Thanksgiving happened, and for the first time in my life I ate home made stuffing. Usually my grandma makes it with the perfectly square packaged croutons, and she adds butter and things, but this time it was just me and my partner in Austin with no grandma. So he made it without any packages, and it was delicious.
But I have to admit, I was worried when we made the choice as a couple to make home made stuffing and not follow Grandma’s recipe.
It didn’t bother me that we had chicken instead of turkey, or that we didn’t have cranberry sauce or banana cream pie. None of these changes mattered. It was the stuffing.
And that got me to thinking about corporations and how they get so integrated into our family routines and our holidays because of the consistency they provide. It also got me thinking about expectations and how they can literally eat us alive. Let me explain.
We Are Suckers for Consistency
Think about how much we love consistency. There is a whiny outrage every time Facebook changes a single thing in its layout. The lack of Twinkies is upsetting people who haven’t had one in years. At least they were always there.
But what is so desirable about consistency? Why do we love it so much?
The Underlying Fear
My theory is that it has to do with grasping for something that is controllable, since our very foundation as humans is not. During puberty, we are overtaken by hormones that change everything we thought we knew about our existence. As we age, laugh lines start to stay and we blink twice before realizing that it’s not just dehydration this time; it’s for real.
We look around us and more people start to get sick. Our friends lose people, we lose people, the circle of friends and family that we had growing up is no longer indestructible. It gets torn apart by diseases of body and mind, and there’s nothing we can do to help most of it.
But at least Wonder Bread will always taste the same. At least Grandma’s stuffing can be made with things from the store that will always be there. At least we can walk by the Twinkies in the grocery store and think to ourselves “I’m better than that.”
In a world where things are so often not in our control, it’s nice to have some things to trust. Corporations, on some level with their consistency and refined products, provide substance to this illusion. They let us have an expectation that can be safely met.
Living in the Moment & Expectation
We’ve discussed this in other posts, but I can never come back to it enough because it’s always true. Maybe if we look at it through a thousand lenses it will be impossible for it to continue its expert shape-shifting:
The more expectations we have, and the more we are attached to them, the less we are living in the moment. This gets in our way of living a life that feels fulfilling.
For example, if I’ve been keeping up with my sitting practice and I make a plan and it falls through, I’m more likely to notice the air on my face, the breath in my body and to think of what to do in that moment when I find out the plan isn’t happening. I’m not as likely to be upset and thrown off and in a state of shock.
But if I’m attached to my expectations, then I can get quite upset about the plan falling through. That bad mood can easily take over, and a lot of time can pass before I remember to feel things genuinely again instead of deciding that each thing is going to suck because my mood is such.
This all comes back also to Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability, which has still been affecting my mental processes and willingness to see things in new ways.
What I’m thinking now is that by noticing expectations and how often they come into play with the little things, like stuffing, the easier it will be to notice it when it comes to big things, like my life.
Can Life Be Like A Farmer’s Market?
Going to a farmer’s market is different than going to the grocery store. You are naturally prevented from having strict culinary routines if you are shopping primarily at local farms because you can’t know too far in advance what will be available. The smallest drought could affect the taste of the strawberries, for example, or the types of greens that make it. You have to work with what is there, and be creative.
Think about your life, and how it’s turned out or how it is turning out each day. Is it what you expected? Is it different than you thought?
Maybe you feel bad that you aren’t doing what you thought you’d be doing at this age.
Maybe you’re happier than you expected to be.
But if you are upset, if you are measuring what is against what was supposed to have been, maybe these thoughts can get some loving attention from a higher place in your mind. A place that can extract the expectations and look around with vulnerable curiosity.
I, for one, am going to make more of an effort to see where the expectations that I have are causing negative judgment to arise, and then I’m going to try to replace it with curiosity and a fresh assessment. I want to spot the habitual ways I approach routines; not just the stuffing, but the way I brush my teeth, the way I put away dishes. Maybe there is room for more present-ness instead of just the pass/fail feeling of expectations.
Without a plan or expectations, the world is vivid and touching because you haven’t already thwarted the feeling of that touch with an expectation for how it “should” be.
How about you?
Do you think that it is easy to live outside of routine and expectation sometimes, or do rely on certain things to keep you focused and grounded?
Do you think you live life like a farmer’s market, with curiosity and adaptability?
Are there routines that you think could use more curiosity and less expectation or automatic reactions?