While happily sated from a slow meal at Tim’s Thai last night, we sat discussing our Lenten sacrifices and our comfort with wearing ashes smeared on our foreheads at work today. I don’t mix my faith with my job. That’s just me. People assume things about you if you proclaim your faith and faith can also alienate others. I don’t consider my stethoscope a pulpit or a bullhorn for evangelizing. I also don’t mandate how others practice their faith. So, if others display their ashes, wear a hajib, fast or otherwise observe and practice their beliefs….I respect that…just refrain from propagating while at work. And while I will pronounce my faith and openly process on the internet….I am otherwise a keenly private person about my daily faith. I am not likely to be converted nor am I looking to convert anyone else.
Some people in the group were considering giving up soda, really hoping to give up extra calories and let Lent help them lose weight. I like this idea. Refrain from a pattern that is unhealthy and fails to contribute anything is a fair choice. I do love my ice cold Diet Coke in a can. Picking something like this is easy to do, easy to stay on task and be successful. But….I would have no real intention of giving up Diet Coke forever. What I am giving up is expectation. My friend was distressed because she felt expectation was not a negative thing. But while expectation and anticipation are referenced to one another in the dictionary, I do not think they are the same thing. I can anticipate something with eagerness and hope. Anticipation is joyful and enthusiastic but (at least for me) open ended. Anticipation has no debt to pay, no accounting to reconcile. It is a very different thing from expectation. Anticipating my birthday and what gifts I may receive differs from expecting gifts to arrive.
Expectation comes with an implied entitlement. If my expectations are not met then I am disappointed. And what I hope to set down this Lenten season is my disappointments. To do that, I must learn to be less expectant and more hopeful. It is a subtle shift. When you are pregnant, you are “expecting”. But you can get sucker punched by the unexpected….disappointed and even devastated….when things do not go as “planned”. Too easily we convert anticipation to expectation and think the future is mapped and planned and predictable.
So, I want to take a step backwards and permit myself to anticipate…to hope….to be open to possibilities without expecting specific outcomes. This means I disconnect known facts from “expectation”, too. I don’t have to expect the sun will rise. That just happens. Or that the utility bill comes due….known fact. Or that it’s dinner time and I have to fix something – unavoidable. But, as I stop expecting things to play out a certain way, then I don’t get too many paces ahead of time and all those unknown, unpredictable, uncontrollable factors that play into events. Giving up expectation means I give up a belief I can control things. Staying in a state of anticipation means I let the universe surprise me, I also don’t feel ultimately responsible for it all because it’s not in control and I don’t expect myself to have influence on all things.
Anticipation allows for a more innocent mindset while expectation is the mind of one more jaded and cynical. And the conjoined twin of expectation is disappointment, of which I have had plenty in recent years. If I expect nothing, then I can’t be disappointed. And if I am not disappointed then I can’t load myself with admonishment and criticism. If I fool myself into thinking I control things and am responsible for outcomes, then when things don’t work out….it’s all my fault. And if I learned anything in the last few years…..everything isn’t all my fault.
So, I give up expectation. One question….does my boss expect me to come to work today? Phooey!