Lowering My Expectations

The vast majority of the time when I’m really annoyed, the situation fits into one category. People are not behaving as I feel they should.

I have really high expectations. I think everyone should act with integrity. Everyone should tell the truth. Everyone’s motivations should be pure. Everyone should have everyone else’s best interests at heart. Everyone should be kind and respectful. Everyone should be reliable. Everyone should say what they mean and mean what they say.

“Should” is the most insidious word in the English language. Here’s the question. Where did my notion of perfection come from? Heaven knows I have not seen many examples of this behavior. This rulebook of mine is something I seem to have conjured up in my own mind. In fact, it’s been my experience that a lot of people behave quite abominably (see also: Washington D.C.).

If most of the crows I’ve seen in my life take flight, why would I expect them to suddenly do the breaststroke? If I know it to be true that dogs bark, why would I expect them to start singing showtunes? If your habit is to be a jerk, why would I imagine that you’d behave otherwise?

And yet I follow this pattern consistently. People don’t fit into my arrogant little box of perfection, and it drives me up a wall. It’s just so freaking frustrating!

Do I derive any benefit from my irritation? Does it serve me well? Does it change anything? No, no, and no.

I have no magical power to change people. I’m not the behavior police. The only thing I can do is work on myself.

Logic dictates that I lower my expectations of people. I need to stop measuring them by a yardstick that is clearly not of their choosing. I have got to loosen my grip on the steering wheel of life.

It would be so liberating to be pleasantly surprised when someone does something good rather than be irritated when he or she basically acts like he or she always does. It would be a relief to direct my energies toward those things over which I actually have control. It would be wonderful to just do me. I’d love to be less disappointed by others, not because they’ve straightened up, but because I realize it’s not my place to sit in judgment, and because I’ve come to accept the fact that people, as a general rule, don’t change.

Now, the trick will be to figure out how to lower my expectations without crossing that fine line into the land of no faith in humanity whatsoever.

Pardon my dust. I’m still under construction.

Expectations

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Bait

If a trout sees a fly flitting about on the surface of his river, he’s going to snap at it. It’s in his nature. And when it’s just nature at play, that’s a great idea. Everybody needs food.

Unfortunately, sometimes man is inserting himself into this little game, and then taking that bait means certain death for the trout. I’ve always had mixed emotions about that sort of thing. When you take advantage of the fact that another creature is going to do what comes naturally, it kind of seems like cheating to me.

Bait. It’s a sinister thing. And the worst part is that we use it on one another, too.

If you’ve ever snapped off an angry response to a hostile e-mail, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You took the bait. And that almost always makes things worse for you.

Humans have always struggled with delayed gratification. The bait is there now, and it’s soooo satisfying to snap at it. For a split second. Then the regret and/or embarrassment sets in.

Trolls, in particular, count on this. They get some weird satisfaction from getting a rise out of people, while hiding alone in their lonely little rooms, clad in their stained and stretched out tighty whities. And they are oh, so good at it.

When someone gives you bait, it’s hard not to take it. But as a loved one says, “Don’t let their stupid rub off on you.” Wise words, indeed.

I’m trying to remind myself that no one controls my timeline. I don’t have to respond instantly to an e-mail. The fact that I’ve never been very good with snappy comebacks is probably a good thing, after all.

Take a breath. Let things percolate. Give yourself the time to use your very valuable brain. Because hooks in the mouth hurt.

Trout fly

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Free-Floating Fury

Right around the time that Trump got elected, I noticed that I was using the “angry” icon in response to a lot of my friend’s Facebook posts about what was happening. I don’t think of myself as an angry person in general, but so many outrageous things are going on in the world these days that it’s hard not to react with a bit of ire. At the time, though, I thought I could afford to be angry.

This situation is an anomaly, right? Surely it won’t last long. Surely our collective anger will force politicians to act with more integrity, even if it isn’t sincere on their parts. And if anger is what it takes to get me up and moving and protesting and trying to improve things, then so be it.

But very recently, I’ve noticed a shift within me. I’m not using the “angry” icon as much. Now I’m using the “sad” icon. I’m tired. I’m starting to get cynical. I’m starting to think we can’t force people to do the right thing. They have an agenda that is not going to budge, in spite of its destructive insanity. I think I underestimated just how immovable this evil force would be.

So now my anger comes out in other ways. In the privacy of my car, I find myself cursing at stupid drivers. I am suffering fools even less gladly than in days of yore. I’m fidgeting more. I’m eating more pizza and ice cream. None of these things are positive shifts, but I’m frankly feeling powerless and bitter. It feels like the bad guys are winning.

I know now that this is a marathon, not a sprint, and one should pace oneself, but I’m running out of ideas, energy, and optimism. I don’t know what to do anymore. And that’s what they want. So maybe I really should go back to being angry.

