Forgive me while I ramble and make a pigs ear out of this.
In my worst, most self pitying moments last year I asked for advice from a few close friends and family. Almost all of them had advice on how to get out of my pity party unscathed:
1. I should count my blessings - I do have a material life that lacks for nothing.
2. Lower my very high expectations of everything (and that this would make me so very happy)
3. Stop depending on other people, you can't change them so don't waste any effort.
4. Get a job. You will have no time to sit and think about your expectations!
Well, aside from the fact that I do have materially whatever I wish for (and I never wished for much to start with so it's all been a Very Pleasant Surprise) and I count all my blessings, most of my expectations are about behaviour, about feelings, about caring.
And I do understand at the base level that it is impossible to change a persons true nature, that people are essentially self centred and selfish. And yet I expect better. More kindliness towards someone that has been kind. Love and respect for parents who have spent their entire lives in teaching you right from wrong and the value of things. Thinking less of ones own happiness (in already happy and rich lives) and more of what you could do to make others happy. Loving another's child with almost as much zeal as ones own. Not taking for granted that everyone will rock up when you need them but that you in no way need to do the same. Expect them to keep in regular touch with you but not reciprocate. Not to feel invisible. Life, I tell you, has been full of disappointments.
I tried for a few months to lower my expectations but man, that just hurt. I felt an almost physical pain when I realised I could rely on exactly 4 people in the whole entire world. And then too it would be a bit like pulling teeth. And I get I can't rely on Everyone for my emotional well being but I find that I can't even rely on people for anything. Not to be kind, not to be thoughful, not to be gentle, not to be present.
And I get that people have busy lives, their own priorities. But I think each person is surrounded by people, in varying of degrees of closeness, like radiating circles and that most people, after they get to circle 2 (still close family) just do not give a sh*t. Some people don't even get past circle 1 (themselves and a spouse) so self centred is their existence. And I'm sorry but much as I tried that lowering my expectations cape I just found it too made for an empty existence. I want others to have expectations of me (to be a good kind person in whatever way they need) and to have expectations of others (to be loved, thought about, cherished in my many roles as a person on this planet) and I know that I fulfil many expectations others have of me (to care, to connect, to do, to love, to cherish). I don't think it's that hard, you just have to want it. And sadly I seem to have filled my life with people who don't.
If I were to write an epitaph for myself I should like to say 'she tried her hardest to be kind and gentle'. And I know that try as I might many people think I am miles from this. And while I may well be far away from my goal of 'kind person' I try, very consciously, to think about my family and friends every single day. Whether it's a phone call or a text or a WhatsApp or a present or a laugh or a coffee or a meal or taking children on days out or taking parents on vacation or visiting relatives or posting postcards & surprises to people on the otherside of the world, nearly every one of these thoughts is begun with kindness and love and wanting as much to show my love for them and in some small way to know they love me back.
I recently received a lovely long hand letter from one of my dearest friends in the world. She and I have had many experiences in common and now that we live in different continents this writing has bound us into firmer friends. As I have sat here for a few nights cobbling together a reply I've been thinking more and more about this, these small wonders that just link people and that people are so very careless with. I'm trying to be mindful but after many months of that near physical pain I found I could not accept the whole 'have no expectations and you will be happier'. I may not be much happier if I expect but am continually disappointed. But I will certainly be fuller than if I empty myself of all feeling.
I'm rambling, I know. And I'm not seeking answers for any of this. I've let go of a lot of this in 2013 (undoubtedly one of the years of greatest self doubt for me) but I still live in hope that someone somewhere will surprise me by keeping up their end of the relationship bargain.