Well, I can tell you right now that my previous outlook on this topic has changed. Rather than explain my previous thought process, I will simply explain my thought process now. As with all of my blogs, I will share my experience and beliefs on these concepts and ideas as I understand them at the moment I am writing. As such, my perceptions will sometimes alter; what I once felt strongly about, I may later disagree with, whether years from now, or ten seconds after I've posted it. It's called growth, something I've been doing since I began walking these many, wide paths in Recovery. That having been said, let’s see if I can make sense of what’s going on in my head right now.
‘And Left Side and Right Side – you two shut up and settle down. Maybe you’ll learn something, too.’
A while back I was having a text conversation with ZJ. If you follow my blogs, you’ll no doubt know that only a few people in my recovery have had a huge impact on my life, and ZJ is one of them. During our conversation, I had mentioned an activity and how I had hoped it would go. As we continued on with our discussion, it became obvious to ZJ that I was planning on having this happen, not just hoping it would happen. And ZJ being ZJ, she texted a single, direct statement that has stuck with me since.
She has said that multiple times since then, too, and each time, it is a good reminder for me; she pulls the door closed on my "hopes gone awry," aka - Expectations awaiting the bus to Resentmentville.
This reminds me of a meeting quite a while back, I’d dare say a year or so ago, about Expectations and Limitations. It was at an Atheists/Agnostics meeting. This group is a brilliant group, and maybe someday I’ll discuss that, but for now, just know that they are full of common sense lessons – hence the one I’m about to paraphrase here:
As Humans, we expect things to go a certain way. We expect to wake up from our sleep, water to quench our thirst, and food to nourish our bodies. We expect the sun to set and rise, the sky to rain and shine, and the seasons to come and go. These are natural, healthy expectations.
We also expect our breaks to stop our vehicles, our heaters to keep our house warm, and our paychecks to arrive on time. These can also be healthy expectations, but we need to understand that they may not happen; getting angry at the home owner for not keeping up on the tenth request for heater repair is a happening resentment, right along with getting angry at our boss for sending our check out late.
But we also often expect things to happen that are completely ludicrous – such as expecting the girl of our dreams, whom we’ve not spoken to, to drop everything she’s doing to come and dance with us as if we were perfect lovers living in each other’s souls. Ya, just a bit unrealistic – but we dream like that. If she’s dancing with another guy, we get upset and want to kill either him, or her (or both of them). Ya, I'd say that's pretty much a serious resentment. Now, I understand that's a bit of an extreme example, but I'm deomonstrating a point here. At least, I hope none of my readers want to kill their expected lover, or the expectentee's lover! Yikes. Anyway...
As alcoholics and addicts, we tend to live in these dream-like worlds and expectations a lot more than the normie; whether its winning the lottery or getting that huge bonus; to taking a trouble-free vacation in perfect bliss or getting from point A to point B in our dream vehicle; to relationships of all varieties, existent or non-existent. I’m sure you can find something in your own life that relates on some scale, I know I sure can.
‘Shut-up, Left Side! You’ll get Right Side started again!’
Now, I realize that everyone does this, I know that. But I think it is worse for the alcoholic/addict; that’s one of the many reasons we drank and used to begin with – all the impossible perfectionisms, insistent hopes and dreams; we're expecting a situation to turn out "just right," whether by our own demands, or the demands of others. When it doesn't/can’t go that way, we resort to the drug of our choice (which for me was alcohol) to quell any embarrassments and frustrations, and to hide; to help us simply not care (aka: bury it).
So what do we do about this expectation thing? Do we just not do what we’re wanting to accomplish?
And it is here, that I began to learn my lesson:
When the expectation (aka: a hope or dream) is realistic and within reason, it should be attempted, and in some cases (even if it seems impossible) it should be strived for. Look at the Wright Brothers – we’re flying nowadays, all across the world!
But when it is trying to control someone or something into our line of thought and actions, this is where we get into trouble; it’s absurd to demand anyone do things only our way! It cannot be done, and expecting them to comply with our wishes, especially unsaid, is unrealistic.
So does this mean we just don’t try? Should we limit everything we do so that what we want to have happen simply won't happen at all? This may sound absurd, but many of us do just that. Nothing.
"Well, since it isn't going to happen like this, then fuck it. I just won't do anything, it will be pointless."
We can expect all we want, but to get what we desire, we must do something about it, even if that includes failing occasionally. Otherwise, we limit ourselves from the very thing we’re striving for! Serenity and peace! An effort has to be made, or nothing will be accomplished; whether or not the outcome is what we want.
Believe me, this is a very real struggle for me, accepting failure, and all my life, in order to hide my imperfections, I just avoided the possibility of failure. Sure, I didn't fail as often as everyone else. Know what else? I didn't get the joy of successes, either.
Meaning, that if we want the very happiness that we see in others, we will have to stop limiting ourselves, and do the work required to achieve it. Does this mean that we’ll get it? Well, the 12-step founders promised certain things on Step Nine, if we are painstaking and worked the steps honestly, open-mindedly, and willingly. The rest? Well, it’s up to the individual and their Higher Power. The Universe listens, but also requires action on our part.
I can’t do anything about the sun rising and sinking, but I can control whether or not I am asleep during those times -- reward? Seeing the sunrise or sunset. I can’t prevent my body from requiring food and fluids, but I can choose whether or not to nourish and water it -- reward? Staying alive (and probably feeling much better, too).
If I want my breaks to stop my vehicle, I need to maintain them; and if I want a more money, I can find a healthy way to better benefit my company, and/or ask for a raise or seek a new job.
And if I see my dream girl, I need to stop pretending that she knows I exist, and show her I exist. She’s not going to stop dancing with some other guy just because I imagine I'm in his shoes; I have to go stand in his place, or at the least, introduce myself. I also have to understand that she has a choice, and the choice is her's, not God's, not mine, her's. I would also have to understand that she will probably not do or say what I would want (expect) her to do or say. I might get rejected, but I won't die.
So just because we're doing our part, it doesn't mean that others will necessarily do what we think should happen, and more often than not, they won't. But most of the time, I've found that what happens is either, 1) not as bad as I thought it would be, or 2) better than I expected. That is, most of the time; but I can't expect that every time.
My point is, expectations can cause us problems in a couple of ways; either a resentment (which is usually the case), or limit us altogether.
Expectations are future resentments and road blocks on our path to Serenity. I don’t know about you, but I don't want to ride that bus.