Letting Go Of Expectations

It’s not about what happened in the past or what you think might happen in the future. It’s about the ride for Christ’s sake. There’s no point in going through all this crap if you are not going to enjoy the ride. And you know what … when you least expect it, something great might come along, something better than you even planned for. Mr. Feffer, Along Came Polly

Expectations change after a beloved dies. We are more likely to expect the worst, or at least have trouble expecting the best. I find that I’m quicker to assume that something bad has or will happen when a loved one doesn’t respond promptly or receives concerning news about their health. I didn’t used to be this way (or at least not as much) but Jimmy’s diagnosis and death changed everything. I learned a universal truth — that we are all just a phone call away from something unforeseen and devastating happening.

Finding your way back from this is hard. I’m four and a half years out from Jimmy’s death and only marginally better at not going into a panic when I text Molly or Dan, and they don’t get back to me right away. I know this is no way to live so I’m learning to take a deep breath, calm myself down, distract myself and when all else fails, have a firm talk with myself about snapping out of it.

After one of our most important people dies, we expect too much of ourselves. We expect our grief to ease more quickly than it does. We expect to “get over it”. We expect to be stronger, fitter, healthier, happier far sooner than is reasonable. We expect to function more productively, think more clearly and process more quickly than our devastated minds can manage.

We expect too much of the people we love. We them to show up for us, in exactly the way we need. We expect the perfect meal, a timely call and to hear exactly the words we most need or want to hear.

We expect too much of time. We expect time to pass, to heal all wounds, to give us days and hours with a dying loved one. We expect time to move faster if we’re fearful or suffering and to move more slowly so we don’t feel so far away from our dead loved one.

We expect people we don’t even know not to piss us off. Instead, they cut us off in traffic, they get in the express lane with 25 items instead of 15, they are rude to us at the post office, they get impatient when we don’t understand what they’re saying and they ask how many children we have.

But what I didn’t expect was that the people I least expected to show up were sometimes the ones who gave me the most comfort. I didn’t expect to find a community of people who who said “me, too” and have become dear friends. I didn’t expect that some people I barely knew would be the ones to say, “tell me about Jimmy” when I needed most to talk about him. When I dragged my broken, grieving self to Kaia, I didn’t expect to find a community of women who would celebrate and remember a young man they never met, who would make sure I showed up even on my darkest days and when I didn’t, make sure I knew I was loved and missed. And as I tried to find a way forward into a life without my beloved son, I never expected so many people would come alongside me and say, “you are not alone”.

Two people walking at the water line on a beach. The sun is setting the sky is blue, yellow and orange and is reflected in the wet sand.

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