I’ve been thinking a lot lately about expectations and particularly the expectations that have been unfulfilled in my life since I’ve been dealing with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer (MBC). For me, I often don’t realize in the moment when something happens (or doesn’t happen) that an expectation has been unfulfilled, it’s usually once I have time to process what has happened that it occurs to me. Sometimes this happens in conversation with others, sometimes just when I’m ruminating over a situation or conversation or event. It’s …. complicated.
Let’s start with the dictionary definition:
2a: something expected not up to expectations; expectations for an economic recovery; b: basis for expecting : ASSURANCE they have every expectation of success; c: prospects of inheritance —usually used in plural.
3: the state of being expectedhttps://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/expectation
I think the bottom line is that an expectation means you were counting on something and when that something doesn’t happen, it’s difficult and it requires a reshuffling or reallocating of emotions or resources or something. These expectations can be very tangible (e.g., an inheritance) or more intangible (e.g., emotional support). I’ve not been able to parse out which is worse, each are difficult in their own ways.
In my experiences as a lawyer, there is a concept of relying on someone or something to one’s detriment. For example, a person expects that a contract will be signed and, in reliance on that expectation or promise or contract or handshake, that person turns down other contracts. If that original expected contract doesn’t come through, then the person has missed out on other contracts. Because of this negative outcome, the law sometimes allows for restitution.
Translating this into relational expectations, I think it could be said that if one relies on one person for something, then one doesn’t necessarily develop relationships with others who could fulfill those needs. And then what? The person who does need help or support or whatever, is required to scramble or lean on the people who are already supportive or just make do.
At the end of the day, I have come to realize that expectations are dangerous, especially the unspoken kind. How can any other person know what is in my head unless I tell them? The internal conflict arises for me when it feels too needy to express expectations. This is something that has pretty much always been a particular struggle for me personally. I’ve always been the helper, the caretaker, the strong one and, over time, I’ve developed a lot of habits that harken back to that time. Those habits don’t go away quickly, even after 3 years of dealing with MBC.
Additionally, I think sometimes expectations are based in often outdated cultural norms. For example, I grew up in the Midwest and the answer to anything is “bring a casserole” along with activating prayer chains and quilting circles, but no physical contact generally. When I set up a meal train to organize meals after a new friend here in Miami had a baby, I was shocked that very few people signed up. Explanation — not the cultural norm in Miami.
So, what to do with all of this?
I haven’t the foggiest … stay tuned for Part II!