I’ve been a little quiet recently, living in the void, befriending uncertainty. It’s been an interesting time full of fertile ground for working with my mind. Let’s face it, it is s&*t when we don’t get what we want! I guess I’m quite used to getting what I want but I’m learning, at present, that life doesn’t always work that way. This is not to say that I always get what I want but, I guess, it is usually pretty clear what the outcome will be. This means that I can accept what comes to me and move on from it. Recently, I have been living in the void though; not really knowing what the outcome will be. It seems that every time I think a particular outcome has manifested, it changes. It’s kind of like I’m being told ‘here you go again, you got comfortable and complacent so the rug will be pulled out from under you again now until you learn.’ Learn what? I guess until I learn that nothing is certain and that the Hollywood ‘happily ever after’ conclusion to things is a myth. There is no end point. It will just keep on changing.
So what does one do when living in an extended period in uncertainty? My response has been to want to rush through it to some kind of conclusion but, this time, it’s just not working that way. I’m doing what I can but I can’t rush.There is nowhere to go. I just have to wait. However, I have discovered that waiting on the edge of my seat, chewing my fingernails while the butterflies dance manically in my stomach is no way to live and my adrenal glands certainly don’t like it! This has forced me to review my situation and my entire world view to some degree. It has taught me a lot.
Firstly, what makes those happy people happy? The wordpress prompt that I responded to in my last post got me thinking about this as I contemplated the cheerful delivery man. If I think of myself being a delivery man, I think I would be a miserable, surly delivery man – I expect too much out of life. I want too much. I’m always seeking after something else, something new, something big to fulfil my ambitions (ouch! it stings even writing this!). I’ve always been one of those people who have wanted to do something great. But I haven’t. Well, not at least in any way obvious to me. So I need to face up to that. Not in a way that says ‘why haven’t you?’ but rather in a ‘why would you think you could?’ and a ‘what is your motivation to do so?’ kind of way. I’ve realised that always seeking something ‘Big’ means I’ve been missing the ‘Little’.
So I’ve been appreciating the Littles more this week and it has been quite surprising. I’m taking more note of the small kindnesses that are shown to me and that I show to others. It’s nice. It’s enjoyable. It’s a lot less effort than striving after Big things all the time. I can relax a bit.
How does this relate to uncertainty and living in the void? Well, I don’t know how long I’ll be in the void and there may not be a foreseeable end point so I need to work with what I have got. The alternative is depression and anxiety and I’ve done those to death – I’m through with living like that. I want to be happy (or should I say, deeply contented, accepting and joyful) and if I expect that state of mind to emerge out of struggle and resistance to what is, then I am always going to me at the mercy of external circumstances and who knows what is around the corner. I, for one, certainly know of many, many people in far worse situations than my own – they would think I am mad for not being grateful for my situation and rightly so. I wish I wasn’t such a finicky, fickle and ungrateful personality. In fact, I’m done with that too!
I do need to be gentle with myself though. I’ve been a certain way for a long time (at least this life-time!); it’s a habitual way of thinking. I can and will change it though. Today the sun is shining, the air is nearly still and I am amongst the mountain tops. I have a flicker of joy and contentment warming me from within. I can feel it. It is there. I will nurture this small flame and feed it with presence and stillness and guard it from the winds of fear and grasping. In gratitude I thank those who have shown me where to look and to those who have shaped my world and co-create those moments of happiness. And a ‘hats off’ to the void. Of course you are always there.
DP writing challenge: ‘Expectations’ http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/great-expectations/
Expectation is a story comprised of layered thoughts set one on top another like paper mache, glued with emotions such as fear, attachment and pride. Expectation forms like a scab on the surface of our experience. Once scratched it’s flimsy surface tears away, leaving a glimpse of the raw and gory truth inside. This scab is inflexible and tight and leaves a scar. While expectations met bring a measured dose of excitement (enough to feed the addiction), this quickly fades into boredom and apathy. Rapidly the mind, once again, conceives of and re-builds a new set of expectations and associated story lines, unless we should fall for that same old story again – you remember the time I expected chocolate to make me feel better; it made me feel better for awhile; and then it made me sick? I’ve done that more than once!
Expectations come at us from all directions (including from within). Some we make our own. Some we disregard. Where did they all begin? I can only guess not long after birth… ‘I expect to be fed…mwah!’ Who knows, maybe even before?
Other people’s expectations, as heavy as lead, can weigh on us like compound interest. If they support the story of ‘me’ and who I think ‘I’ ought to be (even if that is a negative self-image) then we accept them, believe them and even worship them, infusing them with power, submitting to them like we have no choice.
Expectation can sometimes be ‘hope’. Not aspirational hope that warmly guides us towards a more positive state of being but the hope that eats your stomach lining; gives you insomnia; the one you want to believe in but aren’t quite convinced; and whose close ally is fear.
Expectation can also be stubborn ignorance. ‘How could that have possibly happened? This cant’ happen to me!’ It hides in the shadows, structures our thinking and shapes our experience. Ironically, you may know, through reason, something to be the truth (such as that I will die) but subtly expect some other outcome.
Life can become one great series of misguided expectations, toppling down one after another like a stack of dominoes. The odd one might escape but, largely, they surmount to not much more than a pile of fallen pieces waiting to be rebuilt, lost or put in a box and returned to the cupboard.
What is the best strategy for dealing with expectations? See them, acknowledge how they have shaped your life and dismiss them like you would a stuffed lion that you formerly took for real. They are but transient ideas that we have held onto or feared, put on a pedestal and made offerings to. They are only as powerful as we let them be. Dropping them can be scary at first (especially for the first time) but once we taste the ensuing freedom, that sweet liberation, it is clear what choice to make.