My husband and I spent a week in Spain at the beginning of the year, visiting Madrid and Barcelona. Leading up to the trip, everyone had said, “Oh you’ll love Barcelona! You have to see (insert every Barcelona attraction here)!” Our trip started in Madrid, of which I had heard much less about and no one had given me a laundry list of the “must see” attractions. We spent our few days in Madrid visiting museums, eating, drinking, etc. and casually exploring the city. When we arrived in Barcelona, I had a strict itinerary of everything we needed to get to and had each item very timed out. I felt rushed to make sure I saw it all. At the end of the trip many people asked which city I had preferred. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I felt as though I had actually enjoyed Madrid more. Later, upon more thought, I realized that I was more relaxed in Madrid because I really did not have expectations and somehow that made it all the better to discover.
As the Holidays approach, we all start to think about how we want it all to go, how we want our home to look , our kids to behave, how much fun it will be (or won’t be). I can’t tell you how many people I know despise the holidays. These are not normally negative people, but some of the most inspirational, positive people I know. Why is this? “It’s always a let down,” is the answer most will say. Don’t even get me started on New Year’s Eve and the expectations that follow, especially for my single friends who are hoping to have the best party ever or the perfect midnight kiss.
At least once a year, though lately it has been 2-3 times per year, we take some sort of road trip with the kids. Our rule of thumb, “no expectations.” We decide that it does not matter what time we get there or even what day we get there, otherwise, we have learned that we set ourselves up for stress and irritation. If the kids have to stop to use the bathroom every hour, then so be it. If they scream the whole way and we need to take hour long breaks to let them run and play, so be it. No expectations.
This works really well for us, though I often realize that while this is my rule of thumb for road trips, I am not so good at letting this rule apply to everything else. I took the kids to see Santa today at the mall. I know you are laughing at me already. We stood in line for over an hour with the little one crying “up please!!!” over and over or trying to run off in every direction away from the line. When it was finally our turn, the 3-year-old was terrified and would not go near Santa while the 1-year-old cried all the way through it. The pictures were certainly not worth paying for. I was disappointed. No Expectations…Right, I should have gone into the day with that mantra.
Even in Yoga, our daily work, learning a new skill, or anything else in which we are expecting ourselves to meet a certain goal, master something, or be “perfect” in some way…We create a scenario in our minds. We expect. Rather, it seems so much more effective to remember that we are in the right place in this moment, wherever that may be. When we can start to truly embrace this idea, of letting go of expectations, we find ourselves freer to live our actual life, even enjoy it, rather than getting “stuck” in our expectations.