On January 29th my wife arranged a shin dig for something rather different. I had started to lose my hair from chemo and we wanted to shave it. Her awesome life affirming self invited some of our peeps over to shave my head. It was a very awesome day, actually. Lots of love and humor.
In the last few weeks I have had my nearest and dearest tell me why they didn’t shave their head when I shaved mine. Each time this revelation was presented to me, it was a bit confessional like they were getting something off their chest. “Here is why I didn’t shave my head… but I love you…”
What I loved about this is that I never wanted them to shave their head and I never knew they thought I wanted that.
It’s made me laugh to myself when I think of it. It has made me happy to know that they love me that much. And it’s also got me thinking about expectations.
They can really change things. Truly.
Expectations can pause a relationship and freeze a moment that never really existed anywhere but in imagination.
Expectations are created to get a perceived need met in a very specific way. We place these on ourselves and others. All 7 billion of us on the planet have an agenda and most are based on the same wish: to know we matter, to know we are safe, to know we are loved. Yes, there are those in the world with nefarious motives, but most are not. Most just wanna feel love.
I have learned a lot about living this season of my life. I have learned about relationship, fear, sickness, self-love, compassion, hope, anger, grief, affirmation.
I have learned about our responsiveness to mortality and fragility. I have learned we can make hard stuff even harder.
The last 16 months have been ridiculously hard for the people who love me as we fumbled about post trauma and now, post cancer diagnosis.
Sickness is made worse when there is unspoken expectation. It makes it so much worse when already it is incredibly hard.
We are scared.
We are angry.
We are hopeful.
We are moved.
We are tired.
We are all the things that happen when the worst happens.
I find it heartening, funny and real to find out my dad and my best friends all thought about shaving their head and worried that I wouldn’t feel loved by them if they didn’t.
Such a tenderness in that…
And we could laugh together because they admitted this expectation was in the mix.
So how can we know we matter in relationship without expectation? I think it starts with knowing expectations don’t foster closeness.
The expectations we place on ourselves to know the end of the story and see it coming removes us from the best of life. It removes the mindfulness of being. It removes the spontaneous love that happens when we are present to each other.
We create something new when we are truly present with each other. We are never truly with one another if we are constantly rating our relationships based on expectation rather than being aware of what is happening in the present moment.
A healer in my life talks about skillful response rather than being reactive. I like that a lot. I have learned we can meet our needs much more skillfully if we remove expectation and see it as limiting.
If we set down the expectation we have room for other things that truly meet our need for connection:
And amazing hair.
image credit: Dax: “Some of my peeps who shaved my head on January 29th. Our son Angelo did the bulk of the shaving but he had to go be a grown up at work before we got the group pic.”