I couldn’t get a break today. But I should have “expected” it because I was in a bad mood from the start of when my feet hit the floor from a fitful nights sleep of very odd and incoherent dreams. At every turn of events I felt thwarted, frustrated, impatient, and intolerant. What…in my dream or in my waking life? Precisely!
In the morning my wife and I thought we’d take a pleasant bike ride to breakfast. But we kept taking different routes that lead away from each other, and when we eventually met up her cautiousness on the busy streets caused her to frequently dismount from her bike and walk, which according to my expectation made us late (not that we had reservations mind you). To add to my frustration a cross walk light chose that morning to malfunction. After three cycles of malfunction it dawned on us that it wasn’t going to light, so we walked across, keeping a wary eye on the traffic.
My frustration built up like an ungoverned steam engine until it needed to find something, or in this case someone, to vent on. I mumbled, fumed, blamed in my head, and struggled mightily not to take it out on the nearest person at hand, poor Fran. I had made the reality of the ride an unhappy burden in my imagination. Once again my imaginary expectations made a mess in the reality. Breakfast, however, was quite pleasant and I started to relax a little.
Later in the day, a granddaughter came over and we went out to Starbucks at the mall for treats and grandpa/granddaughter time, but I couldn’t find a parking space, “ah there’s one!” I’d say and I’d step on the gas arriving just as someone else would pull in to the empty space. Damn! I said in my head again and again as around and around we went until my patience wore thin and the veiled expletives became less shrouded, “There’s one, oh fu…, funny, how “fu…nny” I choked so as to not upset the innocence in the back seat as yet another car slipped in before I arrived and I took yet another round of frustration. “I can’t get a break today!” I exclaimed. “Poor grandpa! We could go to the one near our house.” She said helpfully, probably sensing that grandpa was not a happy rider on this not-so-merry-go-round.
Finally, on a side street a lone parking space appeared out of nowhere, far from our destination, “but it’ll have to do,” I thought resignedly. After a long wait in line at the coffee shop the clerk didn’t seem to understand my order, “A large non-fat hot chocolate.” I said wearily, but somehow she heard, “A chai latte, please.” I don’t even know what that is, but on discovering the mistake after waiting for several orders that had been taken after mine, they put the correction in the queue several more orders behind that. Then the difference in cost had to be worked out and that took several more minutes and signatures on a reimbursement chit only to receive a 30 cent refund and the wrong sized hot chocolate.
A simple trip to the coffee shop started to feel as though it had taken most of the afternoon. Not wanting to prolong my self-induced agony I took the smaller cup, grunted a not so sincere, “thank you,” and numbly walked out the door and plopped into an outside chair to stare at the passers-by and sip my now cold hot chocolate.
For a moment I felt dead inside, kind of numb, then I forced my self to chuckle. This was definitely not my day! I mused. But my granddaughter was happy as a lark with her chocolate milk, a pumpkin scone and some other little girl to befriend on the nearby play-scape. I couldn’t help but smile and this tamed the weary beast inside me.
My older granddaughter called from her cellphone and asked me to pick her up at a friend’s house and to take her home. This of course was located several miles from our current position. “Where’s your Mom?” I croaked. “Out with Grandmother.” She said as though I were being just too stupid for asking. So I wrote down the directions on a slightly damp napkin (you ever try to do that?). Of course the directions of a thirteen year old were less than ideal and forced me to consult a map at every stop light while she amused herself in texting me every five minutes or so with a “Where are U?” This of course buoyed my spirits, NOT.
I finally picked her up and dropped her at her front door. Out she bolted and disappeared into the house, no goodbye, no thank you. I left the younger one with her mother who had barely escaped being knocked over by the thirteen year old bent on texting while running toward her room without once looking up, lost somewhere between narrow focus and complete obliviousness. “How do they do that?” I wondered silently. Also the six year old had in mind that she and I were going watch the Barbie at Princess Charm School video, but when Mommy showed up early there were tears of disappointment (hers, not mine)–yet another thwarted expectation.
Soon it was dinner and my wife was off playing bridge at the church so I thought I’d try a rib place I hadn’t been to before. Inside and sitting next to the window I looked out on the traffic moving down the Avenue. Something disturbing intruded– A rumble that I could feel in my chest and inside my head. The ground felt unstable here as it shook with each car that passed, the guy behind me made odd grunting noises, and the ribs smelled dead, uninviting. Nothing seemed in balance. Everything was off just a bit, nothing was quite right. Even the air felt as though it were heavier than usual and pressed down around me. Nothing seemed fully real. Perhaps, I pondered, it was the Paulo Coelho book I was reading? No, this had been going on all day, before I’d had a chance to even read the first page.
As though this day were partly within a dream, some aspect of me wasn’t fully here, but lost in some expectation, and I paid the price–perturbation, unbalance, alienation and a strong sense of separation all of which conspired to leave me rootless and not feeling quite welcome in the world. So, where was I? The truth is that I wasn’t fully there because I was mired in the way I “wanted it to be” rather than in the here and now of the way it was.
It seems to me that expectations, like my granddaughters cell phone texting, tend to narrow ones focus i.e. our vision of reality tends to narrow. It’s like sitting in the middle a room and looking out its one small window and assuming that everything within its frame is all that there is. I could get up from the chair and approach the window and stick my head outside which would of course expand that reality, but, no, I sit, fixed in my point-of-view, depending on the world to bring reality into that limited frame and disappointed when it isn’t what I wanted.
I used to tell my oldest daughter when she was much younger and talking about her image of God, “Be careful how you describe him, for if he is that leaf that just blew by and your image doesn’t include that, then you’ve missed him.”
I often complain that things aren’t the way I think they ought to be and then whine, sometimes bitterly, that someone ought to change the reality so as to better align with my expectations. No that’s not how I say it, it’s more like, “Why do they do that? They should do it like this.” Or some form of “I’m right, they’re wrong.” You’d be amazed at the lengths I’ll go to feel better about their being wrong.
For some people right now it may look as if I’ve wandered from expectancy into another restricting trait, point-of-view. But isn’t an expectation just another point-of-view and vice versa? Both require a vision of what is and a narrow vision at that. Both affect what is seen aka reality e.g. experienced and thus inform our actions, or how we feel about them.
In our waking life I think that many of us are standing in the room with the small, framed window. It isn’t until we enter the world of the dream that our frame widens, even disappears, and holds the potential of infinite possibilities. What would happen if we treated our waking lives in the same manner e.g. as a frame with infinite possibility? What would happen if we let go of what we think our life should be and embraced what it is?
What would happen if we were to get up off our tuchus and walk over to the window and stick our head out to get a broader and clearer view?
Well, there’s always tomorrow.