I have a vivid imagination. I used to get lost in my head with all the paths my life could take that inevitably seemed to end in different versions of me being rich and famous. I would imagine my clothes, the parties, the well-known friends and my face gracing covers of magazines. How I would get there was much less clear or fun to dwell on. Fame and fortune seemed the solution to all life’s ills during my late teens. I still get lost in my head with visions of different types of accomplishments now: authoring a best-selling novel, making big strides for education and literacy in my daughter’s birth country; taking on that huge professional role that will let me leverage my experience as well as my creative side.
I always want to be the best at what I do and if I am brutally honest, perfect. I have a hard time doing something if it doesn’t live up to my vision of what it should be. I would take projects at school and spend much more time than necessary to make them try match the picture I envisioned. And even then, some part always fell short.
I recall as a pre-teen going to my first dog obedience competition with my pup who I faithfully trained each day and took to classes on the weekend. The dog did great. But I forgot to give one command to stay and she followed me, a disqualifiying event. I learned, but for that lapse, we would have scored high enough to achieve second place. I cried the whole way home in the backseat of my dad’s car. I was devastated and couldn’t see the good in the experience or savor the partial success. I didn’t achieve what I set out to do so all was lost.
I know I carry over my high expectations of myself at times to others. I had a best friend who as a child who meant everything to me. I recall our parents being concerned we were “too close” in grade school. As middle school rolled around, our paths started to diverge and she sought other friends. I had unrealistic expectations of our friendship lasting as it was into the years ahead. I feel betrayed and rather lost; but realized later, I was a big contributor to the large divide between what I hoped and what happened.
I can look back at a number of painful adult life lessons since and see now where my expectations set up me for a larger fall. I found, with a little time, most these disappointments led to positive outcomes or learnings. An award at another show, a new friend and with the years, the list goes on.
So I am trying hard to take life’s ups and down as they come. It’s tough because envisioning a certain beautiful outcome is part of my bliss and fuels many of my passions. So while I want to retain the childlike kinetic energy inherent in imagining the impossible and perfect is possible, I also want to disconnect it from unrealistic expectations.
So when disappointments happen, as they inevitablly will, I remind myself to not dwell on the bitterness of what is not to be but rather on the sweetness of new possibilities. My picture may need to be adjusted rather than abandoned. I strive to develop a yogic like flow from each life event to the next. The first may include a beautiful vision like when my body and mind are in perfect sync, the second a jarring let down like in a new difficult pose where my body cannot easily find strength or balance, and then on to the third which embodies a combination, accepting and incorporating my own and life’s limitations, while continuing to strive to improve both. As with most of my efforts, this one is definitely a work in progress.