charlie brown and lucy

The Dangers of Expectations

Last week I wrote about wanting things to go back to how they were, and how that expectation is unrealistic and unhelpful. This week I want to take this one step further and explore how our expectations of others and our desire for specific outcomes leads us to resentment, anger, and hopelessness – and what we can do about it.

Expectations

We view the world and others through our own perceptions, beliefs, and mores. Consciously and unconsciously, we expect people to think and act in the way we believe others should act. It is not bad to have our expectations, but assuming others can, will, and desire to live by our standards is unrealistic. I would hope that everyone would see the world the way I do and treat each other kindly, but if I am being honest, I can’t even live up to that perfectly every day.

Our expectations are not only about the actions of other people. Our expectations are also about the environment, politics, society, and every circumstance that touches our lives. Most of the North America is currently experiencing severe cold and snow right now. Many are angry or disheartened by this fact. Their expectation is that it should not be cold, but it is winter and Mother Nature does what Mother Nature does. Others are having trouble accepting election results or the seriousness of the Coronavirus. Just because we don’t want to believe the facts, does not mean they are not facts. Our expectations of people, the environment, and the world can not control the reality of any of those things.

Acceptance

Instead of stubbornly holding on to our expectations in the face of reality, we need to accept reality. The image of Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football comes to mind. Charlie Brown constantly expected Lucy to hold the football for him. And Lucy constantly pulled the football away before he kicked it. If Charlie Brown decides to believe each and every time that Lucy will act differently than she has consistently acted, who is to blame for his pain?

As I have said before, “Pain comes from expecting a dog to be a cat. A dog is going to be a dog.” People are probably going to do what they have done before. The weather is going to be the weather. The results are going to be the results. No matter how much we believe or insist, these facts will not change. Our desire for reality to be different from reality only causes us pain, anger, resentment, and disappointment. Acceptance is the key to peace.

Boundaries

Bear in mind that acceptance does not mean we allow ourselves to be continually hurt. It is important to create boundaries and to voice our needs. Charlie Brown needs to accept Lucy will remove the football – and then he should probably find someone else to hold the ball for him in the future.

Acceptance does not mean we excuse or accept the actions of others. Acceptance simply means we stop fighting reality. When we can accept the reality of the situation, we are then empowered to do something about it. If we are around people or circumstances that do not serve us, instead of angerly attacking reality, it is best to accept the reality of the situation so that we are then empowered to change the situation or remove ourselves from it.

Much of our anger and resentment is because we are playing the victim of some person or circumstance. We are giving them our power. It is important that we set healthy boundaries and clearly voice those boundaries moving forward.  

Be Kind

As Robin Williams is quoted as saying, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” We can only the do the best we can do that day at that time. We can encourage, hope, and pray people will act better – but on any given day they are only going to be able to do what they are capable at doing. Know that even when someone is seemingly intentionally being mean, it is usually because of their own pain. That doesn’t mean you need to take their abuse, but it does mean that you can still give them your empathy.

Where are you fighting reality? What do you need to accept? What boundaries can you put in place? Instead of playing victim to circumstances or others, empower yourself through acceptance.

mended heart

Our Role in Healing

Last Saturday, Joe Biden made a call to the country to unify and heal. He pledged “to be a president who seeks not to divide, but unify. . . We need to stop treating our opponents as enemies. They are not our enemies. . . This is the time to heal in America.” Hopefully, the Biden administration will lead the way to heal the country, but he can not do it alone. We all have a responsibility to heal our nation, our communities, and our families.

Stop Spreading Hate

The easiest route to take is always one of blame and attack. No matter where you stand, it can be easy to attack “the other.” Instead of pointing out the wrongs of others, be aware of how you are adding to the distrust and distress. Are you adding to misunderstanding and separation? Are you spreading misinformation? Are you sharing negative attacks on others? Or are you seeking to understand and accept?

Stop Labeling

No one is solely a Democrat or a Republican. We are women, men, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers. We are multi-faceted individuals. When we label and attack “the other,” we are being close-minded and closed-hearted. Seeing others one-dimensionally keeps us stuck in duality. When we can begin to look at people fully and completely, we can begin to have understanding and compassion.

