Yup. That’s a dirty word in our house. (And you counted the letters, didn’t you? Busted.) Anyway, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always had expectations. I guess you could say it borders on OCD, or could at least be classified as some minor form of it. If things don’t line up the way I think they should or would, my insides cramp. I get flustered, my pulse increases and I get a little…um…”snippy”.
On a chilly Saturday afternoon, about a week before this last Christmas, my husband and I had plans to go shopping and knock those final gifts off of our kids’ list. I was already looking forward to our day together, even the Friday night before. There was a little spring in my step, and I believe I may even have whistled while I did the dishes that night. I really enjoy our time together, and had mentally laid out the next day in my mind. Sleep in…pull on our “casual-Saturday-chic” clothing…stop and have a quiet Starbucks date…head out to the stores…have lunch at our favorite cafe…drop by the bookstore to browse…head home.
Saturday started out promising…we slept in. But it went haywire from there. Soon after waking up, our daughter prances out to the family room and announces she needs a prom dress. My husband and I both say in unison…”Today?” She looks around coyly. “Yes, it has to be today because I’ve got cheer on Monday and Tuesday and then Wednesday is Youth Group and then…” She continued her well-laid-out argument, and I admit, I stopped processing the words I was hearing. In my head, she began to sound like an adult from the Peanuts cartoons. “Wah-wah, wah-wah-wah. Wah-wah-wah-wah.”
Don’t get me wrong. I love her. But her nickname around here is “Last-Minute Louie” for a reason. Everything is needed today, or due tomorrow. She never could have known my plans for that afternoon, but in one sentence, an entire day’s worth of expectations were obliterated. I wasn’t happy. The three of us head out to the car. My whole demeanor changed, and my husband called me out on it as we pulled away. I didn’t want to make our daughter feel bad, certainly not. But I couldn’t help but be…DISAPPOINTED. I had an idea in my mind of how our day was going to go, and it didn’t happen. Well, I take that back. We ended up with 3 out of 6. I slept in (there’s 1), pulled on my Saturday-chic clothes (there’s 2) and went to some stores to look at prom dresses (that kind of counts as 3). I guess a 50% success ratio isn’t too bad. (That’s my pitiful effort to be positive.)
One day not too long after this occurred, when faced with yet another disappointment, my husband looked me straight in the eye, and said, “You know what the problem is? You’re not any less lucky in life than anyone else. You just have far more expectations than the rest of us, so the odds are that some of yours won’t be met.” Damn, I hate when he’s right.
Since that day, I’ve had several opportunities to let my unmet expectations get the best of me. Many (but not all) of those times I’ve managed to change my outlook. I’ve tried to be more like the GPS in my car. Friend cancelled at the last minute? Recalculating. Driver doesn’t merge in the every-other-car pattern like everyone else? Recalculating. Dinner didn’t turn out as expected? Recalculating. I’m learning to work within the parameters I’m given, and make the best of the situation.
In fact, with a goal to retire in 7 years, that flexibility is crucial. Because investing plans don’t always go as expected. The stock market may not meet our projected returns. We may not reach our savings goals every year. Instead of focusing so hard on that magic number “7”, I’m learning to set aside my rigid, unforgiving expectations. Maybe we’ll reach our goal on time. Maybe we won’t. But either way, you can call me Garmin…that reliable ‘ol GPS just finds the next best route given the situation, and so will I.