Friday, February 07, 2014

Not so Great Expectations

The other day I read this post (...Michelle Duggar...) this amazing woman with more than three times as many children as I have and aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaall week long I've been meaning to write something about it.  About the idea of expectations being our enemy.  Or rather, expectations being the door through which the Enemy has access to us.  But it hasn't happened because, you guessed it, real life didn't coincide with my expectations.  Hah!

First, let me confess that Michelle's writing style is not always easy for me to read, but the proof is in her pudding...I mean, no.  That sounds weird.  She and her family are happy.  There.  That'll do.  So despite some difficulty, I pressed on and read the entire thing.  And after I was finished, I wasn't really moved or convicted in a way I hoped I'd be.  I might have nodded a little, but then moved on to watching a honey badger video or something.

But throughout that week, her message kept coming back to me, as almost every moment of disappointment or frustration that I "endured" was easily a result of my experience not living up to my expectations.  Expectations I created out of an assumption that I DESERVE things, like comfort and ease and, the thing that the article mentions in passing that really struck me, sleep.  

Really though, none of us deserves any of that.  Most people in history, in fact, never experienced the level of comfort and ease that we've grown accustomed to, yet we tend to set the bar as high as we can and then complain when the reality of our daily lives doesn't measure up.

On Sunday during Mass, one of the small kids was really, super, extra, very antsy.  And when she gets antsy, she does that most horribly annoying of all annoying things: she walks across your calves while you're kneeling.  Maybe she did it to me.  I don't know.  I don't even notice anymore.  But she for sure did it to one of my older girls, who for sure pursed her lips and clenched her jaw and glared a death glare of a thousand angry princes and seethed a little and her whole demeanor said "this is the most horrible thing that could ever happen to anyone ever and how can I possibly be expected to endure such atrocities?"

And do you know why she acted like that?  Thought those things?  Because she EXPECTED that her entire experience at Mass would be peaceful and calm and comfortable.  That not only would no one distract her (she can distract herself just fine, thankyouverymuch) but that, in fact, is how it SHOULD be.  That the Mass attending experience should  be like xyz (xyz meaning: like a visit to a spa and not at all about dying to self or drawing closer to the cross. Irony alert.) and if it's not, somebody better reco'nize.

Yeah.  Somebody better reco'nize, alright.  SHE better reco'nize.  That life is full of struggles and frustrations and inconveniences and discomfort.  Those are things we can all be sure of.

So here is my new strategy for entering each day: 

It would be nice to get the following things done ______________________ and I will do my best to accomplish them.  Lord, help me.

But people will cry and be unreasonable and stuff will break and messes will be made.

I will probably feel tired.

Several small humans could disparage what I cook for dinner.

There will be whining.

I might wish I could nap but I won't have that luxury.

This could very well be full of challenges.  They won't surprise me.

"Hello horrible fit in the middle of the kitchen," I will say, "excuse me whilst I step around you and go do something in another room."

And guess what?  It's true!  Every day has the potential to be fraught with all of those things.  Because those things are normal in this fallen world.  It's not abnormal for there to be frustrations.  No.  That's how this life IS.  And my job, well, my job is to allow God use those bricks of suffering to pave me a clear path to Him.  To willingly join my small sufferings to His Very Big Suffering.

And for every moment that I'm not struggling, I strive to be grateful.

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  1. Oh, shoot. I hate it when you're right on about something that I've been struggling with as much as this.

  2. Thank you so much for linking to that article and also for your thoughts on it. It's exactly what this expectation-centered mom needed to see. It's so true. I'm going to have to spend some time pondering this one.

  3. Thanks for sharing. Good words especially about our attitude to our husband and children. So hard to do but so needed.

  4. This is definitely one of your best posts. Love this.

  5. Are you in my head?! No, seriously? Are you? Because this week was just a roller coaster of emotions, and just when I thought I was going to make it through, I saw the Edel Gathering info and I just broke down crying. "It's just not fair because I neeeeeeeeeeed (read: deserve) to go, but have family obligations that will keep me home." (And of course I'm super happy that all of you get to go, and don't begrudge you the time even a tiny bit, I promise. But I "DESERVE" it, too!)

