So, What Were You Expecting?
I have mosquito bites all over my arms, hands, neck, and the tops of my feet. They are big ones, and very itchy. The most itchy ones are on my toes. At 2:00am as I find myself awake, jet-lagged, and itching, I start feeling annoyed. "Why did the cleaning people leave the hotel door open so these pesky mosquitos could get in? They are so careless. Do they not care at all about their guests? This is such bad service! I will complain in the morning to the manager." As if blaming them will take my itching away.
Then I remembered a question that has helped me over the years to find peace and sometimes even humor, in otherwise disturbing circumstances. I asked myself, "So, what were you expecting, my dear?" As soon as I realized the absurdity of my answer, I burst out into laughter. I was expecting that there would be no mosquitos in my room. Don't get me wrong, this kind of expectation may seem totally reasonable. For example, if I had my own apartment in which I could try to control such things, or if I was checking into a nice hotel in America. But, such is not the case. In fact, I am in India, where mosquitos run rampant. And, yes, in these parts of the world, people don't take mosquitos so seriously. It doesn't mean that they are careless or do not care about their guests. They are just more laid back, and accepting of all of life as it it, including the creatures that appear in hotel rooms, in the food, and in other unexpected places, but that part of the story is for a different time. For now, it is about my newfound understanding that not only were my expectations too high, but also, my happiness was lost. I deprived myself of opportunities for feeling peaceful, joyful, and excited, which were all right there at that very moment of the itching and annoyance.
Expectations mean that we do not accept the reality. We do not accept life as it is. Instead, we want life to be on our terms, and we become unhappy when it is not. Unmet expectations can play out in chronically feeling dissatisfied with people and situations. Unfortunately, when we become disturbed because our expectations aren't met, we miss the beauty of life unfolding right before our eyes in each moment. We miss the chance to marvel at, or to be in awe of the magnificence of it all. Instead of feeling annoyed as I itched my mosquito bites, I could have felt excited that I was back in India, the place I had longed to visit for so many years! I could have also felt comforted by the soft, clean bed that I was stretched out on, a welcome relief to the cramped airplane seat that I had endured over 16-hours of flights. I could have even felt grateful for the mosquito bites, thinking of them as a welcoming love bite from Mother India.
Can you imagine if I had consciously realized my expectations when I arrived in India, before I checked into my hotel room? Imagine if I had said something like this to myself, "Okay, my dear. Now you are in India. Get ready for the mosquitos! There will be many. Let's try to protect you with some natural mosquito repellant. But if you get bitten, it's no big deal. It goes with the price of admission. We are not going to let mosquito bites distract you from your joy. You can put some lavender essential oil on your bites to stop the itching. But don't lose sight of the big picture! Don't let your critical mind ruin your sweet heart. Remember why you have come to this great country, and how fortunate you are to be here. Stay present in your heart, feeling your own happiness, and stay focused on your goal."
So, my question for you is, can you identify an expectation that you might have that is holding you back from enjoying the beauty in that situation? Where are the sharp points that you might be avoiding, that are poking you? They are trying to get your attention. Turn around and face them. Lean deeper into the uncomfortable places. Observe them. What are your subtle expectations? Can you be courageous enough to let go of them? Can you just accept other people, situations, and life as it is? Keep your eyes open, and just receive whatever is there. Don't try to change it. Now, let the beauty of life flood your heart and invigorate your entire being!