My husband is known for his snarky comments and witty one-liners. One he uses with me often is, “Do you know what expectations are? – – Planned resentments.” This usually follows a story I’ve shared with him about someone not following through on a promise or an event not unfolding the way I had anticipated. Today was one of those days.
Today was supposed to be my 3-year old’s first gymnastics class in the brand new facility. We’ve been tolerating the previous stinky, dark warehouse location for months, and this was to be the grand reveal. I had him so excited – new building, new equipment, and his favorite preschool instructor. We talked about it during the drive across town and anticipation was high as we pulled into our parking spot and walked towards the open doors.
The new environment did not disappoint. Bright lights, clean facility, bathrooms that actually smelled good. Everything was looking perfect – just as I’d expected. And then…we noticed that there were no other families there as there typically would be at that hour. I saw a familiar face and asked if classes were on for today. The look she gave me and my wide-eyed little boy delivered the answer. Nope, no classes today due to a last-minute hang-up with a faulty sprinkler and the occupancy permit. Sadly I did not receive the memo, and so we were all dressed up with no place to go. My heart sank as I did my best to deliver the news to his hopeful little face, but it did not go well. Real tears, crushing disappointment, totally inconsolable. This was not at all what I had planned, and my first reaction was to feel resentful.
But – ironically…and this is almost too ridiculous to be true – as we were driving this morning and anticipating the big day, I was also listening to an audiobook by Christine Hassler called Expectation Hangover – Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life. During the 30 minute drive I might have made it somewhere into Chapter 2, but I had heard enough in that short time to recognize this was, in fact, my first chance of the day to determine if I would wallow in disappointment all morning, or make a choice to use the disappointment to engineer a better outcome.
So I thought about the attachment I had to the anticipated gymnastics class. I was expecting 45 minutes of downtime while my little guy enjoyed running, jumping, bouncing, balancing, and tumbling with his energetic, chubby-legged peers. When I considered the downtime more honestly, I realized I would accomplish very little during that 45 minutes. Maybe scroll through my Facebook feed one more time (as if I need more time to do that…eye roll) and catch up on a few text messages. Nothing life-changing here, folks. And as for N’s playtime, that was a pretty easy fix if I could gather up some enthusiasm and dedicate some quality undivided attention and time with just him, my pint-sized treasure.
And so, after tears subsided and he expended all of his frustration and disappointment by yelling at me (mom joy), I calmly told him he could pick what we did for the morning. After much deliberation, he thoughtfully decided on a playground we hadn’t visited in a while, followed by a hike around Salamander Loop, a short hiking path not far from our home.
Bottom line – instead of spending 45 minutes under fluorescent lighting, sitting on hard metal bleachers with 15 relative strangers and staring into my cell phone and occasionally glancing up to see the latest antics on the trampoline, I got to spend a beautiful fall morning with my youngest enjoying the warm sun, crisp autumn air, and the profoundly relaxing effects of nature. A simple, yet profound life lesson in the benefits of adopting a new perspective and realizing that the only thing I can EVER control is my own response and behavior.
If you, like me, find yourself dissatisfied from time to time with the way life has let you down, let me give you that kick in the pants we all need to move beyond your disappointment, take responsibility for your choices and actions, and embrace change. Remember, your good life awaits!