It’s hard to live in a world where “sad” and “angry” seem to be your only two choices. I need more “like”, “love”, “ha ha”, and “wow” in my world.

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My Late Night Symphony

Have you ever been so tired that it felt like your mattress was hugging you? You sink into it’s soft embrace and feel a sweet relief like no other. It makes you wonder why you ever resisted bedtime as a child.

This night was one of those nights. It had been a long day at work. The annual Seafair in Seattle always brings out a lot of boats, which translates to a lot of drawbridge openings for me to perform. That, and it was brutally hot. The control tower is poorly insulated, and the window AC was not keeping up. It was so hot, in fact, that we had to hose down the bridge because the metal had expanded so much that we couldn’t raise it without risk of damage. And to add to the drama, it was septic tank pump day. So I had a lot of comings and goings, openings and closings. And poop smells.

And, also due to Seafair, my commute home was even worse than the usual nightmare. Nothing says Seattle like being able to put your car in park on the interstate on 5 separate occasions on your way home. I had mixed emotions about coming home, already sweaty, to my hot house and my hungry dog, but I knew one thing for sure: I wanted my bed. Desperately.

After throwing open every window and turning on every fan, and then feeding Quagmire (who always acts like he’s starving), I made myself a sandwich so I wouldn’t have to turn on the oven. Then I took a cool shower.

When I finally climbed into my beloved bed, I lay there, flat on my back, feeling like a bag of wet cement. I stared at the ceiling. I doubt I could have saved myself if the house caught fire.

Have you ever been too tired to sleep? Yeah. Like that. I was in a stupor for a good couple hours, I think, based on the number of times Quagmire came to check on me. I just lay there waiting for the sun to stop torturing my time zone.

Finally, around 9:45, I managed to reach over and turn off the light, and roll over onto my stomach, which is my preferred starting position for the journey at hand. Quagmire curled up by my hip, which, I have to say, is the most comforting feeling on earth. Sweet, sweet rest.

Oh, how to describe what happened next. Actually, I was at a loss, so I Googled “the sound a jackhammer makes”, just for you. Apparently the official spelling is:

GRRRAKKA KKAKKAKKAKKAKKAKKAKK AKKAKKAKKAKK …

I’d say that’s pretty accurate. I speak with a certain amount of authority because it was happening less than half a block from my bedroom window. At 10 pm.

Please tell me. For the love of all things holy, who runs a FREAKING jackhammer in a residential neighborhood at 10 pm? Who?

Surely this wouldn’t last long, I thought. No one could possibly have the NERVE to keep this up for any length of time at this hour.

Wrong. It lasted all night long. All. Night. Long.

Interspersed with that sound was the distinctive sound of heavy equipment backing up.

Beep Beep Beep Beep…

And for some reason two trucks were signaling each other by horn.

Toot. (Pause.) Toot toot.

Apparently the double toot was a signal to back up, because no one, of course, could be bothered to used a two way radio. Oh, no. Of course not. So what I got was:

GRRRAKKA KKAKKAKKAKKAKKAKKAKK AKKAKKAKKAKK …
Toot. (Pause.) Toot toot. Beep Beep Beep Beep…

All. Night. Long.

And I wasn’t the only one suffering. At one point I heard my neighbor shouting at them. For all the good it did. And another neighbor went outside and started blaring HIS horn. I’m not sure about his thought process, but I definitely related to his frustration. I think if any of us owned pitchforks or torches, it would have been mayhem.

Meanwhile, I was in a fog, desperately rummaging through my unpacked boxes in search of ear plugs. I never found them. I tried putting a pillow over my head. I closed all the windows, despite the heat. Even Quaggie started to get desperate and began to bark and moan. I may have even shed a few tears. I can’t remember. If I got a total of two hours of sleep, in fits and starts, it’s a miracle.

When I left for work, they were still at it. And they didn’t look even halfway done. I fantasized about crushing the jackhammer beneath the wheels of my car. They are completely repaving a road that, in my opinion, was already in excellent shape.

I’m buying ear plugs on the way home tonight. And maybe a pitchfork. If this goes on for two nights in a row, no court in the land could possibly hold me responsible for my actions.

torches

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Self-Abuse

True confessions: When I’m angry, frustrated, upset, or feeling helpless, I either eat or spend money or both. I don’t need to be hungry or in need of something. I just do it. I know this about myself. I know it even as it’s happening. But I can’t seem to stop. (What a First World problem to have, right?)

After a recent, really, really bad day, I ordered three Japanese Maple trees (one yellow, one orange, and one red) and one Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar for my new yard. To the tune of $250. I have the money, but I really ought to spend it on something that’s a higher priority right now. This was not the wisest budgeting decision.

Yes, I’ve always wanted these trees. They’ll look great. They’ll result in less mowing and more privacy. But I only ordered them because I was pissed off.

