Holidays and special occasions were always met with more than the normal enthusiasm when I was a child, in part because I’ve always loved traditions but also because I got to see my relatives. Blessed with what we referred to as the “staircase system” my siblings and I are fairly close in age. Where one year ended and another began there was always a cousin to fill that space; I suspect this is why we got along more often than not. Our years tended to blend together almost seamlessly. Each age had a sensitivity to the cousin on either side of the year they claimed their own; there was an understanding of the younger year and what they had yet to learn, and there was the anticipation of what was yet to come in the older year.
These sentiments trickled down the years, and cousins, leaving us with an odd conglomerate of personalities and ages that were held together by a vague mutual understanding. I’d be remiss not to note that this also made us have a tendency to vacillate between loving and hating each other depending on “who’s side you were on.” In many moments our relationships with one another were quite tenuous. This being said, we had a knack for having the grandest of adventures because of the diversity in our personalities and eccentricities. Now we are all entering, or are in our twenties, and we already sound like nostalgic old saps with how we go on about our younger years and how clever and wonderful we were.
Every meeting was a promise of something new and wonderful, and the anticipation was ever building with each encounter. As I got older I found that sometimes, these gatherings didn’t quite live up to the fantasticalness of the previous one; and this was immensely disappointing. After a time I came to tell myself to not expect much, or even anticipate it being a bad time – this way I was never disappointed. Oddly enough, for younger me, this often proved an effective method for guaranteeing an epic adventure with my cousins. I fell into the habit telling myself not to expect much from many of the things that I was whole heartedly looking forward too in my life.
Younger me, at heart, was always optimistic about the goings on of life, despite the nonsensical wheedling that I engaged in to get there. Current me is admittedly still a little like this, living in the clouds in a conditional sort of way. The difference is, the disappointment feels more acute now, and often carries a heavier weight. I suppose that this is because my expectations of success and happiness often get tied up in this big picture or concept. It is easy to bypass the immediate and demand that the entirety of life be in order and completely wonderful.
The thing is, and this isn’t a new thought, the little bits of life are what make moments so completely and utterly wonderful; they aren’t encumbered by grandiose expectations or demands, they are fluid and spontaneous. Much like little me attempted, these “minute” moments bypass the weight of preplanned adventures because they can’t be imagined until they occur. In the end, I think there is a balance between our expectations and an appreciation for the spontaneous. Ultimately there isn’t anything wrong with wanting more from life; in fact, I don’t think we should settle for a passé life, but it can definitely be a fine line to tread.
I’ve found that, instead of trying to psychologically trick myself into lowering my expectations to be surprised, I need to continually practice appreciating the now and trusting God’s promise of a life worth living. To celebrate and embrace all the little bits of life that are unexpected…or maybe rejoice in the fact of their normalcy.
“A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment.”