I hauled water out to the ducks and chickens this morning, and saw that the world had turned crystalline. Everything was coated with ice and glittering in the morning light. The sun is moving north; it is starting to shine in my window to greet me when I wake up.
I’ve been looking back over past blogs. Oh how brave and optimistic I was! Just a year ago I was talking about quitting alcohol. As my marriage went down in flames I intended to rise, a phoenix. So many changes I was going to make. Such a marvelous new Me.
The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. I could not live up to my own expectations (and those of my counselor). It occurs to me that I had merely substituted one set of unrealistic expectations for another. My ex-husband had expected me to be the wife that I was twenty years ago. I was struggling to accept that I couldn’t do that, and dealing with the devastating consequences. So, partly in defiance and partly in self-defense, I designed a new Me.
As many of you know from boldly declared New Year’s Resolutions, this rarely works. There are exceptions, and I applaud those who have been able to bring them about. But human beings are creatures of habit and nature. We each have unique assets, quirks, baggage and limitations. If we determine that we are going to radically depart from our past course, there must be mighty powerful motivations that keep us going on the new path. Otherwise, we drift back to what is comfortable and natural to us.
This is not a sign of weakness; it is accepting reality. It is accepting who we really are. This is not to say we shouldn’t have goals and strive for them. But they must be realistic goals, gradual changes, the slow shaping and molding of our stuff. One cannot leap across a continent in a single bound; the journey is made one step at a time. And one may discover after a while that one does not really care to go there anyway.
We love the stories of individuals who set a seemingly impossible goal for themselves and fight doggedly to achieve success. We admire such individuals and want to emulate them. If we fall short we feel ashamed. We are certain that everyone around us (and we are usually correct) is shaking their heads and judging us. We lack the will, the character, the strength, the courage. We are, in short, a failure. We are judged by our achievements, not our efforts.
What a silly way to look at it! Better to applaud the person for trying, admiring their courage to make the attempt. And respecting their decision not to pursue the goal for whatever reason. It is all part of the process of figuring out who we are. We cannot discover our limitations until we push beyond them. Then, the only sensible choice is to pull back into the comfort zone.
Success for its own sake, when it does not also bring happiness, is meaningless.
So I am not the Brave New Me that I had designed. Never mind. I am learning that trying to live up to the unrealistic expectations of others, and myself, is folly.
Now, then, what of the expectations I have of others? I shall think about that.