    Um, no. I don't deserve it. It would be nice and I would really enjoy it, fo' sho. But I was able to take a step back and realize that I am blessed beyond imagining, beyond *deserving* and that I will be much much happier and more fulfilled if I focus on what I *have* than what I *expect* to get.

    So, yes. A thousand times yes to acknowledging all those unmet expectations and then moving on.

  6. Totally, totally, totally! I'm so much more patient with my kids when I have zero expectations that I'll get anything done for me during the waking/working hours. When my husband gets home, it's all about me, the very pregnant lady. But that adjustment in my own mind, though still a struggle, has helped tremendously on the yelling/crabby front. Well said!

  7. Mmmm-hmmmmm! I feel like in some ways I succeed at this SOGOSHDARNWELL! But in so many others ways I am the epitome of fail. Just to keep me humble and a work in progress 4ever.

  8. Thank you. I needed that. You can now stop channeling the Holy Spirit.

  9. I love the idea of joining small sufferings to His Very Big Suffering, but in the hustle and bustle, I usually don't think of it. :( I'll try again. :)

  10. My husband and enjoy watching the Duggar's on NetFlix; we always talk about how happy this family is...its neat to see. I love that strategy you shared. In my prayer each day, I bring the whole day before Jesus and ask Him what out of my list He has for me to do. Go figure He likes to spice things up and change it sometimes ;-)

  11. We watch the Duggars on Netflix, too! Not always the most thrilling of shows, but with so much trash out there, it's nice to see a family with similar values to our own- and there's no hooey drama!

    I'm learning this lesson about expectations in my marriage right now... year one was all lovey and sweet ... year two? A little harder. Mostly because of what I expect of *myself* (and then transfer to what I think HH expects of me.... even though he doesn't).

  12. Nailed it!

    As my wise accepting Dad has said, "things break and people let you down." (Not as a Debbie Downer-ism, but as a putting-it-in-perspective-ism.)

    In parenting, esp w littles, I find this to be a much needed daily reminder about expectations - thank you!

  13. I love you! Thank you! I laughed out loud with the expectation that Mass would be a day spa experience.

    Here's my story in a nutshell. Six months ago, I spent every Mass in the Narthex with a nutty 3 year old, 1 year old, and pregnant with awful morning sickness. Then I lost the baby. So then I spent the next few weeks crying while chasing two nutty girls during Mass. Recently, everything has leveled out. I find myself thinking that this Narthex time isn't "missing Mass" it's an important part of Mass. Because I'm by the door, I'm greeting all these people who are marginalized in our church.There are the immigrants who don't speak English who take photos of my kid playing with their kid because their daughter doesn't have playmates. There's the kids in a divorce who always have one parent drop them off late to Mass, while the other parent paces anxiously in the Narthex. I've just started to feel like 'Door Greeter for the Late Comers" is a real job at Church, every bit as important as singing in the choir.

    Thanks to this post, I can add that as I'm dying from embarrassment that my kid is causing a ruckus during the Consecration is actually participating in death to self. Thank you!

  14. This is basically what I think about all day. How can I get myself to be more thankful and less entitled? Because I regularly carp about how, "It's only 8:30 AM and I've changed 5 diapers," or "Why will it not stop raining laundry and dishes in here?" and "WHO IS CRYING NOW?!" (We call it "crying in surround sound', haha.)

    I like your prayer and I will read Michelle's piece.

    I do wonder how my workload/stress level balanced with my resources compares to that similar balance of work/stress vs resources for other women in other times and places. Yesterday I had a few minutes where I was seriously unsure of how to celebrate my washer and dryer--a bunch of Hallmarky things were running through my head. Then I remembered that we celebrate Mothers Day, not "stuff that gives mothers time to do something other than scrub." And that's kind of a shame, because we do take all this amazing time/work-saving stuff for granted. Maybe it would help if we actually thought about how amazing life is with our phones, computers, cars, dishwashers, washer/dryers, vacuums, central heating/air, water-tight but huge and clear windows, insulated walls and attics, mattresses not made out of straw, etc.

    Speaking of which, I think about you with a little prayer whenever I load my dryer because I remember what a good sport you were about living without one, and how grateful you were to have one, and just in general, how you've made do with housing issues that must have tried your patience.


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