Plant an expectation, reap a disappointment.
I came across this line in a newly acquired book of mine entitled Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. Author Elizabeth Gilbert gained much recognition from her previous book, Eat, Pray, Love; Committed is a “part two” of sorts, focusing on a relationship that began in EPL and culminates, to her chagrin, in marriage. The premise may seem odd to you – a couple who marry each other despite their strong convictions to never marry again after both of their first marriages ended in bitter divorce. I’m not going to delve into all of the details and background of the book; my intention isn’t to provide you with a book review. Her thoughts on love, marriage, and relationships, blended with sociohistorical prose are intriguing – many of the questions and issues Gilbert raises should be thoughtfully reflected upon by all who are considering marriage or are already married. Her words – particularly in the chapter “Marriage and Expectation” – resonate with me and are reflected in the lives of many around me. I think Elizabeth (we’re on a first name basis now) would agree with me when I say that love/life/marriage is not the fairy-tale-happily-ever-after ending we came to expect thanks to the stories of Disney princesses. Some go in to marriage understanding this (and I think they are better for it); yet some expect their husband/wife to “complete” them and make their lives beautiful, perfect and “happy”. That is an impossible standard to hold someone to – and it is an extreme form of hubris to expect that you can be all those things to another person for as long as you both shall live. Now, now…don’t get worried that I’m turning into a dark and twisty character – I’m simply trying to advocate that romantic idealism should be complimented by a healthy dose of reality and self-awarness of strengths, weaknesses, needs, desires, communication methods, etc.
The adage mentioned in the book – “plant an expectation, reap a disappointment” – reminded me of a conversation I had last week with a dear friend. As we cradled our coffee mugs between our hands, we shared our stories, catching each other up on the latest developments of the life-changing issues we have each been facing throughout the past several months. Our conversation turned to a discussion of the difference between being hopeful and getting our hopes up. It seems the latter is the type that leads to disappointment. When we get our hopes up, we formulate expectations, predisposed notions of what should or could happen, and wait expectantly for specific results. When these hopes are not realized, frustration ensues. Alternatively, being hopeful is often associated with optimism and a desire for good. Being hopeful has a certain sense of openness.
We have all had hopes that were never fully realized. In some cases, these frustrations and disappointments beat a person down, making them bitter and cantankerous. Others have been able to adapt a bit better, gleaning wisdom and exhibiting patience and perseverance through such circumstances. Over the past several years, I have been trying to find the balance between being hopeful and having dreams, wishes and ambitions. I consider it of great importance to possess hope and to realize that “hope that is seen is no hope at all – who hopes for what he already has?”. There is an inherent element of risk and uncertainty in hope, a recognition that there is a greater power and force at work in our lives.
I hope for a life of beauty and adventure. I hope to share that life with those I love and cherish. I hope to leave my corner of the world a little bit better than I found it. I hope these things for YOU – may you each be granted a bit of the “happily ever after” you’ve always dreamed of.