Last week a drinking glass took a tumble off the counter and on to the floor. A day later, I noticed a chip in my most often used coffee mug. The next day it was in the garbage can with the handle broken off. As I washed dishes this weekend, I pulled out of the sudsy water a wine glass in two pieces. Yesterday morning another drinking glass shattered on the floor: afterward my husband recounted how the evening before, he had opened the cupboard and a beer glass had fallen off the top shelf, again landing on the floor in a million pieces. Hardly able to ignore the theme, I wondered how broken glass was speaking to me. It came in the reminder of my (and our) attachment to expectations.
We all have expectations. Here are a few of mine: I expect traffic to flow at a decent pace, people to be “rational” in thinking, things to work out the way I expect them to, with no surprises. And, I expect glasses stay in one piece. While this list may not sound all that rational, it shows exactly how we get caught in expectations. When I follow my own thinking to the place where frustration or anger live, it is often the land of “unmet expectations.” Unless I am intentional; slow traffic, differing opinions, and broken glass on the kitchen floor can set a mood for the day.
Here is the thing – we all have expectations. They make sense to us and at the same time may make no sense to the person sitting next to us. An expectation is like the glass sitting on the counter. It looks very beautiful, all shiny and sparkly until a simple gesture sends it toppling over the edge, crashing into tiny fragments that ruin our day.
“You see this goblet? For me, this glass is already broken. I enjoy it; I drink out of it. It holds my water admirably, sometimes even reflecting the sun in beautiful patterns. If I should tap it, it has a lovely ring to it. But when I put this glass on a shelf and the wind knocks it over or my elbow brushes it off the table and it falls to the ground and shatters, I say, ‘Of course.’ But when I understand that this glass is already broken, every moment with it is precious.” ~ Buddhist Teacher, Ajahn Chah
The reality is this: traffic, people and life in general are not going to go as planned. Drinking glasses will fall and break, and we may even cut our finger in the process of clean-up. If I hold on to the way I want things to be, I will suffer. If I can hold them loosely in my hand, and watch, I am often surprised at the gift that arrives in the unexpected. Slow traffic allows me to listen to a radio program for which I hadn’t time. Differing opinions teach me something new about a friend. A broken glass could be an invitation to declutter my shelf.
What expectations do you hold? (Or better said, what expectations hold you?) Are there things you can hold in an open palm, waiting to see if the expectation flies away, only to be replaced by a gift? This week, pay attention to your expectations. How do you react when they are not met as you would like? Open your hand, release expectations, and watch what alights in your hand. Perhaps it will include a gift of peace.
Create the week that you want to experience,