Category Archives: expectations

Labels, Limits, and Love – part 2

Last week I told you about my experience saying “I love you” to someone who isn’t categorized as lover, family or friend. I likened Love to a pasta sauce (yes, I did!), and shared that we would explore the idea of expectations and Love this week. So, let’s do it!

Here’s the thing: when I said “I love you” to that person, I had no expectation of a return. If we go back to the pasta sauce for a moment, ask yourself these questions:

Do you expect anything in return from your pasta sauce? Do you expect it to do something for you, validating you in some way? Or do you simply enjoy it for all it is in the moment?

That’s what happens when we love openly and honestly from our heart: we enjoy it for all it is in the moment. Some call it “being in the flow” others refer to it as “being in the now” – more labels. It simply is.

When we hold expectations for a return of our sentiments – our love – we are actually in a space of not-loving. We are in fear, or lack. Our energies are tied up in wanting. We are offering our love from a place of need, rather than a place of integrity, and that’s never good. It’s a false love, a caged love, a love that is bound and tied before it ever has a chance to be felt and shared.

There are many examples of this, but one I saw recently was a mother talking to her child. I was in a store and she put parameters on her love, saying something like, “How will I know that you love me, if you don’t do this for me?”

A quid pro quo for love is not Love. It’s enslavement to someone else’s needs, fears, and insecurities. It’s love as a possession, which isn’t love.

Expecting an “I love you, too” in return for your “I love you” is no different. Hollywood has hit on this as it’s a common theme among rom-coms. We’ve all done it – I’ve done it! (Many times.) So, this post is not about being perfect, but about raising awareness. Awareness invites change.

I experienced this myself most recently with the story I’ve shared. I said “I love you” because I did. I do. There is nothing more to it than that. Being able to convey my Love without strings, expectations or attachments was a gift I gave to the other person, but more so it was a gift I gave myself. It was liberating and empowering… and fully aligned with who I am.

It was the BEST pasta sauce I’ve ever had. :)

P.S. For more on how to communicate love effectively in existing relationships, I highly recommend the 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman (www.5lovelanguages.com)

Labels, Limits, and Love – part 1

I don’t define love. Defining puts limitations on it. I love. Pure and simple.

I recently had this experience:

I said “I love you” to someone who was neither lover, nor family, nor friend. (Well, ok, maybe friend, kinda sorta, but not in the common sense of social interaction.) It was someone who touched my heart deeply in a given moment, and I love him. Anybody overhearing me could have been shocked, and quite possibly could have made up their own (gossipy) stories about what they heard. Which makes me sad, and caused me to think a bit more about the limitations we put on love when we reserve it for specific (labeled) relationships.

You don’t have to be in a defined relationship with someone to love them. In fact, I would argue that you can love many (many!) people with whom you are not in a specific relationship. We all do.

And that’s the beauty of love: it simply is what it is. It defies definition.

The minute we choose to define it as “platonic/familial/romantic” (or any other definition you can think of) is the moment in which we choose to limit love to one aspect, to the exclusion of all others. :(

Think of it this way: It would be like knowing there is a beautiful pasta sauce on the menu, filled with myriad flavors and ingredients, and asking for only the pureed tomatoes. When in reality love encompasses all aspects. It’s the entire pot of sauce, and then some!

The “then some” are all the intangible benefits that come from enjoying a beautiful, robust, full sauce: the joy, the memories, the warmth, the aroma, the pleasure, and the nourishment. That is what Love is. It’s everything, all at once, defying definition or labels.

Love, therefore, is not a possession. It’s something you can give, something you can receive, and something you can never own.

Like the sauce, it’s an experience in a moment, followed by another, and then another… intangible, tangible, and wholly delicious. It multiplies as it is shared. Like the sauce, in being shared it connects us with one another in a moment, an experience, and a joy.

So don’t worry about what someone might think (or what label they might attach) if you say “I Love You.” Focus instead on the joy you feel at sharing your truth in a given moment. It will come through.

P.S. Next week we’ll explore the expectations we have around saying “I love you” and how they undermine the very essence of Love itself.

Expectations are Hope in Disguise

I recently had an opportunity to experience suffering. The kind where you sometimes sit on your shower floor and cry, hoping the constant stream of water from above will somehow dilute the salty rivers on your face (and where nobody can hear you or see the snot that has also formed some sort of waterfall over your lip). Yeah, that kind of sadness. Suffering.

