FLOATING MY MANTRA
Years ago, floating lazily with a friend on a tube at my childhood lake, I spouted off about something that hadn’t gone my way. (I majored in spouting.) My friend, probably in her early 30’s said, “Madelon, expectation is the road to disappointment.” Not the there, there … sentiments I wanted. Her words struck hard and burrowed into me so deeply they are part of me. I often counsel myself and others with the phrase.
I’m sure as your daily routines explode, or you quietly implode due to Covid – 19, many of you are walking that road. You expected your child would have a Grade 12 graduation ceremony. You expected a live-in university experience for your daughter, or your son would be travelling in Europe instead of gaming in your basement. You expected to go to your granddaughter’s wedding, still go into work, have a social life, visit relatives in the states. You expected your steady income, took for granted paying your rent and buying groceries. Disappointment? You bet!
Aside from our experience of life to date, history has demonstrated there are no guarantees. We didn’t expect our country would get drawn into war, or the ozone layer around our planet would become so thin it affects our weather. I’m sure when Leo Baekeland created Bakelite, the first real synthetic, mass-produced plastic, in 1907 he did not expect it would become one of the greatest problems of the 21st century.
So, if expectation is the road to disappointment, what road can we travel safely? Years ago, I started identifying a human characteristic I would develop further in the year ahead. Each January I named my focus for the year: patience, balance, humility, gratitude, and so on. I worked my way through a list, even repeating one because I just couldn’t get it. (A dog waiting for his food bowl has more patience than I.) Three years ago, and already three weeks into January with my word unchosen, I expressed my concern to a friend over the phone. “Maybe, you’re not supposed to have a word, but a phrase,” she suggested. Oh, the irony. Again, my expectation of one word had led straight to disappointment. Talk about tunnel-vision. “I’ll think about that,” I answered. I came up with a phrase that delighted me. A phrase that held possibility with no promise, commitment with no specific outcome – a phrase that soared and excited, while energizing. ANTICIPATE THE BEST. It allows for hope without the disappointment of expectation. It creates opportunity – inviting me to be part of the best. I can help make something the best, see the best in others, find the best in myself, and know through those actions the best is happening all around.
With elation, I told my friend how she had helped me. In return, I received an emailed drawing of a three-dimensional maze. A person on a ladder, peers over the top of the winding rows with binoculars. Whenever my mind wanders into the future, and my ego stages its amateur performance of anxiety, fear, anger – I say, “I anticipate the best.” A dentist appointment. A reading in front of a large audience. Waiting on lab results – you name it. I go into the situation floating my mantra, and the excitement of feeling all will be well. Without the leverage of expectation, I can’t heft disappointment. Instead, positivity elevates the best result. I colour in one piece of my maze and name the incident and date. By the end of December, my picture is a rainbow display of all the best moments in the year.
With thanks to Laurie Peck for her hard hitting, priceless advice. I did not have the coin to pay, but hope I bartered something.