I hate Expectations.
I'm not talking about hopes and dreams - those are great. They live somewhere out in the ether where they don't interfere with my day-to-day life.
I'm talking about the Expectations that live in my head. The ones that superimpose themselves over my real life - and without my permission, I might add. I do this unconsciously, most of the time. I didn't even notice that the Expectations were sitting at the breakfast table with me yesterday morning, as my kids ate sugary cereals and Greta scrambled to finish her homework only minutes before the bus comes.
"Tsk, tsk," they said. "Empty calories and carbs for breakfast. Why don't you just feed them crack cocaine? What happened to doing homework the night before? Oh, right. You were too busy keeping them up past their bedtime watching TV."
As we search madly for boots, hats & mittens the Expectations have a good laugh at my expense. "I thought you were going to have them hang up their coats so we don't do this everyone morning?" they whisper savagely in my ear.
Greta makes her bus, her homework completed, just as she does every morning. This doesn't appease the Expectations, though. They just find another target. Finn has a potty accident as we're walking out the door, and they tell me it's my fault. "It's because you aren't consistent," they hiss. "Other Moms remember to reward their kid every time he uses the potty. You forgot twice yesterday."
I have a mental picture of the Headmistress of Expectations: she is me, dressed in an uncomfortable tweed suit, wagging her finger and shaking her head in disappointment. I wish she would go away and leave me alone.
It is hard to resist her siren call. I seem to be hardwired to be tough on myself. Even when I do things well, the Headmistress can always find an example of how I could have done better. She hangs out with Low Self-Esteem and Addiction, and together they make a hell of a team.
I'm learning, though, how to tell her to shut up. Meet the Headmistress' laid back twin sister: Aunt Content. She is like a beloved substitute teacher; she shows up unpredictably, and we all breathe a little easier when she's around. She knows how to live in the moment and appreciate the smaller victories. Aunt Content pals around with Acceptance and Surrender. They remind me that I really don't control much, it's just that the Expectations make me think I do. She knows how to have a good laugh at my own expense, without losing my sense of self-worth in the process. She is my recovery.
When I was newly sober, someone said: "You aren't a bad person, you're a sick person. Hate the Addict, don't hate yourself." Right then, a little fissure appeared in my mind; I had always thought of my disease as a kind of out-of-control mental gorilla that raged in my head, beyond my control. I felt a seedling of hope: a gorilla can be contained, but only if I acknowledge that it's there.
I understand, now, that the Headmistress feeds my gorilla. She is my disease talking to me, telling me I don't measure up, that I'm not worth it. Now that I recognize her voice, she frightens me less and less. Before, hers was the only voice I heard. Now I have me a Gorilla Trainer.
This is what Aunt Content would have said to me yesterday morning, had I been listening:
"Take a deep breath, kiddo. We'll get there. What's the worst that could happen? That you drive her to school? That she has to make up the homework tomorrow? Is the world going to stop revolving if she isn't wearing mittens? If her hands are cold, maybe next time she'll remember to put them where they belong so she can find them easily. So what if Finn had an accident - he won't go off to high school in pull-ups. It will all be okay. And you know what? The world isn't watching. They aren't judging you. It's that Headmistress Bitch getting to you. So RELAX."