the proof we're alive
You may or may not have received and/or read my first newsletter, but, like any new, grand gesture, it has come with a familiar web of feelings that include pride and satisfaction for doing it, immediately followed by disappointment and dissatisfaction with its reception.
I’ve found there is a sharp contraction that occurs just after you release something that feels slightly bigger than where you were before: a prickly feeling of smallness.
“If you're going to say what you want to say, you're going to hear what you don't want to hear.”
―Roberto Bolaño, The Insufferable Gaucho
I didn’t hear what I wanted to hear. In fact, I didn’t hear much at all. I found myself “just double-checking you got my newsletter” to friends, desperately mining for some feedback. My probing brought a small handful of lovely comments, but mostly silence or trite replies. And all of seven likes. Burn.
Which brings me to expectations.
My expectations for releasing my first newsletter: I’m a writer again! My ideal community will find me immediately! Many of them, I will share a connection that may save one or, likely, both of our lives! All the money!
What actually happened: I practiced my art form by releasing one newsletter.
Unchecked expectations, as, the one, Ms. Anne Lamott called it in her book Dusk, Night, Dawn, are “resentments under construction.” If we don’t get the reaction, the agreement, the scenario we crave, there’s the tendency to resist what’s happening in reality and push toward making our plan happen anyway. And, there’s the danger of developing ill will toward those who aren’t playing along with our schemes. Me? Never!
Worse, that fruitless struggle toward an ideal may not even originate with us, might be someone else’s idea of what success looks like, and will not satisfy us anyway. Gah!
What to do next time I’m about to release a labor of love, start a conversation, or offer up an idea, to cut out the feeling-small, reality-denying, resentment-having aspect?
In our mindfulness practice in class, we learn to trust emergence: to enter an experience without the bias of a goal, and to give our energetic commitment only to the moment at hand. This reminds us everything we experience comes with ever-changing conditions, the outlines of which are difficult for us to perceive, much less predict ahead of time.
And, before we begin learning the technique of Vedic meditation, we release any expectations for how we think our meditation should go. Dropping, or, just loosening, our attachment to contorting our experience toward the outcomes we crave, makes us more open and pliant in practice. And practice is always, always, a microcosm of our current lives.
So, taking a moment to manage that image in our heads of what we expect and recognizing that we don’t know what is going to happen, before even lighting that first match, will naturally allow our experience to unfold the way it will, and maybe even surprise and delight us.
It’s a nice way to cushion the landing of our grand gestures, sure, but, given the destruction a rigid attachment to a goal can cause in our world (like the attachment we see in leaders, making things happen irrespective of the impact it has on others and even nature itself), the ripple effect of this practice could even be the social change we strive for. This is big. Big!
Though, to be clear, this is not a nod to the run-down, prostrated, dead-upon-arrival ‘Don’t Get Your Hopes Up’ adage.
Blind hope and high expectations are really where all the good stuff lies: the courage to even try something at all, the chance to befriend ourselves through disappointment and cringe, the previously unforeseen opportunities that seem to arise out of nowhere.
Taking part in these opportunities to wonder and investigate a wide spectrum of experiences and reach a new platform of perspective is really the point of it all, isn’t it?
Imagine missing all of this for a life free of disappointment! How dull.
The bad news is you won’t get what you thought you wanted, but that’s the good news, too.