Thursday, December 6, 2012

Great Expectations

Before we get to the meat of this blog, let's review. This Charles Dickens classic tells the story of Pip, an English orphan who rises to wealth, deserts his true friends, and becomes humbled by his own arrogance.The title Great Expectations refers to the 'Great Expectations' Pip has of coming into his benefactor's property upon his disclosure to him and achieving his intended role as a gentleman at that time.

Though I've never been called 'Pip', I have been told by more than one person that I have "too" great of expectations.

Expectations of what, you ask? Apparently everything.

In some respects, I think this may be true. I do think I have high expectations for myself, which is probably why I feel like such a failure for a good percentage of the time. I struggle with doing "what is expected" of me - hey, there's that word again. 

I remember feeling the pressures of expectations in college - at the time I felt that they were driven by my parents, but in looking back, they were only a product of what I felt I should be in order to please them. Big difference. I've always been very cognizant of what people might think of me, and it wasn't until a good friend finally shook me and said, "Guess what? They're NOT thinking of you" that I finally realized how silly it was to even worry about that.

It's funny - you would think that my expectations of others are a result of the expectations I put on myself, and to an extent that's true. But I don't want to come across as some prima donna  goodie goodie diva-type person who thinks her shit doesn't stink. That's not me. But I do know right from wrong, good person versus bad person, and when I deviate from who I (think) I'm supposed to be, it causes me stress. There's no reason why I can't live up to my own expectations. They're not superhuman. But no matter how much I "improve", I always find someone who absolutely blows me away in one area or another, which makes me realize I really have a long way to go.

Tangible example: Running. I know I've only been running for 10 weeks (yes we got back together), but I feel like I should be running faster and farther and more often and with less pain and with more energy and with better shoes or whatever. I had the awesome opportunity to run with a group of fantastic ladies last night (Sole Sisters.) One of the women with whom I ran (my pacesetter who thankfully slowed down for me) is an avid marathoner. Younger than me, but not by too much. Two kids. No excuse why I can't be doing marathons, other than the fact that I have no desire to.

The other one? Just had a baby and is still nursing. She was wearing two sports bras. Come ON. When I was nursing I couldn't even run down the stairs without leaking something. And here I am, my able-bodied, finished-making-babies self, running like a slug wondering what I've been doing walking my piddly three or four miles a day for the past 10 years. Slacker I am.

Intangible example: Relationships. This is where people have chimed in and said perhaps I should lower my expectations a bit. What, again we're bringing up my failure? Apparently, my expectations for a mate far exceed any actual capabilities. A 50/50 partnership? Um, that doesn't exist, Amy. It's usually 70/30. Or maybe 60/40 on a good day. (Actually, the "good" relationships change percentages based on the need of the mate... not really familiar with that one.)

I fail to understand how, in this day and age, the woman versus man role is still so incredibly stereotyped when we are both working 40 hour weeks. How is it that the male gets off so easily from all the other primary responsibilities simply because his label is "breadwinner"? Because the female is more organized, more emotionally bonded.. blah, blah, blah. I don't buy it. I know there are differences between men and women, but sheesh, guys. Step up to the plate. I'm tired of wearing the pants.

One more: Children. Now, this is tricky, because I don't want to be labeled as some Tiger Mom that has these unrealistic hopes and dreams for her kids and is disappointed when they don't come to fruition. But I do kind of wonder where my kids' drive and ambition is, unless they inherited that gene from their father, who is more of a laid back, "it'll happen" kind of guy. That attitude drives me crazy. I mean, it's fine if I don't have to live with it. And I guess I'd rather have that  than the extreme, which I have experienced and it's no fun. Too high of expectations in yourself can often result in workaholicism, which can lead to a fallout of your priorities, which can lead to living your life alone because no one wants to be around you because all you talk about is how to get ahead at work. (Think it's a challenge to try to make me happy? Perhaps.)

But I digress. It's tough to NOT have great expectations for your kids, and though I do, I am truly, truly proud of them no matter WHAT they do. And I'm not lying. BUT, I do sometimes fall into the trap (don't you judge; don't you dare because you know you do it too) of looking at others' kids - you know the ones. They play violin. They're in the school play. They get straight A's and get upset if they get a B. They mow lawns or babysit to save money to buy their own car. They somehow skip that selfish, "all about me" phase that drives me bananas. Of course, the trickle-down effect is that somehow I am not being the parent I should be in order to raise children like this, thus I am not living up to MY expectations, and hurting my children in the process.

Do you see how hard it is to be me? (insert "yes I know I'm being narcissistic" disclaimer here.)

Expectations are great to have, I think. They set the standard for who you truly want to be and what you want out of your life, your career, your parenting and your relationships. However, the problem is that if your expectations are too high, you're NEVER going to be at peace with any of the aforementioned things. No one is ever going to measure up, and frankly, neither are you.

I'm going to try to take my own advice, but I would be interested to figure out the origin of my great expectations and how to temper them so I can enjoy life - and the people in my life - a bit more.

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