Listening to NPR ( ! ) on the way from Vermont to Maine, there was discussion about what shapes us more - genetics or environment. A common question, but this time some guy was quoted as saying, “Neither. We’re products of our expectations.”
I was taught in Landmark Education years ago that most causes of upset are really due to Unmet Expectations. We expected Emily's birthmother to be the person she purported to be, to follow through on her plan for adoption based upon everything she said to us and to me, and she didn’t. Upset. We expected Anna to be healthy and fine, based upon getting to 39 weeks with no issues whatsoever and being at the hospital ready to deliver. Upset. We expect people to behave a certain way - and if the expectation is that they’ll be late/undependable/unkempt/high/whatever and they are - that’s cool. They’ve met our expectation. But if we expect honesty, integrity, and follow-through and don’t get it? Watch out.
I was thinking about this as it relates to the labels we put on certain events as being miracles or tragedies. Aren’t all events really just products of expectation, based upon the circumstances & culture in which we find ourselves? In the U.S. (Europe, Australia and much of South America too, I’d say), we expect adults to have jobs, get married, have children, support themselves, have housing of some sort. All fairly stable, ongoing activities. If someone cannot find work for an extended period despite being educated and talented, loses their home, protracts a terminal illness, has a child with a difficult diagnosis, or loses a child... those are considered tragedies. But to the people of, let’s say, parts of Africa (because I don’t know enough about Asian cultures), illness and death are more the norm. They might feel that it’s a miracle to have only lost one child, instead of 4. Employment - any employment - might be a miracle. Same with housing. An apartment? Are you kidding? An apartment would be heaven and unimaginable wealth for millions of people on earth. Many parts of Central America would say the same. Food? In a refrigerator, no less? So much of what is common and therefore expected in our Western mainstream culture would be considered a miracle elsewhere. (For that matter, ask the homeless guy if he would consider a roof over his head and 3 meals a day for the rest of his life a miracle. I bet he would. Most of us don’t ‘consider’ that at all - it’s kind of a given, a choice, even.)
I don’t take Brad for granted for one minute, because of the person he is and how lucky I am that he chose me too. Until this current line of thinking though, I never really thought about our relationship as a miracle. I just counted myself very lucky. But I can name at least 4 amazing, accomplished, bright, funny women who would likely consider finding a husband of his caliber to in fact be a miracle at this point. And I for one consider it a tragedy that they don’t have such a person to share their lives with. (There are some men missing out, I’m telling you.)
Not having children, losing Anna the way we did, losing Emily, I have considered those tragedies, for the most part. If we were to lose our home, if I were to lose Brad, I would consider those tragedies too. But what if I didn’t? What if I considered each of these ‘everyday’ things to be a miracle? What if I expected nothing?? Would gratitude permeate my being as a default emotional state, rather than sadness? Work, Brad, the house and everything in it, the park we live adjacent to, a fully functioning body (minus the thyroid, but whatever), friends - miracles every day. Then, if one should go, it would just be... what it is when miracles aren’t happening. If there is no more than this, if I expect no more than this, should I be upset about that? I suppose it’s the same as being grateful for what you have every day, because it’s tiresome to treat everything good about your life as a miracle all the time. Clearly someone figured this all out a long time ago, of course, and a few savvy ones have made bazooka-bucks on the concept. We’ve all heard about being grateful for what we have for years, but until now I haven’t viscerally “gotten it”. So it is new to me. Not entirely comfortable yet, either, so don’t get your hopes up that I’m some new and improved emotional/psychological version of myself. I’m still trying it on, seeing if I can incorporate it, and how far I really want that to go.
And I must say this about the word ‘expect’. ‘Deserve’ is practically a synonym in the manner in which I’m talking about it. (We expect it, we deserve it, we’re good people who’ve harmed no one intentionally, why wouldn’t we get it, whatever ‘it’ is?) How many times have I heard myself or others say over the years, “But I/they don’t deserve that?” Honestly, who says? Who’s the judge? What if none of us ‘deserve’ anything at all?? What if this whole concept of ‘work hard enough and you can achieve anything you want’ is complete and total Western-thought brainwash bunk?? You can’t tell me I deserve a big house more than the woman living in a shack in El Salvador, and you certainly can’t tell me I deserve a good husband more than my friends. Do I deserve, actually deserve, a child more than the parents who can’t feed the ones they have? Spectacularly devout Christian people have terrible things happen and people say, “Why to them? They have such faith. Why not to the heathen?” But maybe it happens because we don’t. deserve. anything. It all just Is.
Miracles and tragedies, just concepts based upon our expectations. As individual as we are. Hmm.
May you have a beautiful, uneventful, and therefore miraculous day. : )