December 9, 2010

No Appointment, No Disappointment

Over the past week I've been exploring the idea of relationship expectations - be that with friends, family, dates or even co-workers. A friend said to me that her secret for happy dating is having no expectations for what the "relationship" should or should not be. As the week progressed, I put this idea out there to a variety of people - not specific to dating, but relationships in general. The consensus was that when you create expectations, you are creating a story, a scenario, one that likely is only owned by you and not the other person. Ultimately, you are destined for disappointment.

On the other hand, if you just appreciate the interactions you have with people, and do not build a load of expectations around that relationship, you can actually enjoy the reality of what that person has to offer and be present with your interactions.

I was chatting with a colleague today about this idea, in regards to student performance, and he said he once studied under a guru whose mantra was, "no appointment, no disappointment." Of course we have standards and goals that we help students strive to meet, but we take what they give us and coach them to reach their fullest potential. If we expected only A's then we would only be disconnected from the learning process which is all about learning from mistakes. My only disappointment with students is when they give up.

As I thought about this idea of disappointment as it relates to my personal relationships, I realized that sometimes I compromise who I really am because I don't want to be disappointed by "scaring people away." This makes me unhappy because I am disappointing myself as I compromise to live out some unspoken scenario I hope the other person has received via ESP. Stories get built on stories and then I'm living in this shattered fantasy world because I was not being true to myself.

When am I most myself? When I'm dancing and expressing myself freely. I am myself when I go on adventures with friends and explore new places, openly interact with people to understand their inspirations and often end up buying their artwork. I am least myself when I sit quietly, with my arms and legs pulled in, trying to make myself smaller so that I can ensure that my imagined relationship scenario will not be derailed.

This week I broke out of this hide-away habit. With a variety of people I expressed who I really am. I spoke up, stated my interests and needs, danced, and ultimately felt happy, relaxed and alive. In fact, so much disappointment has disappeared because I have less expectations of others. Whatever they have to give me, I'll experience it, respond to it, go with it and question it - instead of hiding behind a shadow of who I am.

Frankly, I have no expectations of the people who are my closest family and friends. We flow in and out of each other's lives. Sometimes a month can go by and we do not make contact. But, I know they love me and are there for me. The expectation I do have is that they have open hearts, make time for me when I need them and that I do the exact same for them, on both counts.

We don't need an appointment.