“Tell me again how much that watch is that you want,” my husband texted me 4 days before Mother’s Day. I start dropping subtle hints about 1 week in advance of the big day. I knew I was just about to shoot myself in the foot as I texted back, “I checked it out. Too expensive. Don’t worry about it.”
Men are very literal. If we say, “don’t worry about it,” they don’t. At all! Why was I even remotely shocked when Mother’s Day rolled around, and it became painfully obvious that my husband didn’t worry about it. Even though the watch really was too expensive, I still expected something! I expected him to see through this line of bologna, take this as an opportunity to do whatever he wanted, put some effort into producing a little token of appreciation, and yes, wrap that token himself! And this is precisely where the wheels start to come off the bus and disaster looms ahead...expectations...
Whether we realize it or not, we have expectations about almost everything. We expect our kids to listen, our spouses to appreciate us, to always love motherhood, for the weather to be nicer, for our hair to do what it is supposed to do, yadda, yadda, yadda. Herein lays the problem. We have these expectations, often times without even knowing it, and they can really make a mess of things. Take
for example, Mother’s Day. Now that I’ve had some time to reflect, I realize I unconsciously expected my husband to say, “Honey, thank you for willingly sacrificing your career, sanity, and social life to raise our children. I know you said not to, but I actually read your mind, figured out exactly what watch it was you wanted, used my bonus from work to buy it, and I wrapped it myself.”
Unrealistic? Perhaps. To my subconscious? No. C’mon, it’s Mother’s Day! This whole day practically sets up our unrealistic expectations for us! When it became painfully apparent there was no card, no watch (yeah, the one I said not to buy), or no pomp and circumstance, I jumped right on that emotional rollercoaster for the ultimate ride of sadness and self-pity. But as the coaster was climbing its steepest hill, just about to go over the crest and gain its strongest momentum, I stopped the ride. I stepped off. I decided I didn’t want to take that ride that day. I had done it too many times before. I knew how the ride was gonna end.
Mindfulness has taught me that I have control…over some things. I can’t control other people. I can’t control situations. And I’m starting to realize how difficult it is to control expectations. But I can control my RESPONSE to these things.
My mindfulness practice has also taught me if I’m feeling a strong emotion, something’s up. I’m resisting something. The moment I become aware of these emotions is the moment I stop the ride. When I started to feel sad Mother’s Day morning, it was an indication that I was resisting the “thought” that my husband didn’t appreciate me enough to do something special. At that moment, I realized the only person I was hurting by feeling this badly was myself. I realized that no amount of getting worked up would change reality. All it would do is put me in a funk for the rest of the day.
The thing is, when we step on that rollercoater by reacting to our negative thoughts, we deliberately inflict pain on ourselves. I’ve spent way too many years hurting myself by mindlessly engaging in an emotionally abusive relationship with myself. Ego tried to tempt me a lot that day to step back on that rollercoaster ride. But every time I chose not to respond to its cajoling, I released the hold it had on me.
This is acceptance, mamas. When we recognize our negative reactions and judgments to situations and choose not to get on that coaster, we practice acceptance. Sure, my mind tried to trick me into thinking that I couldn’t possible “accept” the fact that my spouse did nothing for me for Mother’s Day. This was its siren call. However, I’ve learned that “our conditioning would have us believe that not accepting an issue is the same as doing something about it…”(Cheri Huber, When You’re Falling, Dive). But think about what you “do about” a situation that you label unacceptable-- you find someone or something to blame, you rant and rave about the injustice, and get so emotionally worked up you can’t see straight. What does this actually accomplish? Other than make you miserable?
We all have the power to stop the emotional rollercoaster at any point, but it does take practice. (When you get really good at your practice, you get better about not even setting foot on the coaster in the first place!) When we are standing on solid ground and not screaming our fool heads off on that darn ride, we stay rooted in our True selves. Only goodness flows from this place. Keep standing here, and you’ll find that you allow for wonderful, unexpected, things to happen. That Mother’s Day, when I chose not to indulge in the emotional reaction of my expectations and accepted reality and my husband for what it/he was, I stayed grounded and opened my heart to receive what I desired that day-- love, compassion, and appreciation. The best, most unexpected part was that these gifts came from myself.