Eleanor is 13. On Tuesday night, it felt like she was 3.
We sat at the dining room table eating curry for dinner and I looked over to see that she had inhaled the beef, enjoyed the rice, eaten the curry.
And ignored her vegetables.
There they sat—a dazzling bright orange in an otherwise empty bowl.
As she pushed them around with her fork throughout the rest of the meal, she mumbled about how the carrots were too mushy, how they smelled funny, how they didn’t taste right, and that she was not going to eat them. Not one bite.
Finally, I leaned over, and looked in to her bowl. And smiled.
“Those are not carrots. They’re yams.”
Her head snapped up and she looked at me incredulously.
“Really?” “Yes.” “Really?” “Yes. Really.”
“Oh.” Then the fork was lifted—she looked tentatively at the yam, sniffed it suspiciously, and took a small bite. And smiled.
And then inhaled her vegetables.
She looked at me again.
“Those were delicious.” “Yes.” “They were yams?” a half-statement half-question. “Yes.” “Huh.”
They flavor everything.
How we perceive an experience, other people, even orange vegetables–are colored by our expectations.
The tricky part is, we usually aren’t even aware we have them until they are unmet. We’re attached to an outcome we didn’t even realize we had.
We’ve all had it happen—we want beautiful family photos and everyone melts down. We hope for a peaceful Thanksgiving dinner and politics break out. We wish for a relaxing vacation and we are hissing at each other in the hotel.
The paradox is that when we let go of what we want, we make room for everyone to get closer to that outcome. Embracing that the pictures will capture us where we are leads to laughter. Knowing Uncle Phil is most likely going to say something outrageous leads to acceptance. Seeing this for the trip that it is leads to a deeper sense of fun.
So this week, look for the invisible expectations. Before you begin, what are you hoping will happen? See it clearly. Follow the whole scenario, watching it like a movie in your mind. Now breathe. And know that it might not go quite the way you want it to—life usually strays from the script. Breathe again. Unhook yourself from the attachment to that outcome.
And if you don’t realize until later that you’d even had expectations until you feel disappointed, antsy, embarrassed? Don’t worry. Follow the path backwards. Rewind the movie. See what you had wished for and where the experience shifted. Then fast forward to where you are.
Whether we see our expectations before or after—we need to meet people where they actually are. And meet ourselves there, too. Because when we do, we can make space to be delighted by what unfolds.
When we stop looking for carrots, we can see the yams. And it turns out, they’re delicious.
- Want to go back and (re) read Week One? It’s all about belonging.
- The owl outside my window for Week Two.
- Rubber Ducky, you’re the one for Week Three.
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