Photo by Ante Gudelj on Unsplash

Reconnect

During this election and over the last few years, I have emotionally lost friends and family members to differing ideologies. Somehow our opinions on one subject became more important than the lifetime of experiences we had together. When did a political ideology become more important than family and friendships? We need to look at each other as friends, family, and people again, instead of boxing someone into this or that label. Stop using labels for groups of people and remember that the person you see is not a snowflake liberal – it is your loving Uncle Ted. That woman is not a crazy conspiracy theorist; it is the sibling you spent your entire life knowing. If we are going to move forward, we need to move out of rhetoric and into compassion for humanity on a person by person level.

Be Open

Much of the pain these last years is due to isolation and close-mindedness on all sides. I believe Biden calling us to “give each other a chance” applies to each of us. We need to take off the blinders of our viewpoint and be open to learn about others. Start by not just reading what agrees with your narrative. Look at multiple sources of information from liberal, conservative, and international viewpoints. Be open to what is written and draw your own conclusions. Don’t only listen to one source. Don’t negate immediately what does not agree with your view. Be open to new points of view. Knowledge is power and wisdom is how we use that knowledge.  

Choose

Each of us has the power in each and every moment to make life better – or worse. Biden beautifully said, “It is a decision, a choice we make and if we decide not to cooperate, then we can decide to cooperate.” Are you choosing to make things worse, to keep us stuck, or are you choosing to act in ways that bring us all together?

Walk the Talk

If we want to be accepted, we need to accept others. If we want to be understood, we need to seek to understand others. We can’t expect someone to accept us as we are, if we won’t accept them for who they are. If we want inclusion, we need to include. We need to walk the talk and lead by our example.

Be Compassionate

I don’t know anyone who wasn’t emotionally engaged in the past months, if not years. We all have an emotional hangover, no matter where we stand on the results. Change – whether it is our address, our spouse, our job, or our political leaders – is difficult. As humans we like consistency, and any change is challenging. When we can move past the fear and anger of change, we can begin to build together. Even if we want things to go smoothly and we try to act our best self, we may not always. As we hope others will have compassion for us in our struggles, we need to show compassion to them as well.

Remember No One is Perfect

Biden used a very interesting quote in his speech, “We must restore the soul of America. Our nation is shaped by the constant battle between our better angels and our darker impulses.” None of us are all bad. None of us are all good. We are all a blend. We are all human. As we begin to rebuild together, seek to find the good in everyone. It is there if we take the time to look for it. “Spread the faith.”

A Need for Balance

One of my favorite finds this year is the book and series called, Good Omens. In it, the earth’s birthdate is uncovered, and it turns out the earth is a Libra. At the time, this made me laugh as I too am a Libra. However, with all that 2020 is challenging us with, I am discovering that both I and the world are being asked to find more balance, which is both a core challenge and passion of we Libras.

Photo by Evan Clark on Unsplash

Balance is not a fixed location but a constant readjustment. Think of someone riding a unicycle. They do not get the unicycle upright and then stay in that perfect state of equilibrium. To stay balanced the cyclist – and we – need to make constant adjustments in how we think, how we act, and how we interact.

Balance Your Time

Much has been said about balancing our time between work and home. Balancing time is also finding the present moment. Staying in the past brings regret. Focusing on the future brings fear. Being in the present moment is the point of balance between negative emotions of the past and future. It is also the space where we are empowered to act.

All or Nothing

Much of our pain these days in in taking sides and seeing issues, people, and situations as clear-cut dichotomies, which they never are. All-or-nothing thinking makes us lopsided and off-balance. Through my own life, I have found that nothing is absolutely black-or-white, right-or-wrong, true-or-false. Between all people, issues, and ideas there is always gray. When we can find that gray, we can find balance.

Action and Inaction

Where all-or-nothing exists in our mind, the concept of Yin-Yang expresses balance in action. Yang gets the limelight for me personally and much of society. Yang is aggression, action, accomplishments, and holding to beliefs. Taking action is not bad in itself. The trouble comes in when this is all we have and when we don’t make space for the Yin. Yin is about flexibility, adaptability, and flow. Yin is about strength through bending and humility. You can learn more about these concepts in this great video.

For me personally, I usually lead with the Yang. I am the bull in the china shop trying to fight for what is right and make things happen. Again, this is not bad, unless action is all I have. Sometimes the best solution is in the pause, in acceptance, in flexibility, in humility, in the Yin. The key to peace is not to choose Yin over Yang or Yang over Yin but to discern when to use each.