So much has been said in recent years about how expectations are the root cause of suffering. Hmmm. I’d always agreed with that. (Well, accepted it without challenging it is probably more accurate.) But these bouts in the shower gave me cause to pause. And guess what? I disagree. (Not that that should come as a surprise to most of you. lol)

My new thought:

I don’t think it’s wrong to have expectations.

Actually, I think it’s hope for humanity’s future to hold expectations of one another. I expect people to be kind, respectful, and compassionate, and act in a way that is in accordance with that. For me, these are some of the highest values of basic humanity. To expect less than these basics almost feels like I’m letting my fellow humans down – like I’m saying: “I don’t believe in you.”

So why is there a plethora of writing linking expectations and suffering? Well, suffering comes when I form an emotional attachment to the outcome of my expectations, to the decisions and/or actions of others. Attachment is quite different than expectation, because it involves control. And, if we’re honest, attachments, in their essence, are actually judgments. (And we all know about judgments, right? – if you don’t know what I’m saying, check out my spooky Halloween post.)

What, then, are attachments? Bottom line:

Attachments are attempts at control based in fear, and they’re unhealthy.

In my opinion, they are the root cause of emotional suffering. So many things can grow out of attachment that you probably don’t realize. Things like: low self-worth, low self-esteem, anger, frustration, disappointment, despair, disregard, are all products of attachment. If I were to attach an emotional investment (my happiness) in a fellow human behaving a certain way, boy would I be in trouble!

Trying to control things that are not mine will ALWAYS create opportunities for suffering, and control is a form of attachment. (Not to mention being a sign of disrespect toward someone else.)

Healthy expectations are an integral part of any relationship. They allow us to hold one another in high esteem, and challenge ourselves and each other to be the best we can be. Expectations are like little pompoms of encouragement waving wildly on the sidelines of the game of life. They help us identify what’s possible and feel supported in getting there. Attachments, meanwhile, derail us from our own truth and knowing, like the really loud fans from an opposing team trying to distract us from our purpose.

Expectations, therefore, are an expression of hope. And hope is always a good thing.

To live life as a dog.

For dogs there is no yesterday and there is no tomorrow.
There is only now, and there is only love.

Evening watch
Love of food.
Love of sleep.
Love of play.
Love of walks.
Love of their owner.

 

And seemingly, all of these things bring joy. Yes, I think dogs “worry” when they sense their owner is sick or anxious. Yes, they sense fear… but they don’t seem to carry it forward. What happened yesterday isn’t true for today, and won’t be true for tomorrow. “This morning” doesn’t necessarily exist when it’s dinnertime.

So, how can we live life more like a dog? Well, I think the greatest gifts the dog can teach us are these: joy, loyalty and rest – all of which are unrestrained. Unconditional.

When you watch a dog at play – it seems joyful. They’re not concerned about whether their stomach is sucked in, or their tail is long enough or what breed they are. There is a ball and there is someone throwing it for them. Joy.

Watching a service dog stand by its owner in the midst of complete chaos, and only have eyes for its owner’s needs, is the purest example of loyalty I’ve ever seen. It transcends the animal nature that lies within and demonstrates a capacity of service and loyalty beyond measure.

And rest. Dogs know how to rest. They know how to seek their own space in the middle of a family event when they are tired. No apologies, no guilt, simply rest. Their bodies need it, so they do it.

Of course, all these things are encompassed in an animal that knows how to give and receive unconditional love. They don’t keep a running tally in their mind of when you last gave them a treat and whether or not you deserve a lick or two. They simply love, without strings and without expectations.

So, although our colloquial language isn’t there yet, I think it would be quite an honor to be referred to as a “dog.” Instead of being derogatory, I’d allow it to mean I had achieved some measure of peace and greatness, that I was a good friend and companion. And above all, that I knew how to live and love with a joyful heart, unconditionally. Woof!

Champions at Heart

“You don’t need a man, Liz. You need a champion.” – Eat, Pray, Love

I always liked that line, because it hits me. Right there. You know the place: That space between your heart and your throat where you can physically feel your dreams? Yeah, there. But why?

Let’s pause to look at this for a moment, because it’s actually true. We each need a champion. First, let’s define “champion.”photo 1

Among other things, a champion is a “warrior or fighter” according to Merriam-Webster. It’s also a verb: to champion means “to protect or fight for.” Let’s explore the latter, because although Javier Bardem uses the noun in the movie, I believe his true intention (or sub-dialogue) was the meaning behind the verb. So let’s go there!

