Walking along DeKalb yesterday, I noticed a man noticing me notice his wife's enormously pregnant belly. I sensed that the subtle panic flickering through my eyes wondering "How in the world is she going to do that?" set off the latent panic inside him asking "How in the world am I going to do this?" They are "expecting."
As it turns out, a lot of us are expecting, and a lot more. Here's a chart of the use of the word "expectations" over time. See a trend?
In my own life and in very different ways, I am expecting. I am planning and expecting pretty nearly every moment I am awake. My two jobs waiting tables involve guiding the expectations of guests, kitchens and coworkers. Outside of work, I have both small and large expectations, mostly about my future but also about, say, how a night out is going to go. Regardless of size, expectations continue to lead me to two outcomes: confirmation or disappointment. Confirmation, ok; disappointment, bad. Not exactly a picture of overwhelming happiness. Antonyms for expectation are a dark list indeed: "Disbelief, distrust, hopelessness and doubt," and then, "fact, knowledge, proof, reality, truth." The opposite of expectation is truth. Whoa.
Alan Watts, king of quotes, speaks of expectation and memory as mental attributes that prevent us from living in the now. Tell me if this rings true:
"If my happiness in this moment consists largely in reviewing memories and expectations, I am but dimly aware of this present. I shall still be dimly aware of the present when the good things I have been expecting come to pass. For I shall have formed a habit of looking behind and ahead, making it difficult for me to attend to the here and now. If then, my awareness of the past and future makes me less aware of the present, I must begin to wonder if I am actually living in the real world."
What, then, are we expecting from expecting? Relief, perhaps, that we can anticipate correctly. Affirmation of our ability to predict outcomes, certainly. But what do they really do for us? Hint: they give us the illusion of control. Double hint: illusion of control. I have a couple of pretty awesome teachers who have more to say on this topic, including wise remedies for seeing through the illusion. See here for remedy, and more here. In the meantime, here's Janet Jackson in a really long music video for "Control" from 1986. What did you expect?