Learning to Expect

Expectations1200X850“I learnt early to have little expectation so I protected myself from ever feeling greatly disappointed.” ~Natalia Vodianova

Cover your ass. Look out for number 1. Protect ya neck. All sayings for the same general thing — being sure that selfishness plays a part in whatever you do. I think of Asimov’s 3 Laws of Robotics: 1. Robots may not injure humans; 2. Robots must obey humans, unless it conflicts with Law 1; 3. Robots must protect their own existence, unless that conflicts with Law 1 or 2. Law 3 is the kicker, or at least I’ve always thought that way. Protecting your own existence, but never at the expense of others.

Now, I’m not a robot, but I’ve always felt the expectation to be like them, the idea that emotion is a negative thing that needs to be kept at bay, like a dragon that must be slain before it destroys an entire village. Contrary to popular opinion it wasn’t my mother or father who taught me this central method of emotional circumspection. I instead internalized the idea early because of how I observed others, at church, on the playground, and in their interactions when they didn’t know I was paying attention. We learn a lot from the interactions to which we are not supposed to be privy.

But I internalized it, and so my emotions were locked in a box, at least when I was in the outside world. I decided that others were more important than me, so protecting their feelings by not revealing my own was paramount. I felt like a knight on a steed, riding in to save the day, or at least to make sure it wasn’t ruined. My expectations were for others, and never for myself, because expecting things for myself was like that 3rd Law I mentioned earlier. Expecting things for myself was at the expense of others, taking me away from making sure they were as well as they could be.

So over the years I’ve had no real expectations for myself. I’ve been grateful when life gives me some of the things I want, and I haven’t stopped trying to achieve my own goals (when they don’t interfere with the goals of others), but I’ve not broken that Law. I remember when I first met Heidi, and she told me I was worth it, that I was just as important as anybody else, that my dreams were just as worthy. And I remember nodding my head, and saying something appreciatory, but I don’t recall changing my opinion of the thing itself.

But I have gotten older, and every single day my wife gives me reason to believe that I am indeed worthy, that her words at the outset were not mere platitudes, but honesties that I need to take to heart. Expectation for oneself doesn’t have to preclude or take a back seat to expectation for others. It can ride right alongside, like the “other cop” in those buddy cop films that we all love to ridicule. But there is a point to them, that no matter how unlikely, that no matter how different the two of them are, they need each other to run like a well-oiled machine.

So I’m learning to expect things for myself. I’m learning that it’s okay to hope, to wish, and to dream without feeling guilty. Which is a first step.



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