It’s really rather interesting that when I’m angry or upset with someone or something else, it’s me whom I punish. I either spackle the fat directly to my hips or fire a cannon ball directly at my finances. Better to do that, I reason, than lash out at someone else or actually be assertive for a change.

This is not healthy. And in the end, it really doesn’t make me feel any better. I berate myself. I lecture myself. I take myself on an epic guilt trip. And I pay. Oh, do I pay, in so many ways. And yet, I’ll do it again, no doubt.

Don’t get me wrong. Most of my shenanigans aren’t at the $250 level. I actually have stellar credit. Usually It’s more like a late night drive to Wendy’s for about 1800 calories worth of junk food and the accompanying regret. But it’s still self-destructive.

It could be worse. I kind of understand people who cut themselves. I just don’t like pain. Or blood. Or awkward explanations. So I cover myself in a layer of fat and financial stress instead.

Even so, I really am looking forward to planting those trees…

Cedrus_libani_ssp._atlantica_'Glauca_Pendula'_02_by_Line1
Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar. Needless to say, mine will be much smaller.

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Flexibility

I’ve met a lot of very rigid people in my lifetime. I always feel kind of sorry for them. It must be exhausting to get worked up over the minutiae of life. There is plenty of significant stuff to focus on.

For example, I know someone who writes furious e-mails to superiors if someone doesn’t leave paperwork at exact right angles to their desk edges. Seriously? Is that all you have to worry about? Then you are in pretty good shape in the overall scheme of things, if you ask me.

There are two types of people. The ones who ask themselves “Why is this important?” before overreacting, and the ones who don’t. The ones who don’t tend to lead very tense, miserable lives, and they pile undue stress onto those who are unfortunate enough to fall within their circle of influence.

It is important to have some sort of scale to determine what is worthy of your rage. Someone putting the dish soap in a place you haven’t specified should not get a reaction equivalent to someone firing a mortar through your living room window. If you think otherwise, you must be operating in a realm of post traumatic stress that’s worthy of professional help.

The older I get, the less energy I seem to have for petty foolishness. I can’t be bothered. I’d much rather take a nap. The planet will continue to circle the sun without my assistance.

Here’s a rule of thumb. I can go days, weeks even, without being truly angry. If you’re someone who gets angry several times a day… well… you might want to rethink things a tiny bit. Learn to bend or you will surely break. Just sayin’.

flexibility

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“Toughen Up”

On the heels of my blog entry “Having Your Heart Broken by a Career Choice” I got a lot of comments from people in the Dental Lab industry, many of which were very constructive and informative and have greatly influenced my concept of what I need to do as I move forward. But just as many were along the lines of “Waa waa waa,” “Toughen up,” “You need a thicker skin,” “You’re too emotional,” and “You sound like a crybaby.”

Comments of that nature, regardless of whom they are directed at, never fail to amuse me. Yup, I am an emotional person. When something makes me truly happy, it can bring tears to my eyes. When I hear tales of horrifying abuse or injustice, I may also shed tears. And most of all, when I’m angry I tend to cry, which can be confusing because it may elicit sympathy when none is needed.

But what I am not is someone who throws tantrums, tries to get attention, incites drama, is manipulative or expects pity. I don’t pick fights, take delight in being cruel, intentionally push people’s buttons or insult others. I set great store in being respectful.

I also don’t view myself as a victim. Yes, sh** hits my fan, and as often as not that isn’t of my own doing. But I have a clear sense that everyone has a fan, so I wipe mine off, do what I can to prevent it from being soiled in the future, and move on.

I have emotions. I own them. I express them, more often alone or amongst friends, of course, but that’s on a case by case basis, and it isn’t a function of some type of fear of others’ reactions. I’m not afraid to be open and to feel what I feel. There’s no shame in reacting to experiences. I don’t give emotions a score, as if some are more worthy or valid or appropriate than others.

The point is I don’t view emotions as a weakness.

People have to be taught to suppress their feelings, and it’s been my experience that those who learn those lessons too well are generally more prone to being unable to communicate effectively, are often incapable of making healthy social connections, and are plagued by a variety of mental and physical health issues.

They are also more apt to have outbursts way out of proportion to the situation, and expend more energy on a slow burn. Emotions are like the steam in a pressure cooker. If you don’t let them out, they will find a way out in a potentially unhealthy manner.

I’ve found that it’s much better to feel what you feel when you feel it and then carry on. People who do this seem infinitely more trustworthy to me, because I always know where they stand.

I laugh a lot, too, by the way. Mostly, though, I’m just in neutral mode, taking things in, seeing what the world has to offer in terms of life experience. I don’t expect anything from anyone as a result of my laughter or my tears.

My question is, why on earth would it bother you if I express my feelings? What do you think will happen? What are you afraid of?

Maybe you should toughen up.

emotions

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