Serenity along the Gulf Coast in Waveland, Mississippi – Copyright 2018 Barbara A. Besteni
“Serenity comes when you trade expectations for acceptance.” — Unknown
All of our disappointments come from unfulfilled expectations and pre-conceived beliefs of how things should and shouldn’t be. They are the reference points we use to judge if something is good or bad, right or wrong.
If our expectations aren’t met, we are quick to label the feeling of disappointment as “bad.” On the flip side, if we do something that makes us happy, but we believe it’s “wrong” because doing things for ourselves is “selfish,” we add a dollop of guilt to the ice cream and miss out on the “guilty pleasure.”
But why should we feel guilty about pleasure? Does guilt absolve us of our “sins” any more than saying ten Hail Marys absolved us of the sins we exposed in the confessional as children? (You Catholic children of long ago know exactly what I mean.)
Most of our expectations and beliefs are self-imposed, crafted from the residual fibers of the protective garments given to us by our parents, our teachers, and the society in which we grew up … garments meant to protect us from life’s harsh climate.
But many of those garments are no longer in style. Some we have outgrown and should have been discarded long ago. But because they are sewn into the fabric of our being, we continue to wear them, adding additional layers of emotional clothing on top, suffocating the very life force struggling to free us from the prison of our past.
“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” — Margaret Meade
Unfortunately, we took our early life lessons at face value and never learned to completely think for ourselves. We entered adulthood believing the boogeyman still lived in the closet and children in countries we’d never heard of would die if we didn’t eat everything on our plates.
Is it any wonder we’ve grown up to be a nation where mental illness and obesity are so prevalent?
But what if we entered each day with no preconceived notions or judgments of what is good or bad or right or wrong? What if we had no expectations?
What if we put on our grownup pants and simply lived life day by day, absorbing the gifts each moment has to give without spoiling them with expectations of how things should or shouldn’t be?
Would we be better off? Would we be more fulfilled and enjoy life more if we simply stopped expecting and started living?
Could we miss something we didn’t get if we hadn’t expected to get it?
“You can’t lose something you never had” – Kate Hudson, ‘How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days’
Do you miss not having brothers and sisters?
It’s a question I’m often asked when people find out I’m an only child.
But how can I miss something I never had?
Sure, I can imagine what it must be like to have a sibling, or two. But miss it? No, I can’t possibly miss an experience I’ve never had.
It’s like asking a person who is blind from birth if they miss seeing. They have no concept of seeing with their eyes, no reference point by which to judge a visual perception of the world. So, no, they don’t miss seeing because their reference point doesn’t include sight as we know it.
Let’s take it one step further. What if we eliminated the reference points we use to judge right from wrong?
We use religion as a barometer to keep us “moral.”
What if the 10 Commandments were not meant to be taken literally?
I’m not suggesting we rename them the 10 Suggestions. I am suggesting we expand our understanding of them, and all religious beliefs, to free us, rather than inhibit us.
Ten Commandments aside, many of the religious “laws” we were taught are man-made.
Eating meat on Fridays, for example, meant an eternity of hellfire when I was growing up Catholic in Brooklyn. I always felt sorry for my Jewish friends who were going to hell because apparently no one had told them that eating a Hebrew National hot dog on Friday meant eternal damnation.
This all started sounding very fishy to me as I began to question religious authority. And had I had the benefit of Google at the time, I would have learned that since it is believed Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross on a Friday, Christians set aside Fridays to unite with Christ’s suffering.
By not eating meat? Oh, please.
I’m not saying we should live life breaking all the rules and thinking only of ourselves as if there weren’t other people on the planet. But how amazing would it be if we lived life as it was meant to be … free of expectations, taking each precious moment and savoring it, sprinkling it with gratitude for the miracle that we are given at the beginning of each new day.
I’m full of questions today. Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers that will work for you. I only have answers that work for me.
Are you ready for serenity? Release the expectations and judgments that are keeping you grounded and welcome acceptance.
Then watch the magic happen. Peace.