Saturday, January 23, 2010


1 : the act or state of expecting : anticipation

As I've prepared for, undergone and begun recovering from my surgery, I've thought a lot about expectations. On Tuesday, I found out that my surgery the next day had been moved from a 3 pm surgery time to an 11 am start time. This news felt like a gift for several reasons:
1) J and I were still able to take the girls to school Wednesday morning, so no extra arrangements were needed
2) I was due at the hospital at 8:30 instead of 12:30, meaning I had far less time to W A I T that morning
3) the onset of a caffeine deprivation headache was averted by pre-op IV medicines

But the real gift was that an earlier surgery time exceeded my expectations. I had prepared myself for a long morning. I was planning to take the girls to school, send J off to work, do some yoga and distract myself from food or water for the remaining three or four hours. So it was a huge boon to be able to get right to the surgery first thing in the morning.

Shortly before I got the call from the scheduler moving my surgery up, I spoke with a friend who gently cautioned me on my own post-surgical expectations. This friend has undergone surgeries more serious and extensive than mine and she's had to rely on the help of others far more than she would like to. So she cautioned me to be careful about setting my own expectations that I'll be completely recovered and ready to go two weeks after this surgery. She said that if I keep telling myself two weeks and it takes two and a half weeks or three weeks, I'll feel like a failure.

She's right. When the doctor told me that I can't drive for two to four weeks, I planned for two weeks of transportation for my girls and I somewhat grudgingly accepted two weeks worth of meals for my family. So what happens when I hit day 15 and I'm still on pain meds and can't drive yet? I'll have to swallow my pride (yet again) and ask for help for a bit longer, feeling like a failure as I do so. I have tried - and am trying - to take my friend's advice and adjust my own expectations. I hope that I can graciously accepted help offered, humbly ask for the help needed and make peace with myself when I don't meet my own expectations.

In fact, I think that failing to meet our own expectations is often our greatest hurdle. On some level, we expect others to fail us. At least, I do. I've spent a good portion of my life guarding my heart from the pain of unmet expectations. And I'm trying to tear down those guards so that I can truly live and fully experience life's good and bad moments. This causes some pain.

Other people don't love my children the way I do. They don't see my daughters as the talented, creative, expressive, exuberant people that they are. Instead, they see the surface of who they are. This saddens me because I want more for them. I want unconditional love to be what my girls know - from their parents and from others. But this expectation is unrealistic. I'll just have to love them the best I can.

And even in this, I must adjust my expectations. I expect to be able to give my children my attention, my love, my time. And I'm frustrated when I must funnel my energy and concentration to something as basic as walking down the hallway without falling down. After all, what will they think of their mother as she hobbles around? Maybe it will make them lower their expectations of me, which could be a good thing, since I will inevitably fail them.

Hopefully it will make me treasure the moments of sitting with them in their beds, reading with them in my lap or playing with them on the floor when I can do those things again. Maybe this time of failing to meet my own expectations will give me new eyes to see. And maybe those new eyes will see not only others, but myself with a wash of grace to flow over the unmet expectations.

artwork by B, age 7

1 comment:

Chris and Tiana said...

I'm with you on this, and I've had to lower my own expectations of myself lately, which is not easy. My husband has been eating a lot of cereal lately also, and the laundry is piling up around here too. And every time I get an email about someone who needs a meal, I keep trying to convince myself that I can volunteer, even though I can't even cook for my own family right now. Two and a half weeks to go and I'll hopefully be able to at least feel a little more like myself! And hopefully in 2 1/2 weeks you'll be back to feeling like yourself again too!