Equality

Equality is finding balance between people. Nothing, read that again, nothing makes one person more important than someone else. Not money, not beauty, not nationality, not gender. We are all equal. The only inequality that exists is based on our own judgments. I have experienced inequality growing up a woman in a man’s world. I have being perceived as “the other” being the only Caucasian in an African American History class. I have felt superiority bestowed upon me due to my education, position, financial status, and skin tone. Through all of these instances, I see that the differences, the inequalities were all in someone’s mind. To find balance between us and others, we need to release the false sense of separation. We need to seek to understand and accept the other, instead of spreading and continuing prejudice. We need to release our fear of loss as meeting others as equals (raising up others) does not minimize ourselves. Together we are both stronger.

Steadiness through Constantly Changing

Where are you feeling off-balance? Is time making demands you can not meet? Is your thinking skewed? Is the imbalance between trying to act when the best option is to wait? Is it in feeling that you are due more than you receive or a fear that others are taking from you? Take a few moments to close your eyes. Breathe gently in through your nose and out through your mouth. Find the balance and peace of this moment. Then examine where you feel off balance. What needs to shift to help you find serenity?  Throughout your day check-in and make minor adjustments to help you maintain stability in balance.

good omens - angel demon

Accepting Humanity

My friend and talented author, Nan, introduced me to the Good Omens series based on the book by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. The video series has been my go-to escape during The Big Time Out we have all been given. It is funny, brilliant, and very insightful.

One of the main lessons I learned through the Good Omens series is that we are neither inherently good or bad, we are just human. We have days where we can act like perfect angels. We have other days where we make choices, say things, or act in a way that is purely demonic. In truth, however, we are neither good nor bad. We are just human. This concept has helped me accept myself, and others, at a deeper level than I had been able to before.

Most of my life, I tried to be that angel. Acting perfectly. Striving for more. Looking for recognition. And I completely ignored where I was a demon. Saying the wrong things to the wrong people at the wrong time. Allowing my own fears to self-sabotage my dreams. Attacking others to keep from falling into my own insecurities. Until recently, I thought one day I could be all angel. Now I have come to accept that I will always be part angel and part demon. This acceptance helps me feel so much more comfortable in my own skin. I embrace and accept my full humanity.

Good Omens - angel and demon

This acceptance of myself, has also helped me accept others. What if I met you on one of your demon days? Is it fair to think that how you acted on your worst day, is who you are all the time? Or what about the times when all we see of someone is angel and then are devastated to see their dark side? No one is perfect all the time in all ways. Having unrealistically high expectations for another – or ourselves, only leads to disappointment.

In a snippet of talk by Ram Dass, he adds another facet to the idea of self-acceptance. Ram Dass responded to the question “how do we love ourselves more”, with an answer of “why we need to accept ourselves fully”. Ram Dass was pointing out what I do so well, judge. I judge myself. I judge others. I judge the actions of society as a whole. But judging does more harm than good. Judging separates us. It is natural to notice our differences, but to attack or demean another, or our ourselves, because of the difference leads to separation and hate.

What is interesting to explore is what we are using to judge. Who sets the rules and the measuring stick? When I was younger, I judged myself against the super-skinny models of the 1970’s, to which I would always lose. As I changed careers, I judged myself against others’ success and notoriety. I have even judged myself against others’ spiritual depth. In all these instances, I had to first decide by which scale to judge myself and other people.

Ram Dass gives a nice example of when someone is in a forest, they just enjoy the trees. Unless they are a lumberjack and have a scale to judge trees, the forest walker only sees the beauty of the forest as a whole or the uniqueness of a single tree. The person does not judge each tree as too crooked or too short. They just are. Which begs the question, why do we judge ourselves and others? Why can’t we accept ourselves and others as we are? Why do we feel we should and have the right to judge ourselves and those around us? Are we not just trees in the forest of humanity? By judging ourselves and others we are missing out on the absolute beauty and peace of acceptance and understanding.

What scale do you judge yourself and others by? Where did you learn and agree to that scale? How do you feel when you judge? Self-righteous, better-than, superior or fearful, lacking, and victimized? How would your experience and life change if you no longer judged, and just accepted people as they were?

we look at the smae moon but live in different worlds

I Do Not Like That Man. I Must Get to Know Him Better.

Amid all the hate speech on and offline, I thought this quote from Abraham Lincoln provides some sound advice. He is noted for saying, “I do not like that man. I must get to know him better.”

