rules and expectations

Posted: February 3, 2014 in Uncategorized

Her frustration pulsed through the telephone line as she vented to me – I could picture the way it probably scrunched her face as she spoke.  “Everyone knows that’s the right order to do things!  Why won’t he do it right?!” 

She was a mom with a house full of kids under 6 years old.  She had left her husband in charge the evening before while she had to take care of business.   He was preoccupied with the home improvement project he was working on.  While he had gotten around to feeding and bathing the children before bed, he had not managed to clean up the supper mess or do any of the other basic housekeeping to which she always so carefully attended every evening before she slept.  Instead, he had worked on the house. When she got home from her evening away, it was bedtime, and still hours’ worth of work awaited her.

She was livid, telling it.  “You take care of your everyday business before you jump into extra projects.  Everyone knows that!  Why won’t he do it right?!” 

I was surprised as I listened to her, realizing that I was not among the ranks of the “everyone” who knew that.  It was my standard practice to blow by everyday chores, skipping them, whenever working on a special project.  I would let dishes and laundry pile up for days.  Abandon the tidying work.  Fail to dust, vacuum, wipe things down.  All of that always went out the window when I was on a project.  I’d catch up with it later – today, I had something special to do – even if today was the third such “today” in a row. 

I was a young mom myself at the time, and if memory serves me well, that was the first time I had clearly considered that what “everybody knows” is a different set of items, depending on who you are talking to.  My friend was so sure about that rule – and that rule had never crossed my mind, even once.  I remember that it made me curious.  It made me want to know what set of assumptions I was carrying around that weren’t altogether obvious to others around me. 

Hers was a good rule, no doubt.  In truth, though, it is still not integrated into my habits.  I still put aside everyday items and neglect them when I am in the tornado of a special project.  I no longer let my home get downright gross, but I do still push back things that many would consider “not optional” when I am in pursuit of a special deadline.  I have trouble seeing how anyone ever gets special projects done, if they don’t set aside the everyday stuff from time to time.  Since she was a lady who took care of business, I can only assume it worked for her. 

Today, I don’t have any desire to sort out whether her rule is right or my approach is the correct answer.  I believe less in a “correct answer” when it comes to how to do many things.  So much of what we do is preferences.  And when it comes to preferences, they tend to be tightly woven with expectations.  And I’ve said it before – expectations are killer, when it comes to our mental health and well being, as well as the health of our relationships.  Right or wrong, my friend’s expectations were for sure filling her with rage when they did not get met. 

I like being 47.  While I don’t have it all figured out yet, I don’t get sucker punched by my expectations nearly as much as I used to.  I’m faster at this point in the game to recognize – oops, I had an expectation, and my having one doesn’t mean the other party owes me the fulfillment of it. I’m quicker to let the expectation die, unmet and unacknowledged.

That’s a freeing place to live, even if it does come with an initial OUCH pretty much every single time.

  1. Laurie says:

    ……..that was the first time I had clearly considered that what “everybody knows” is a different set of items, depending on who you are talking to……….

    Ok that made me just bust out giggling! Love this piece of writing. What a bunch of truth. I am stuck on the deep truth of ‘preferences being tightly woven to expectations’. Lots to think on and examine with the heart of application. Thanks K!

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