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September 2016

Disappointment Expectations

The Tough Lessons of Expectations

As a therapist, I frequently help people grapple with their emotions around expectations. Usually, it is about feeling let down and being left with a surprising, and frequently unwanted outcome. This realization can be, quite frankly, a giant bummer. And because I help others doesn’t mean that I have reached a place where unmet expectations don’t effect me. Ha! I am human. I wrestle with this on a near daily basis. Okay, truth be told, even at times, several times a day. 

This unmet expectation, or bummer (a clinical term, I assure you)  usually comes from a place where I thought I had set myself up for an outcome and I come to realize that I have really missed my mark. I so want to blame someone else for my feelings and passive-aggressively throw imaginary blocks up to keep me from connecting with or reaching out to that person and letting them know what I really wanted or how I am feeling.

However, while it is important to let others know our feelings and why we feel them, we can’t expect others to always ‘get it’ and then come round. unknownThis is a really hard place to find yourself. The wake up lesson is that we have put our happiness in the hands of someone else. They then hold the power to our moods and we feel powerless and, frequently, really pissed off.

I have learned a lot from the parenting approach of ’empathy with limits’ often written about by Dr. Laura Markham. Her support at A-ha Parenting is soothing and calming. Her blog is a helpful oasis of parenting support when I am struggling with my inner child in full tantrum.

I try to really hear my kids when they are upset, even when I am wishing for magical ways to get them out of the door on time. I try to listen when what I really want to do is redirect them toward my demand. The directing may get results the same way that a passive aggressive response might get someone’s attention but, in the long run, the outcome doesn’t feel good. It feels punitive towards my children and ‘stompy’ or even ‘stabby’ towards my grown up counterparts. And then I am left with myself, usually regretting my impulsive response, having to send out embarrassed faced Emoji’s out to my confused friends or family members.

The setting of reasonable expectations is hard. Identifying those expectatimages-10ions can be really daunting too but, oh so helpful. When I realize that I have set a ‘pie in the sky’ expectation of a meeting or social event and I can go back and outline the ‘reasonable and achievable’ parts and even the minimum, often I can take a big weight off myself by recognizing my lack of control of others.
At times, I really want to choreograph someone else’s abilities, however, it can also be liberating to realize that I don’t have control over someone else and I can set out a reasonable path for myself to enjoy a day or event. I control me.

I often struggle with the people I am rather close to or have known the longest. My work to self talk myself off a ledge of unreasonable dream scenarios can be very soothing once I recognize what is going on inside me. Sometimes, I am a little late to images-8
the game. My awareness of my deep-seated wishes are being dashed and my feelings have already been hijack, however, if I can hand-hold myself back to safer territory of the realm of the possible and logical I can be soothed.

This is a tough subject because we are often taught to want or demand the best.
My redirection of my levels of expectations is not giving up or wanting good things it is identifying the reality of what I can and cannot control. This can be hugely calming in the face of an emotional eruption.

There is a lot more here to write about and I will get there eventually. Today is a day for soothing my ego and sketching out reasonable expectations. Thanks for reading.

Expectations Grief and Loss Parenting Pregnancy loss

The Heartbeat That Lasts for a 100 Years

Nearly every night, my husband and I snuggle with our two boys as they drift off to sleep. Our nightly rituals include each of us saying ‘no bad dreams’ a certain number of times of our choosing and listing things we have gratitude for that day. Simple things that happened, we saw or experienced that gave us a little smile or a moments pause and remind us that there is a little good every day everywhere, even on the really crappy days.

As I am listening to the breaths of my youngest son stretch out as he succumbs to sleep, I have my arm across his small chest. In that position, I feel his heartbeat steadily thumping through his Batman pajama top. Sometimes, while we cuddle I think of the things I need to get done (dishes, work, laundry) and then I bring myself back and focus on that heartbeat. I am reminded of the time when we first heard our first living child’s heartbeat.

Over the course of a couple of years, we had experienced three miscarriages and in our awareness of this new pregnancy we were so worried that this pregnancy would be another that didn’t ‘progress’. Such a perfunctory word to hope for while experiencing our anguish and trepidation. I remember the mix of joy, worry, excitement, terror, love, fear, and hope pinged around in me like a quad shot latte. I  was truly scared. Almost every moment of the day that I remembered that I was pregnant and had a growing baby inside me I would then plunge into worry in the pit of my stomach.

Then, that day, 10 weeks in, we heard the heartbeat. Thump, thump, thump, thump…rapid like a rabbit hopping. images-5We had gotten to the stage of heartbeats before but, something about this heartbeat struck me and held me in such an odd moment of time. The thought of this heart beating for a long time stretched out in front of my mind. I imagined that this heart would beat for over a 100 years. The thought wasn’t just hope, that was there too but, it felt like it was fact, a truism, the future. Almost like pictures on a screen.

