On Not So Great Expectations

My grandmother called me today. Just to say hello, just to say she missed me. It made my day.

It’s said that expectations are just resentments under construction, and I think that’s true. We expect too much from people, especially our families. Our loved ones should be super heroes. Without flaws. Without limitations. Always there. Always dependable. Always loving, caring, and kind.

The problem is that people have flaws and limitations. We all admit this, but I think it’s more difficult to accept than we let on. We expect parents to always do the right thing, always be there. They’re not people, they’re parents! We’re almost as tough on everyone else, siblings, children, grandparents, etc., and, honestly, we aren’t too much easier on friends.

Over time, our expectations do turn into resentments. She didn’t do this. He won’t do this. She never said this. He can’t be like this. During this slow accretion, our loved ones become caricatures or, maybe, just characters that populate the stories inside our heads. We return again and again to the shortcomings. We dwell on how they let us down. We put up walls. We build barriers. We hunker down. We wallow. We take a perverted comfort in the predictability of disappointment.

Unfortunately, our expectations blind us. We get wrapped around the axle about all that our loved ones don’t do, that we can’t see all the things they actually do. All the kindness, care, and love that is there. The wonderfully imperfect and imperfectly wonderful person right in front of us. I think the trick is to stop putting people in the boxes we’ve assigned to them along the way and trying to meet them halfway, in good faith.  I imagine, in the final examination, we’ll all look back and ask, “Why did I punish myself?” as we realize we were the only ones affected by our disappointments, our letdowns, our impossible expectations.

My grandmother calls a few times a year. She has no agenda, she just wants to hear my voice. Know how I’m doing. It’s uncomplicated. She can’t relate to my life, my career, all that I’ve done, but that doesn’t matter. She’s just calling because she cares.

Maybe we’d all be a bit better if we took the time just to hear our loved one’s voices. Sure, they’re odd, imperfect souls. So are we. We can let go of the unfulfilled expectations, and just focus on loving someone.

I have a few calls to make.

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