Yesterday I turned 51. This was the second birthday I celebrated since Covid began in the U.S. I feel as though I’ve been through several marathons and aged about 20 years since last year. A year ago on my birthday I wanted to surround myself virtually with family and friends via multiple Zoom video calls. This year was different. After a very tough year of dealing with Covid and everything else surrounding it my husband and I also dealt with (and are still dealing with) behavioral issues from my 9-year-old son which resulted in countless multi-hour, meltdowns throughout the year. I had no energy or patience left for Zoom. Instead I chose to spend my day solely with my husband and son and opted to go out for a hike in nature instead – something that I love to do.
I had a great birthday morning at home. My husband and son made me feel special by decorating the house for me and had gifts for me to open. They treated me well. I also enjoyed getting various phone calls and messages from friends and family throughout the day. Yet, the afternoon of my birthday did not go as I’d hoped it would as my son had a big meltdown which disrupted our afternoon and my vision of a perfect birthday. These expectations of how I feel things ‘should’ go are a problem as things rarely ever go as planned for anyone – especially for those living with a willful, defiant child. There is a simple equation for this: Expectations = Disappointment = Unhappiness.
During this past year this simple equation has become more and more in my face as I’ve told myself countless times that I would benefit greatly by letting go of my expectations. But my brain can not help but remain hopeful. I somehow think that if I just try hard enough I’ll be able to figure things out and control the outcome. Whether it be the problem of my son’s behavior or anything else. I’ll try to fix it, to make everything alright, but I am slowly learning that that this kind of thinking is not at all realistic and perhaps the most important thing for me to do right now is to let go of any expectations of how the outcome of something is going to turn out and to be OK with whatever it is now and whatever it becomes in the future. When I am able to successfully do this, I notice that I free myself from possible disappointment and in the end I am happier.
Yesterday, on my birthday, I WAS able to let go of my expectations. Instead of getting upset as I often do when my child blows up (in this case right when we were getting into the car to leave the house for our hike), instead of reacting as I might have done in the past, I stepped away and let my husband handle the meltdown and I took my cellphone to our backyard. I laid down on the grass and looked up toward the big walnut tree in our backyard and basked in the sunshine and talked on the phone with my sister. Sure there was some yelling and screaming happening in the background of our phone call at times. Sure I was annoyed that we weren’t leaving for the hike when we planned to leave for it and we actually left much later than I would have liked. However there was nothing to really do about any of it and in that moment in the grass talking with my sister I was as present and as real as I could get. I simply let it all go – and was fine with it – even slightly blissful if I dare say.
No Expectations = Fulfillment = Joy
If 2020 was a year of survival and of hanging on to unrealistic expectations that couldn’t possibly come to fruition; perhaps 2021 can be a more realistic and accepting year. May this be a year of letting go of dreams that didn’t happen just as we wanted them to. Let this be a year of whatever we end up with in the end is still alright and that we can grieve our losses but still be grateful for what we’ve got now. It might not be a year that we envisioned or as pretty looking on the outside as we’d want it to be, but it will be one that is a lot more freeing, realistic and real.