That baby did grow and was born nearly nine years ago. As I scurry around in my everyday busy-ness I to try to slow myself to appreciate the moments of snuggling with the growing babes, now really young boys, and listen to their breaths and heartbeats. It gives me hope and it helps ground me, reminding me that no matter how far behind I get on my to-do list, these breaths and heartbeats are still going. Those moments that I take the time pause in that mindfulness is so peaceful for me.

I still count out the years of the babes whose hearts stopped beating, wondering what they would be like at this age or what pajamas they would be wearing tonight. images-2I send a silent kiss to wherever they are and hold a tiny piece of their souls in my heart.

This experience touched me today as I think about my own expectations of motherhood that are constantly shifting and being redefined. The gift of reflection, acknowledgment of loss, change and growth help me adjust my bigger, unwieldy expectations back into bite size pieces. And, hopefully, that continues to ground me.

Resources for Pregnancy Loss include:

Brief Encounters – Resource for Pregnancy/Infant Loss

MISS Foundation – Support for Grieving Families







The pitfalls of ‘shoulds, oughts and musts’. 

I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of English friends who are winging it here from the UK as I type. I keep checking the flight arrival screen on my phone to see any new information. It has been 12 years since seeing these friends, which feels like a mini-life time. We have two kids now and they are married and have struggled with some health issues. 

As I scurry around the house to make it all ‘presentable’, which is loosely defined that way by me. I wonder aloud what I ‘should’ do to make it better, what I ‘ought’ to do to meet their expectations. What I ‘must’ do in order to make their visit ‘the best ever’. I realize I am falling for the trap of unachievable expectations – again! images-5

When meeting with clients, the ‘shoulds’ come up fairly quickly as people are describing their worries, challenges, dreams, hesitations and struggles. I may quip, “Be careful, don’t should on yourself”. It is so much easier to say this than practice it. The is the ‘we-are- all-flawed’ reality of all therapists, really.

I heard it so clearly when others speak it but, don’t always catch it when it falls from my lips. Partly because, the majority of time we are internally vexed with our worries and we don’t say them out loud.

There is a lot to be learned from writing down our own thoughts. In our digital world, many may scoff at the idea of hand writing down our worries but, there is something very tangible and defining when we are able to write them down and then they have boundaries around them.

Those ‘shoulds’ show themselves more clearly as high expectations that are often someone else’s values that we are carrying around with us as a compass for our choices. I find that when I do this, I guess incorrectly, meaning people really don’t need me to do things their way or I get resentful that I have assumedthat is what they want and have pushed my wishes aside.

In those cases, I find, that the empowerment I feel in rewording my statements from ‘shoulds’ to ‘would-likes’ certainly match my values better. I am more able to set boundaries around what is reasonable and achievable from the too-high dream scenarios.

So, as I dash off the airport, house still a dusty house, it is still our home. images-6I am feeling more calm that my friendship means more in the time we spend together than in their assessment of my housecleaning skills. I am slowly able to redefine my expectations and feel ready to enjoy our friends.


Here it is…my first public wrangle with expectations.

“What are your expectations?” I try to ask myself this question whenever I am encountering something new or different. I don’t always remember though. My 40 something years have shown me that we often set our sites higher than what is reasonable achievable and we think, maybe, just maybe we will reach them this time.

This is not a blog telling people not to dream, hope, wish or desire. Rather it is a blog about  doing those things and assessing and finding out what we can control, what we can’t and, therefore, finding peace in the outcomes. Am I getting ahead of myself? Maybe a little bit…but, I can be an optimistic person. The irony of this blog is that I had a lot of expectations about how I could set up this site. How I would name it, load it, design it, write it and get it launched. I found myself clenching my stomach at times and finding myself in the kitchen for comfort (not a good habit). Just another cup of coffee, snack or fizzy water to help sort out my mind.

I have a version of this and my mind gallops to the place where I get to tag in favorite blogs, articles, images-1videos and music with the snap of my fingers and share this with you and soothe my mind. I will get there. I realized that my expectations of being a start-up blogger were higher than my skill level. This is not shocking information in reality but, my own hopes hijacked my to-do list. I’ve had to revise my expectations  several times all weekend while piecing this together.

The way I roll this concept around in my mind and when I share with my clients is here in three categories. What are the minimum expectations? What are reasonable and achievable expectations? What are the dream scenarios (also called gravy, lottery, bonus).

The three questions bring up the head tilt thought of, “Huh, what did I want and what control did I have in making it happen?” Or, in reality, “What the #*&%$ happened!”. It moves us away from blaming and to problem solving.

Most of us are big dreamers and shoot for the stars. Nothing wrong with wanting the best but, what hurts is when we expect others to do, think, want, desire, plan, achieve as we do and in our way. Then we hit the ground hard and we are stunned that things didn’t turn out the way we so thought they would. It moves us away from blaming and to problem solving and dream revising.

But, I digress…My reasonable expectations are to publish some thoughts about expectations and my journey in identifying those in my life, parenting, travel, friendships, work and marriage. I’ve got some threads I want to pull and see where they unravel. Thank you for reading and please join me on this journey.

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