When we’re children, we seem to have champions all around us. Sometimes it’s our friends or our parents. Sometimes it’s our teachers or siblings. It’s people who hold us up, hold us accountable, teach and lead us. They are there for us when things get stormy as well as when things are calm and sunny. At face value, champions are the “winners.” Looking deeper, champions are those wonderful individuals who value and respect us as individuals ourselves and who inspire us to be our best self, without asking anything in return.

Usually, I would say that all we need is to be our own champion. We do. However, it’s not “all” we need. We need each other, and we each need a champion: That one person in our life, at that one moment, who supports and protects us – who holds us up (or helps us up) when we need it most. It’s the person who makes us laugh or lets us cry – without judgment or expectation – because they know it’s what we need at that moment. It may not be the same person every time. In fact, it probably isn’t.

I know who my champions are, even though they’d probably hate that title. 😉 They’re the ones who help me to be who I am every day, by supporting, challenging and encouraging me to show up for myself. Sometimes I forget they’re there though, and then I’m reminded by something seemingly small. Perhaps something so small that they don’t realize that they just donned a cape for me and became my champion in that one moment, and it made all the difference.

So, today – it’s a simple reminder to say thank you. Thank you to all the wonderful “champions” out there holding us up, helping us out, laughing with us, and reminding us of who we are, and what we can become. Perhaps, too, it’s a reminder that maybe we’re also wearing a cape for someone and don’t even know it. How wonderful!

In the end, I think that’s why that line hits me: Feeling supported and loved is an amazing gift; Feeling championed? That’s love on a whole new level.

Little Black Dress

I recently heard someone use the phrase:

“Being helpful is just control in a party dress.” To begin with, I wished I had come up with that. It’s brilliant: simple, poignant and tangible. Sometimes, when we think we’re helping someone, we’re actually causing more problems. Our intentions are good, but the results aren’t always in line with what we hoped would be the outcome when we decided to get involved.

Then there are those times when our intentions are actually self-serving. We help, not because we can (or need to), but because it makes us feel good – and we’re not necessarily interested in the outcome. We got what we needed out of the situation, and well – the rest is ‘out of our control.’ And then there are those times when we help because we care, but we also have a desired expectation. Furthermore, having an expectation implies a desire to control. This expectation can be a desire for praise for our efforts, or for the person we’re helping to follow our advice because we know best. But do we really?

Does anybody know what’s best for them, better than the person themselves? We need community (family, friends, society) to help us process things, but we don’t’ necessarily need someone doing the work for us. In fact, we never do. Why? Because if someone is helping us do something that we should be doing ourselves, then they are actually hurting us by taking away our opportunity for growth and learning.

I’ve been on both ends of this spectrum. I’ve received help from people who genuinely cared for me and loved me, and I’ve helped people I genuinely care about and love. I have both appreciated and been hurt by these situations. The difference for me came when I finally realized the truth about ‘being helpful.’ To help someone when they ask for help is fine. So, now, I do my best to ask first, “Do you need my help? Or do you just need to talk this out?” The flip side of the coin is that I’ve also gotten better at asking for help, which was a HUGE lesson to learn, but well worth it. Nobody in my circle has to guess anymore about what I need or what I’m feeling. It’s not 100%, but it’s close. I ask for what I need, and I share my feelings openly and honestly. And when I offer my help, I do my best to do so without judgment or expectation.

It’s one of the most important rules in Coaching and working in an industry where people need your help: Guide, don’t lead. When we lead, we take away the opportunity for someone to make their own decisions. We’re essentially pulling them behind us, however passively. When we guide, we are standing next to them, sharing our experience and wisdom, allowing them to make their own decisions.

So – think of how being helpful can also be hurtful in both giving and receiving. Nobody likes unsolicited advice. And, quite frankly, the greatest gift is the one given anonymously. If you’re helping someone because you want to get something out of it – or expect a specific result – then perhaps you’re not helping at all. And a very wise woman once taught me: ‘A wise (wo)man says it once, then walks away.’ She’s wise, because she knows you can lose yourself when you spend too much time trying to help someone else. And then neither of you will be better off.

In love and light,

Martina

**LBD image: lanebryant.com; mule image: journalnow.com**