Ann Voskamp says that “expectations kill relationships.”
The first time I read that I thought it was the stupidest thing ever.
Stupidest? Most stupid?
5 years later, not quite so stupid. I’ve seen the deaths.
I’ve felt them.
Just weeks ago, I saw a friend’s Facebook post that read, “unspoken expectations lead to resentment.”
Not so stupid after all.
I only mention it came from his Facebook feed, because unlike the rest of the world, apparently, I’m still “on Facebook”.
That’s my favorite thing these days. “Ya know, honestly, I’m just not on Facebook anymore.”
Honestly? Really? Then how did I know you’re dog’s been sick for the last two weeks and you have a new hamster named Rambo and that you had mac-n-cheese for dinner?
Evidently, not from Facebook.
I see this. Unspoken expectations.
I have very high exceptions. For myself. For others.
But I’d like for you to figure them out on your own.
I don’t want to have to tell you.
Thank you very much.
Sometimes these expectations are reasonable. I expect that if you have a driver’s license you know how to count the number of stops at a 4-way. Imagine my disappointment over this.
I expect that if you vow to forsake all others, that you will—well, again—you can imagine.
I expect my children to be respectful and kind and keep their rooms clean.
Well, at least the respectful and kind part.
I expect my husband to do all the hard stuff that I don’t want to do.
That’s the Biblical approach. 😉
This morning I was supposed to take Emma Claire’s red sweater to her dad’s so that he could he could make sure it was clean and ready for their family Thanksgiving.
Surprisingly, as I never forget anything, I forgot. Emma Claire walked out of her dad’s house, (which, of course is also their house, but I can’t bring myself to say that so I simply refer to it as “Teakwood” and our home, is ya know, home-home. ) This is not entirely a bad thing. Teakwood sounds very stately, kind of like Southfork Ranch on Dallas.
So, really, it’s a compliment. And a slight insecurity on my part.
(In case you were unaware, that’s what the kids are saying now. Apparently the “er” of whatever proves too difficult.)
I forgot the sweater. Emma Claire turned to her dad with this look that said, “Yup. Just as we expected.”
She got into the car and said, “Dad wasn’t really surprised.”
Just trying to meet expectations.
I said to Emma Claire, “as it turns out, your mom also knows how to do laundry.”
“OK, Mike knows how to do laundry. What-evs Regardless, the red sweater will be ready.”
Because, again, with the hard stuff.
Laundry. Men. Galatians. Look it up.
Last December I promoted a “night owls” class at our training studio. Four nights a week for 4 weeks to help stay on track during the holidays. I never expected for it to last past December.
Primarily because I’m not a night owl.
Or an early bird. I’m like a mid-morning Peacock.
I rock the mid-morning.
But the night owls persisted and what I learned is that when you commit in December, when your new year’s resolution starts in December, you are ready.
Ready to show up and do hard things.
Actually that’s redundant.
Or maybe an oxymoron. I can’t remember. But showing up is the hard thing.
Several weeks ago, I went to see Jen Hatmaker speak and she told this beautiful story about sister Elephants.
When a female elephant is alone in the wild, she is either injured or giving birth. Her sister elephants surround her and kick up dirt and protect her. If giving birth, afterward, the sisters turn to the wild and they trumpet her news. In part out of protection.
In whole, to celebrate.
This group of women showing up and doing hard things led to other groups of women showing up and doing hard things and even more other groups of women showing up and doing hard things, and I imagine their influence ripples far past our small little tribe and tonight this strong group of night owls, will be celebrating.
I asked them each to bring an elephant gift.
Not a white-elephant.
An actual elephant.
Because over the past year I’ve watched them circle and kick up dirt. Circle around a teacher who was being bullied by a parent, circle around a friend whose husband looked for meaningful work, circle around a worried mom, a proud mom, a desperate mom. I’ve watched them show up and lift heavy weights and leave behind even heavier. I’ve watched them kick up dirt in protection of their tribe.
And I watched them trumpet. A half-marathon, a performing daughter, a new p.r., a new job, successes at work, triumps at home.
A new book. A new author.
And this group trumpeted. Assured. Affirmed. Protected.
And tonight we celebrate with elephants.
I’ve competed with women my whole life. Piano contests, beauty pageants, you name it and it was a competition.
I expected that you were out to beat me and I expected myself to win.
Lisa Burke in high school. Stella was her name in college.
Seriously. I can’t remember the red sweater, but I remember those names.
Paula. Debby. Shantel.
Debby is my friend and my sister in Christ and we taught Kindermusik together. We were colleagues, but bless my heart y’all, for me, it was a competition to see who had the most families in each class. The saddest part? Pretty sure no-one else knew it was a game.
Knew it was a competition. Which, looking back makes it a whole lot easier for me to win.
What in the actual hale?
This past year, I’ve begun to understand that not everyone’s against us.
Not everything is a competition.
Not everyone is a competitor.
I’m learning this and how late I am to the party.
To the table.
I’ve begun to understand that we don’t need to fight other women for a seat at the table.
We need to build a bigger table.
A round table. With no hard edges and no beginnings and no endings and a round table that we can keep adding leafs to and keep adding sisters to and when we’re hurt and vulnerable we can sit in the middle and when our sisters give birth to children and projects and dreams then we can turn around from our table and trumpet the news.
I think I’ll always struggle with holding people (myself and others!) to unrealistic expectations but I’m growing in grace and I’ll work, first, to at least speak out loud these expectations.
I think I’ll always struggle with a competitive spirit, but I’m growing in grace and I’ll work, first, to at least compete with you and not against you.
And finally, I think as a loner (big ol introvert that I am), I’ll always struggle to lean in and draw close to other women. To other people. To my sisters and my brothers.
I’ll always struggle with cancelled plans. As in, not cancelling them.
I’ve found my seat at the table. And it’s lovely and open and round and you are welcome.
This past year, I’ve become less of a competitor and more of a welcomer. The Lord has blessed me with a colorful tribe of elephants and I’ll be sharing my experiences of sisterhood and friendship in a new, monthly Devotion Book, called Elephant Sisters.
But I’m going to need your help. Will you come round my table and share your stories of friendship. Let’s write this one together. The only expectation will be laughter.