William Shakespeare said that “Expectation is the root of all heartache” and sadly (not sadly though, really), over this past year, I have come to accept that he may be onto something. I say sad because it does cause heartache, and hurt feelings take a long time to work through. Thankfully though, I have learned more about myself and those around me because of it.
I don’t know if it is possible to go into anything with expectations, even expectations of ourselves — although, I think it’s typical to hold others to expectations more than we hold ourselves to them, which is where the problems generally lie.
As I reflect on the thirty second year of my life and my role as a mother and wife, it’s an emotional thing for obvious reasons. Motherhood is beautiful and challenging and forces me to face my inner villain. I’m a take charge, do it myself, emotional, and quite needy woman which one would think is not possible (to want to do it all myself and be simultaneously needy). I’m overly sensitive, overly compassionate, and I expect a TON out of the people in my life. I don’t have many deep, genuine relationships where I fully divulge, but have all the gratitude in the world for those relationships where that quality is present and reciprocated. It takes a lot of vulnerability to invest and trust your feelings with other people (at least for me), which is probably why it takes so long to recover from experiencing heartache and hurt.
There are many a days when my husband comes home from work and all I want to do is tell him all of the “hard things” I had to do that day. Deal with tantrums at the grocery store, manage a toddler in a shopping cart and a baby strapped to my chest as I helped my six year old use the restroom, get a snack for the seventy third time, or call insurance to suss out waiver issues. I want to hear of his gratitude and appreciation of all the things I do for our family. It’s self-serving, self-important, and just pretty ugly. I’m always disappointed by his response. Always is a strong statement, but it’s the truth. He is quick to pick up on the not-so-subtlety of my ploy and pat me on the back, sure… but, it’s not truly what I am longing for.
I’ve recently been reading a book about the Liturgy of the ordinary, the every day’s, the mundane. If all it has done is changed my views on the afternoon doldrums, it has been worth it to spend a few moments each day reading a couple pages. Our doldrums are probably not what you’re imagining… we don’t sit for any prolonged period of time as a family — but our afternoons, they are mundane. We do the same things, over and over – like most people. I go into my days with expectations, which I think is healthy – it keeps me hopeful and optimistic. But if truth be told, they rarely turn out as I expect them to. I tend to run late these days, which bothers me something fierce. I spend most of my time in the kitchen either preparing a meal, cleaning up a meal, packing a lunch, making a snack, or washing the 100th dish of the day (or hiding so I can eat a snack of my own without sharing). I find myself frustrated and yelping at my dear children to hurry, stop,listen, or to stop yelling as I’m yelling. I get irritated at being the family chauffeur. I’m left fuming when my husband comes home at a time other than what we’d discussed when he leaves in the morning. Enough. Right. I mean, I could justify to you why I should be upset in these situations, but that is probably the wrong direction to take this.
I find myself longing to say “what about me?” “what about my needs?”, “I need to go potty too!”
As I was chauffeuring the other day, a verse from Colossians came on the radio and brought all of these thoughts to a collective place.
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” Colossians 3:23 (NIV)
Growing up in the church, I heard this verse more times than I can count. And, I get it, on an intellectual level, right… But, this verse really stood out to me, as if I’ve never heard it before. If I instead view my “hard things” as things I’m doing for God because this is the job He has given me, I have no reason to feel unappreciated, overlooked, and forgotten. That doesn’t mean I won’t get frustrated, feel worn, or get caught up in my own needs at times, because I am still human. And quite frankly, God doesn’t expect perfection out of me, He doesn’t require that I meet every need, please every person, or be on top of my emotional game all the time. What He does expect and desire is that my heart be in the right place about whatever I am doing (not on myself). So, instead, when I can re-align my eyes with the truth, my expectations about other’s actions/words are no longer useful, and more importantly, no longer have the power to hurt me or disappoint me.
I am free from heartache simply by focusing on the Lord. HE values my life and all of the little and big things I do for my family.
Yesterday, as I went from task to task, I worked on keeping a heavenly perspective about the things I was doing. Things didn’t go as I had planned time wise, my oldest needed shorts brought to school because it was too warm for pants in the building, my husband’s meeting went 90 minutes over, and my daughter pooped on our nature walk (imagine changing a two year olds poopy pants with a 5 month old grabbing your face and a 6 year old doing his best to eat as much trail mix as possible while I was out of reach!!! – needless to say, twigs were in her pants when I got home that night). I was left “killing time” until we could go home to make dinner, which was an hour later than usual. I stopped myself and for a moment just imagined God looking down on me with tender eyes, with grace, and giving me all the patience I needed. It was real. It is real.
It’s a daily thing though. It’s not a one time fix, perspective change, or attitude adjustment. (that’s the hard part, having to do it over and over again).
But, who better to work for than the Lord?! Not my little masters (i.e. children) of this earthly life.
-Extrapolation of these ideas to your walk of life is left as an exercise for the reader.