“What is” Vs. “Should Happen”
Today a good friend posted this on my Facebook wall. It’s a great quote. True and inspiring and pretty good life advice. Except, as is with most wonderful memes found on social media, it’s lacking in nuance and practicality and well, makes me feel like I’m not “doing life right”. I know my friend’s intentions were good and I am grateful for the reminder and that it got me thinking about how we often like to package life advice into quick little tomes and sometimes they loose their true meaning.
I wanted to really understand this quote because clearly I have issues with “What is” and “Should Happen”.
To me, this quote assumes I exist in a bubble in which I have no thoughts, feelings, needs and am completely existing in reaction to the world around me, that’s “What Is”. There is traffic, that’s “what is”, true I cannot control the traffic, and true I get to decide how I want to deal with traffic, (Scream and yell and honk, or listen to music and dance in my car) that’s a very easy “what is” to deal with, traffic is happening, deal with it. However when it come to interpersonal relationships, this is where the “what is” gets wobbly and more about what each of us believes “Should happen”, which is an expectation, and expectations are apparently “bad”.
If I read this quote and try and paste it over my interactions with other humans, then I have to consider the reality that “what is” isn’t always “what is” or at least it may not be my “what is” We are all co-creating “What is”, mostly from our own belief systems about what “should happen”, so then exactly how am I supposed to know which “what is” is the “right” “what is” and which “what is” is just what I think “should happen”? Hmmm…
In any relationship, we create expectations, (“bad”) in terms of being “enlightened”. To have expectations of others is often equated to not being very self loving, or aware, very un-zen-like. We should just walk around having no expectations of anyone and that will make us very happy. Honestly, I have never met a human, no matter how zen they seem to be who doesn’t have expectations. You expect me not to drive my car into yours while sitting in traffic and I promise to live up to that expectation, which I agreed to when I got my drivers license. Except that I become distracted and I do hit your car and then I’ve not lived up to your expectation or my agreement to live up to it, (That’s definitely a “What is” your car and probably mine now have dents), and here’s where the “what is” gets mixed up with the “should happen”, I probably didn’t intend to hit your car, but I did and the “should happen” is that I “should” pay to fix your car. Totally reasonable expectation and here’s where the quote comes in. I decide that I don’t have to pay for your car to be fixed, because well, you “shouldn’t” have any expectations and it’s really your fault for having that expectation and my expectation is that you will be so amazing that you’ll not only pay for your own car and pay for mine as well. The “What is” is the dented car and each of us has our own “should happen” , so now what…. At this point we’re standing on the side of the road and the “what is” is a dented car and a stalemate. Each of us expecting the other person to just deal with “What is”.
Which is why this quote is so confusing to me and true simultaneously, because “what is” changes moment to moment based on our willingness to honor each others reasonable “should happens”, or not. In the dent scenario, the next “what is” is a lawsuit, most likely in which I will be compelled to honor your “should happen”, because hey, I agreed to it when I got my license, right?. In relationships, it’s not always so cut and dry, often because we don’t usually communicate our expectations to each other because we think we shouldn’t have expectations. That’s just hogwash.
In relationships having expectations (“should happens”) is as reasonable and necessary as our expectations that people will operate in the world in a way that creates stability, consistency, community, safety, comfort, mutual respect, all of the things we desire in a relationship. Imagine a world in which no one ever lived up to societal expectations! So why is having them in relationship such a bad thing?
It isn’t a bad thing, what can become complicated is how we communicate them and how we deal with them when they aren’t met.
Expectations are normal and healthy and when communicated honestly and respected and honored create a beautiful relationship. When Expectations are not honored it’s time to check in on your boundaries, communicate honestly and decide if the “what is” is worth working on or letting go of. Which is why this quote is true, at some point you do have to let go of what you thought “should happen” because the other person either never got the memo, or chose not to live up to it. Which hurts, especially if the other person agreed to live up to it.
So when I read this quote this morning I realized I had done just that, I had let go of my “should happen” and I was still processing the hurt and sadness that comes when your “should happens” don’t happen. While I had reached the “Some point”, physically, my heart still had some work to do.
This is the part of the quote that’s missing for me, the learning how to “live in what is happening” , it’s not instantaneous, it’s a process. Take your time with this part, sit a bit with your sadness, it’s not “bad” either. Because when you take the time to be with how the experience made you feel, you have an opportunity to learn from it and next time, maybe you’ll be able to communicate your “should happens” more clearly and more importantly, make a better choice in who you’re communicating them to.