expectation & reprieve

There are always blessings hidden here and there in a life. Sometimes such little blessings stand out, and we are able to recognize them for what they are. In the normal course of life, such things are usually visible through the fog of our lives because they are exceptional — the car accident narrowly avoided, the perfect wedding day though the meteorologist forecasted rain. In times of unusual struggle, however, it’s a bit easier to spot them.

Although I know that going to Indianapolis for treatment is the best decision that Dawn and I could make given the evidence before us, it’s not an easy one to swallow. I don’t like the idea of being holed up in a hospital for the better part of two months, and Dawn is (no better word) dreading those months as well, knowing that they will mean a lonely house, and more six hour driving trips than any of us would care to take in any two month period. The little nugget of relief, the blessing, comes at the front end. You see, I was originally scheduled to take my second round of chemo this week. It also happens to be the time when three (yes, three now) of my brothers will be coming for a visit — at the end of the week that would have under chemo conditions been some of the worst patches for me. But now, because I am not scheduled to begin the High Dose Chemotherapy until the following week (Nov. 3), I can enjoy this week with a degree of normalcy and still be well enough to have a good time with my brothers when they are here (and put them to work in our new house!).

A reprieve. A blessing. Whatever you want to call it, it won’t go unappreciated by me.

And now, a word from Mike on EXPECTATIONS (which has something or other to do with blessings and reprieves perhaps)…

Aside from my upbringing as a Roman Catholic (a faith I abandoned as soon as I could wrest free of it), the only religion I have ever looked at seriously has been Buddhism. I am, by no means, anything approaching an expert on the ideas and teachings of Buddhism, but I’ve gleaned bits and pieces of the faith that seem to have a pretty good grasp on how life unfolds — or at least how I’ve observed it unfolding.

The most interesting for me are The Four Noble Truths. They go something like this (and please, if you’re a Buddhist or know something about this, feel free to enlighten me): Mostly life is suffering. Suffering is bad. Desire causes suffering (among other things). The more desire you eliminate, the more suffering you eliminate. Therefore, with less desire, you will suffer less. I’ve also read something that I find to be fairly accurate for my life in all of this suffering/desire stuff. A big part of desire are our expectations — our expectations of ourselves, of life, of friends, of family, of strangers on the street (or drivers, coworkers, teachers, and on and on — everyone). We go into every interaction with other living creatures (yes, not just humans, even our friendly, fluffy cats) with expectations. We expect them to treat us a certain way, to say certain things, and not say certain other things, we expect them to live in accordance with our expectations of them. And they expect the same from us, if not more.

In my adult life, I’ve learned a few things about my fellow humans (and myself) that have yet to be proven wrong, and this is one of them: our expectations are usually the reason for trouble in all relationships, be they with family, lovers, friends, colleauges, or otherwise. We expect, they expect. And when expectations don’t match up — or worse, fail to come anywhere near the mark — trouble is afoot.

(Maybe some day I’ll write something about another fundamental truth about human nature that I learned during my years as a cab driver in Portland, Oregon, but that’s another story.)

To one degree or another, we are all guilty of this — and we all have the power to make it better, to lessen it. How? Expect less from people. Embrace them for who they are, knowing that we can’t possibly get along, befriend, love, or even like, every person we encounter in our lives. But recognize that we each have something to offer, and stop expecting them to live their lives in a way that meets with your expectations of them. As for friends, family, and other loved ones, stop expecting them to behave in certain ways. Expect them to call at certain intervals? Stop. Expect them to say the right thing at the right time, or pay you back? Stop. Expect them to love you unconditionally? Oh man, you need to let that one go.

So, where did this sermon come from? Well, it came from a few places. First, it came from a rough “breakdown” that I had recently — remember my post on that? In many ways, I think my breakdown, replete with sobbing, yelling, and an overall cathartic release of anger, was brought about not by my own expectations, but by those that belonged to someone else. Let’s just say that push came to shove and it was unpleasant in the extreme (and no, it wasn’t an issue between Dawn and I — but in order to save feelings, I’d rather not drag the whole affair to far out into the open and so am concealing that little nugget as best I can).

But, my thinking about expectations goes beyond that episode too. My own expectations are, after all, the precursors to such thoughts as “this is unfair,” “why me?” and “I can’t wait to get back to normal life.” I expected (foolishly) many things in the past year. Namely, I expected to not have cancer. I also expected it to be an easy fix. When it wasn’t, I expected to be cured after my initial treatment. I expected it to be gone forever. And now? Now I don’t know what to expect — and maybe that’s why I’m writing this in the first place.


2 Responses to “expectation & reprieve”

  1. I hope you had a good weekend with your brothers! We will be thinking of you this week as you start your next dose of chemo….we will send strength your way.

    As always, let us know if there is anything we can do for you or Dawn!

    Molly and Dave

  2. Sister Lisa Says:

    Mike, This post reminded me of something I heard this weekend: Love never stops hoping…and lasting love expects the best. So, treat people the way that you want them to be, not the way that they are. Believe it or not, people really do tend to live up to their expectations.

    Love never gives up.
    Love cares more for others than for self.
    Love doesn’t strut,
    Doesn’t have a swelled head,
    Doesn’t force itself on others,
    Isn’t always “me first”,
    Doesn’t fly off the handle,
    Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
    Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
    Takes pleasure in flowering the truth,
    Puts up with anything,
    Trusts God always,
    Always looks for the best,
    Never looks back,
    But keeps going to the end.

    It’s the expectation that someone doesn’t do what we want that starts the trouble. The expectation that everyone can be a better, more loving, caring person is something to always hold on to. It’s what keeps us human and differentiates us from the rest of the animal kingdom.

    And when I read your post on the “Breakdown” I thought for a moment that you were quoting from Pilgrim’s Progress instead of Jayber Crow……

    Love you,


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