spirit. And you know what? She came around. Resoundingly. Suddenly without my glorious expectations clogging up our communication, she rallied and our relationship flourished.

Naturally, romantic liaisons are huge breeding grounds for disappointment. The number of times I have expected my man to read my mind and then been really pissed off when he didn’t … well, far too numerous to keep score. And yeah, I have kept score. What I gave him verses what he gave me. What I gave up verses what he has given up. What I contribute verses what he contributes. Blah blah blah.

I can assure you (based on lots of practice) that a love relationship absolutely cannot work that way. You must try with all your heart not to expect. You must spell out your non-negotiables clearly and then just be grateful for everything else. Trust me, you will be happier.

Same with family. I have also spent a lot of years expecting my family to treat me a certain way. They treat me just fine (for the most part), just not the way I want them to treat me. You see, I have this picture in my head and for whatever reason they don’t always participate in its painting. It used to drive me crazy.

It no longer does. I now accept them for who they are and who they are not. And I fill in the blanks with new family members of my own choosing. I no longer expect anything from anybody. I take what they offer with gladness and I give without expectation. Because I have learned to find my joy in the giving of the gift, whether it be time, food, help or love. How it is received and whether or not it is reciprocated no longer plays into my motive. My motive is now to be the best me I can be.

Which brings me to today.

I have a couple of nephews who several years ago entered the film-making business. They recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund their latest effort which (even better) stars my ex brother-in-law. You see, these lads are nephews by marriage. My ex-husband’s sister’s kids. When he and I split one of them chose to forgive me and include me in his life. The other did not. Over the years there has been little communication with either but the former is friends with me on Facebook while the latter blatantly ignored my invitation to buy him dinner when both he and my son were in Los Angeles. So be it.

Regardless, I the ever-optimistic filled with love soul that I am, decided to help them out (financially) with this new project. Part of my “reward” was a “personalized” thank-you email and said email arrived today. The only thing personal about it was the “Dear Vickie”. The rest was as standard as it comes.

Was I expecting something more familial? Was I hoping for some acceptance? Some acknowledgment of past affection? After all, they were mere boys when their uncle and I split. They are grown me now. Was I expecting some new-found emotional maturity and maybe even a tiny smattering of endearment?

Of course I fucking was! I am not a damn saint.

But I do try to practice what I preach and so I reigned in my disappointment (have I mentioned it comes from expectations?) and replied. I told them I was proud of them. I wished them great luck and I signed it “love, always.”

Because that is the truth. I will always love those boys. Whether or not they ever choose to return the sentiment is their deal, not mine. My deal is to love them without expectation.

I am so proud of them. Truth be told today I am also proud of myself.

And I can’t wait to see them at the Oscars.

About winesoakedramblings - The Blog of Vickie van Dyke

Writing is therapy. Wine is therapy. Writing while drinking wine is the best therapy. Reading while drinking can also be fun. Listening while drinking is also fun so check out my podcast! And then there's that book (memoir) that I wrote: Confessions of a Potty-Mouthed Chef: How to Cheat, Eat and be Happy! My life has provided me with a wealth of inspiration. Maybe something here will inspire you too? ~Vickie
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