Isn’t it easy to see something we disagree with online and immediately dismiss the person who wrote it? Isn’t it easier to attack or discredit them than to be the bigger person and reach out to make a human connection?  I can’t tell you how many times I have spoken to someone who hated this group or that ethnicity, but when I said, “Isn’t your friend Sammy one of THEM?” their response is often, “Well he is different than the rest of THEM. I know him.” Knowing someone personally helps us to accept, understand, and even become friends with those of different cultures or backgrounds.

As the world becomes smaller and smaller, we are not able to isolate and insulate ourselves like in the past. It is time to come together as a global community and begin to understand those who are different than us in appearance, culture, or thinking. Here are a few ideas to make that happen.

Photo by Arie Wubben on Unsplash

Stop Lumping

One of the biggest culprits of bias is lumping people together by some label. All men, Mexicans, Republicans, or St. Louis Cardinal fans are horrible. Really?  Every single one of them? Our mind likes to label and name things because it helps us to recall information quickly. Yet in grouping people together, we are creating our own perception and judgment about people instead of seeing the unique individual. Look at yourself. What groups or labels could you be categorized by? What assumptions could people make about you if they only looked at a single aspect of you? What are they missing out about who you are if they only see one facet of you?

What Do You Value

When we label others, we are choosing to make some aspect of the person important above the rest. What does it say about you in how you choose to label?  What are you deciding is important? Nationality, gender, wealth? Why do you choose that element to judge others? When we prejudge people by one element of their being, we are saying more about our own fears than about the true character of the other person.

Second Chance

Let’s cut each other some slack. I would hate to be judged because of how I look or where I come from. I am guessing you feel the same, so why not extend the curtesy to others by not judging? Instead of judging and attacking, have the courage to reach out to someone who irritates you or someone who is different from you. Learn about them. Learn about their culture. Learn who they are as an individual. You may not become fast friends, but it will make moving around in the world easier.

Who have you met recently who has irritated you? Why was that? Are you making assumptions because of one element – nationality, ethnicity, culture? Try to be more open and welcoming this week. See if you don’t find more connection when you take the time to really meet and know those around you.

Perfecting Imperfection

One of my biggest character defects, my biggest struggles is the dishonest belief that I am/can/should be absolutely perfect. A lot is wrong with this belief. First, it assumes there is one absolute correct way to be, i.e., perfect. Yet with the variety of people, professions, beliefs, abilities, etc. out there, how could someone presume to define a singular explanation of perfection. Second, my belief is tied to the assumption that if I am not perfect, I am not worthy of love. Anyone who has had a child who acted imperfectly (crayons on the wall or meltdown at Wal-Mart) can easily express how the child’s imperfection did not take away from how much the parent loved them (unconditional love). Third, the idea that we should be perfect is inherently wrong because we are, well, human. The Oxford Living Dictionaries defines “human” as “of or characteristic of people as opposed to God or animals or machines, especially in being susceptible to weaknesses.”

broken glass
Photo by Jachan DeVol on Unsplash

Most of my life I thought I could and should be God or at the very least, an infallible machine. But alas, I am not. I am human. The perfectionist in me longs to be perfect and always act perfectly. The realist in me knows this will never happen – for me or anyone else. I am learning to accept my imperfection and see how my struggles and challenges, how my imperfection serves me – and hopefully serves you, my reader, as well. I recently received an email from one of my subscribers, Jill May, who wrote, “By the way, I love your newsletter.  I don’t always take the time to read every one of them, but when I do read it, I always get something from it.  Sometimes it’s a small tidbit, other times it’s a ‘Wow!’ moment.  I appreciated reading about your yoga headstand challenges.  It really does help the rest of us to know you have struggles just like we do.” (my underline)

It is not my perfection which resonates with my readers. It is my struggle with life; it is my imperfection which helps others through the ups and downs of their life. In an interview last year, I was asked what my purpose was. Out of my mouth without my conscious awareness came, “My purpose is to mess up and learn from it, so you don’t have to.” Funny, for decades I had the belief that my purpose was to achieve perfection so I could show others the way. What I am coming to accept is that I’m on this planet to roll around in the muck of life. I am here to choose poorly, learn from it, and find the courage to move on. I am here to realize the obstacles I put in my way through my dishonest beliefs, to find the tools to release these beliefs, and to find a new way to live. I am here to find deep and absolute acceptance of myself – warts and all – and to help others feel and embrace their own self-acceptance. Through self-acceptance, we can all learn how to have unconditional empathy and love for those around us as well.

Do you have a life purpose or mission? What is it? Do you struggle with the desire for perfection? What would your life be like without the struggle for the unachievable?