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What are your expectations?

Key West, Florida, is the southernmost part of the United States and somewhere I had never visited before. I finally had my chance last week. Hubby and I drove down to Florida, partly for the warmth and partly to visit family, and we decided to spend a couple of nights in Key West. But I was warned – it’s nothing special, you’ll be underwhelmed, it’s better if you have a boat – basically, don’t go thinking it’s a really great place.

We had a great time. It was after the Easter weekend so it was fairly quiet, and though the water was cold and I didn’t swim, it was so nice just to be on a beach. Yes, the beaches were not what I was used to having grown up in the Caribbean but the atmosphere, salt air, and trees were very similar. That little trip with all the negative press started me thinking about expectations, both my own and those I adopt from others, and how they affect our lives.

For instance, I had the expectation that I would always be healthy and athletic, playing tennis until I was eighty like my Dad. Now, pain can take over my days and my nights, leaving me feeling old and feeble long before I expected. I’m luckier than most people who live in chronic pain though because I have periods without pain. I just have to manage my physical activities well to stay out of pain.

However, having lived through pain for years I could have kept the thought that the rest of my life would be miserable. But I wanted more for myself and kept looking for a way out. In the same way, I could have taken all the comments about Key West to heart and focused on all that was lacking and how awful it was. In both cases it would have been misery.

How stuck are you in your expectations?

If you have a chronic illness the expectation is that life will be hell. In the chaos of looking for a diagnosis life can be difficult. In testing and finding the drugs, or therapy, or interventions that may help, life can be miserable. In learning how to manage the new body life can be confusing. I would be surprised if anyone newly diagnosed felt any different. But over time could your expectations change or are you doomed to live in that hell?

It brings to mind the term ‘self-fulfilling prophesy’ which states that once an expectation is held, an individual tends to act in ways that are consistent with the belief and eventually his or her actions may cause the expectation to become a reality. So if you think that life will be hell you will act in ways that will prove your belief is true. The problem is that chronic pain never goes away and no amount of changing your beliefs will change that fact. However, the way you face the pain on a daily basis could change your experience of that pain.

You could expect to have a life that has meaning and joy. Your days may start with giving thanks - for the sun shining in your room, or for the flowers that a friend brought, or the opportunity to see your grandchildren. You may show yourself more compassion, especially on the most difficult days, and in doing so be able to offer that same compassion to someone else in trouble. You could work fewer hours but bring such joy to what you do that it spreads through the office and to your customers. You could be gentle with those who don’t understand your need for a nap everyday, or your inability to attend every event. And you could let go of the guilt you may feel for doing what is necessary to make your life worthwhile. Your actions may even lead you to find meaning and joy in your life.

What are your expectations? Are you even aware of them? Why not take some time to think about that today? Then share your thoughts with me on Facebook. I’d love to hear from you.

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