Un-Expect the Expected

With a borrowed car in my possession, a road trip underway, a tape deck (YES a tape deck) bumpin’ tunes, I let my thoughts meander like the open expanse of highway in front of me.   I am headed towards the Eastern Townships of Quebec to teach a group of summer cottage ladies yoga at their boat/tennis club.  Afterwards, heading westward to meet an old high school friend who is on business in Ottawa.  And the thought on the repeating brainturntable is: expectation.

Perhaps it is the nature of the journey.  The adventure.  When you have an open stretch of tar in front of you, wheels, forward motion, you can’t help but wonder what you expect to see at the other end of the road.

What IS around the bend?  Is it a police car waiting to stop my slightly speeding Honda Accord?  Is it a giant moose ready to leap across the highway and play chicken with my moth-encrusted grill as predicted by that yellow triangular sign?  Is the gas going to be half of a cent cheaper at the next stop or should I just exit now?

I started thinking about what I would say in my yoga class.  What these women would expect of me, and how or if I could fulfill their expectations.  Would I challenge them enough?  Could I provide any sort of wisdom or insight in addition to teaching the class….but wait a minute, who am I to have wisdom or insight?  Would they be inspired by my green-smoothie filled mason jar, or do they just think I am a tree-hugging soy substitute?

And then I started to put myself into their shoes (or pedicured bare feet) and started to wonder what sort of expectations they have to live up to every day….as a wife, as a mother, as a boat-club member.  Are they expected to wear make-up to yoga class or do they just want to?  Is there a side of them that is unexpected, wild, crazy and/or contained?  Do they ever share that side??

On my way to see my friend in Ottawa, the same grey cauliflower upstairs (my brain) was running full throttle.  I haven’t seen him in years.  We dated in high school for maybe three months, and we have remained close ever since.  He was my first love,and I stayed in love with him for a very long time….until, I suppose, I met my second love.  (And so it goes, no?)

He knows me.  He knows my history.  He is the one person I can say, “remember when” with.  He knows all of the members of my family, not necessarily in person but he knows that if I say, “I am going to the store with my dad.”, that I am talking about my step-dad.  He knows my triumphs and my failures.  He knows that I can’t ever keep my room clean and haven’t been able to since high school, that I’m terrible with money, and I tend to choose unmotivated artsy-type boyfriends with commitment problems of their own.  He has seen me through a slew of “he’s THE ONE” and as many broken hearts.  And I know him too.  I know his troubles in his relationships, his love for adventure, sailboats and daydreaming and his penchant for obsessive vacuuming.

And for all of that unconditional love, that complete acceptance of constitution that has spanned nearly twenty years(16), I still pulled over into three different gas stations and changed clothes three different times before reaching his hotel.  I found myself consumed, paranoid, self-conscious and insecure because of expectation.  And the funny thing is, obviously, NOT about what he was actually expecting, but about what I was expecting he was expecting.  Follow?

I made up stories about how he would see me:  would he notice I’d gained a little weight while traveling ?  Was my hair too messy?  Were my clothes too hippie or did I pull off just the right amount of “exotic” to suit my newfound profession?  I enacted in my head the hug we would give each other upon meeting and the type of conversations we would have….(god forbid, that I ever have to attend a high-school reunion.)

And I literally had to shake my head from side to side….violently and at risk to the cars beside me.  I had to clear all of this monkey chatter out of my brain because this is the one person in my life with whom BULLSHIT NEED NOT APPLY.

But we all do this.  (And don’t kid yourself.  You know you already have three options of a witty and slightly sarcastic retort to the taxi driver with a bad attitude, throwing in just enough measure of charm to melt his tough exterior and make him smile.)

We create stories.  We try to predict the future or mold our outcomes based on the expectations of others or the expectations we place on ourselves.  We take the square peg of reality and try to cram it into the round hole of expectation and we end up with a little bit shaved off of our corners, a little less of who we actually are.  If we can just let go of this desire to control, to plan….to seek results, to be SOMEthing instead of just TO BE, is it not a so much more joyous way to live?  Does it not open up so many more opportunities for surprise, for spontaneity, to actually respond to the situation in front of you….right here, right now.

Can we not allow ourselves to be authentic?

How much of yourself are you really?  And how much of you is based on what people expect you to be….what YOU expect you to be, and how much of those self-imposed expectations actually matches up with who you really are??

So after the third and final road-side costume change, I decided to just be me.  I have messy hair, and to be honest, I can’t remember the last time I washed it.


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