Today (05/05/13) is the anniversary of my mother’s passing two years ago. To mark this occasion I want to share three things that I have learned in the past two years that I feel are somewhat related to my experience of grief and how that has affected my expectations (meaning: my hopes, dreams, desires etc.) in life.
The first thing I learned was that some expectations end in disappointment. I grew up with the expectation that I would get married, and my mum would be at my wedding. I didn’t know how much this meant to me personally until after mum was gone, when I had this massive realisation that my dream wedding would never happen. It was … impossible.
This set me on a new trajectory to becoming more realistic, not by necessarily lowering my expectations, but by becoming more accepting of things that perhaps I cannot control or change, like my past, or other people, for example.
I think we all have expectations in life and I don’t think expectations are right or wrong. We experience disappointment because of expectations and this is not right or wrong either. The problem I identified was in thinking that life or reality should be something other than what it is. My mum should be at my wedding. Or someone could say the opposite: because your mum is gone, therefore she was never meant to be at your wedding. In my opinion, neither of these statements is true. It is not that my mum should or shouldn’t be at my wedding. Accepting reality is accepting facts, not should’ve-could’ve-would’ves. I accept that I did not marry while my mum was alive. I will still be disappointed on my wedding day, but I accept that not all things are realistically possible.
If you think that when I talk about reality and acceptance, I’m talking about giving up on dreams and expectations, you couldn’t be more wrong. There is a common saying: “Life is short.” I think this came alive to me when I thought about the dreams my mother had – some of which came true, and some which did not – whether because she died younger than she expected to, or perhaps there are no reasons.
I watched my mum struggle to be more and more the person she had always wanted to be and do some of the things she’d delayed doing, in the last year or two of her life, and I realised that, like her, I had put on a front many times in order to be more acceptable to people. That’s why, for the past 2 years I have been more honest about my beliefs, I’ve shared more of my emotions and I’ve fought harder for my dreams (like having a book published and recording a song).
The only time we have is right now. So if we expect certain things to happen in the future, those are the things we should be creating for ourselves in the now.
What you discover when you start being more true to yourself and attempting to create the future you dream of, is that people will wonder why you’ve changed and some of your friends will reject the new or the real you. On the other hand, you will attract new friends that are interested in similar things and that are comfortable with being themselves and you being yourself, even though you are both different. People who are uncomfortable with who you are, or who you’re becoming, often only feel that way because you are challenging their expectations or presumptions about you.
I can’t tell you the number of relationship shifts I’ve experienced in the past two years because I am becoming more authentic. Being criticised, judged, gossiped about, ignored and deleted is painful. On the other hand, being given the opportunity to discuss opinions and challenge one another mutually; respectfully agreeing to disagree; being honest without fear of reprehension, and experiencing true acceptance based on vulnerability (as opposed to quasi-acceptance that is based on a façade): is an emancipating journey.
In being more honest and open about who you are, you may find yourself in a battle between the expectations of others and the expectations you have of yourself. I can honestly say that, for me, the positive feedback and deeper emotional connection, far outweigh the negative consequences.
I believe this is what my mum would have wanted for me. I believe that she is proud of me and who I am becoming. I know there were times that she herself put on a people pleasing façade. And as her daughter, I believe she would forgive me for saying that she would want me to learn from her “mistakes” (for want of a better word). I hope that you can hear both our hearts (mine and my mother’s) resonating through these words and glean something for yourself. <3