Is your day turning out as expected? Mine neither. It never does. I have this pie in the sky idea of how my day should look yet it never looks that way. I sometimes think I set myself up for failure by not setting reasonable expectations for myself. As if I am magically going to transform into a morning person after staying up until midnight perusing Pinterest, trying to figure out how I should cut my hair. I should know better.
I am learning to laugh at my expectations of myself being ridiculous. Learning being the operative word. Right now it looks and feels like guilt. But guilt over what? Letting myself down? Yes, because by letting myself down I feel like I am letting other people down who may or may not know they are being let down by me for something they do not know I thought I should be doing that really had nothing to do with them. Kind of unreasonable right? (Or, more like insane) Really need to work on not beating myself up.
Have you ever had to deal with unspoken expectations? As in, you get blamed for not doing something someone else expected you to do except that they never actually told you out loud that they wanted you to do that thing? If you haven’t, you are lucky. Very very lucky actually. You are probably a unicorn. Or completely oblivious. Congratulations.
So you know what it feels like to be judged based on someone else’s expectations you didn’t know about. Now, have you been guilty of doing the same? Have you expected someone to do something or act a certain way or be something and then gotten angry when they didn’t do/act/be that thing? Now stop and think: Did you tell that person what you were expecting before you were disappointed that they didn’t do it? Or, did you, like many others (myself included), get angry at them and they were sort of confused? Do you think that person might have then doubted themselves and felt like they had done something wrong but didn’t know exactly what? Are you feeling bad yet?
Honestly I think we all do this to some extent. We are, after all, totally depraved sinners in need of a savior so we are also going to make lots of mistakes. But what if we paid attention to what we want from other people and consciously (OUT LOUD WITH WORDS) communicated that to them? What if we started being explicit with our requests and expectations. Do you think more of your wishes would come true? Do you think better communication with other people would lead to less anger and let down? I do.
I personally find this most challenging with my children. I make explicit requests “Clean your room!” “Vacuum the floor!” “Hang up your coat!” “Clean off the table!” that get ignored pretty much every time. While they sound like commands (basically they are) I have also shown them how to do the things I tell them to do. Occasionally I ask instead. This also does not work. Nothing works. I guess children are just jerks and from what I can tell from their behavior at church, that’s not helping either. Is there some other language I should be speaking to these people? They certainly don’t understand English.
As far as adults go, I am pretty good about this with my patients. I couldn’t exactly expect them to take a medication without telling them what it was or what it was for or that I had sent in a prescription for them or even how to take it. I couldn’t very well get angry if they came back and hadn’t started taking said medication if they didn’t know it existed. Even when we have discussed it but don’t take it I don’t get angry. We discuss it. Talk about why they aren’t taking it. What are the barriers? What concerns do they have? What are they afraid of? Then we come up with a plan that works.
There is always that patient who doesn’t do what I ordered no matter how many conversations we have. For whatever reason they just won’t do it. But you know what? I don’t get angry. Frustrated? Yes- especially when I think they would benefit from whatever it is or would suffer less. I mean, I work in palliative care. My job is to alleviate suffering! In the end, they are human and I am human and I can’t control anyone except myself (and even that is questionable).
So what if we all translate that into our other relationships? You tell someone what you would like them to do. They don’t do it. You have a conversation about it. You agree to something else. They still don’t do it. So you talk more. Still no? Ok, that’s your choice. These are the consequences. Go with God.
No anger. Open communication. Letting go. Not trying to control or manipulate. Sounds beautiful but is it really possible? I don’t know but I would like to find out. Are you with me?