I Expect You To Read This


I expect you to shut up while I count!

I’m counting on you to pay attention, you ingrates!  Now fetch me the head of Don Rickles before I give you a Cincinnati Backhand!

I’ve done it again.

There you were,  seamlessly switching between The History of The Stapler on Discovery, playing Mega Extreme Chinese Checkers online and munching on your fourth tepid tofu taquito, when BOOM!  There it was – I put an expectation on you.  Huh?  Where did that come from, you ask, licking the lumpy guac off your fingers.  I’ll tell you where that came from – my ego.  Ahhh! Not that again.  I know.  Bear with me here.

We all know how expectations work, don’t we?  For this cat, it starts with coming into a relationship of any kind with an open mind and clean slate.  Whether it’s a co-worker, romantic partner, new pal…it doesn’t matter.  Things are fresh and exciting.  I am always surprised at what I hear and learn from them.  The twists and turns are new and different, like carving the first lines on a newly laid ski run.  But then I start to have some assumptions about that person.  I start to see patterns in them and place some weight on those patterns…perceived or real.  I start to expect certain things from them, even when they don’t even know what it is I am expecting from them.  There are certain behaviours that I count on to keep me having a certain control over them, or at least keeping things in check.  And when they fail to perform like the circus seals I have psychically transformed them into, I get one of those pesky resentments.    A fairweather friend turned into a faux-feathered fiend…all by a simple Kreskin sleight-of-mind trick.

And of course we know where resentments lead.  To mental mayhem.  A trip down maim-ery lane. A never ending shot to the solar plexus.  If you’re looking for trouble,  resentment has the map.   And it continues to point to the place between my ears and stirs up the Choleric and Melancholic humors.  It shows itself in these unmet expectations and allows me to wallow in whatever it is I like to wallow in – in the old days it would certainly be booze.  Self-pity is also a dreamy wallow.  Passive-aggressive behaviour suited me fine too.  Hell, throw in some sarcasm in there and we everything we need for a good old fashioned Pissy Picnic.

resentment (1)

When I was growing up, there was the sense that I could do whatever it is I wanted in life.  My parents blanketed me with love and gave me no expectations on what they wanted me to be…other than happy.  They told me that if I wanted to be a garbage collector, to do my best in trying to be the best garbage collector I could be.  This lightened up any sort of self-imposed pressure to perform or live up to expectations.   I truly did think the world was my Malpeque oyster and had the nerdy dreams that only the dorkiest of dorks could have (I wanted to program computer games for the Commodore 64!  I wanted to be a champion D&D player!  I wanted to kiss a girl before 30!)  As I grew up, I started to put pressure on myself.  For whatever reasons, I started to loathe myself.  I never had faith in my abilities – I was told through several beatings and countless taunting by school mates that my abilities were not appreciated, thank  you very much.  Straight A students need not apply here.  Go tune up an engine, drink dad’s beer and talk about tits that you’d like to touch and you’ll be cool.   So self-esteem went south and so did my parent’s wonderful ideals of open-mindedness and confidence in me.  I felt broken before picking up the first drink.

Ironically, as my life spiraled downward, and my self-value plummeted, the expectations I put on myself skyrocketed to the sphere of impossibility.  It’s as if my ego was writing cheques that my authentic self couldn’t cash….or even get certified.  I also added the expectations of others…as I falsely discerned them.  So I was locked up in a position of living up to something that I created entirely that no one on earth could conceivably live up to.  And when I failed (naturally) I lashed out.  Sometimes to others (see sarcasm, above), but most often to myself.  Drinking was truly the first act of sabotage against myself.  Drinking let me either falsely believe that I could do the things I thought I was supposed to do and be, or it let me forget the Draconian dogma that I shackled myself to.  Either way, it was lose-lose.  Or win-win, depending on how the night ended.  Most often it ended alone, and craving to be that little boy where there was so much promise.

Good Lord.  I mean, I expect at least a little more material...or a lot less hair.   The denim nor the denizens witnessing this win.

Good Lord. I mean, I expect at least a little more material…or a lot less hair. Neither the denim nor the denizens witnessing this win.

I can look back now and see just how powerful and destructive these expectation were in my life.  Not only the expectations I put on myself, and the ones I put on others, but also of the ones I thought people had of me.  Those were probably just as emotionally and mentally dismantling as anything else.  Because in the end, the unmet expectations lead down to anger.  And anger was something I didn’t understand or know how to deal with.  I just didn’t.  I thought only the unhinged or the hysterical or the neanderthals did anger.  Shrieking housewives and revenge seeking samurais did anger.  Indignant vegan anti-seal clubbing protesters and Jerry Springer contestants did anger.  But I didn’t do that.  I was in control.  Or so I thought.  My expectations were wildly inconsistent with real life.  Now, I am not talking about the base level, more objective expectations we may have in life.  I have a certain expectation that my car will start when I turn the key.  I have an expectation that my mail will delivered as needed.  I have an expectation that the subways will run on a somewhat regular schedule.  I have an expectation that I will get paid every two weeks.   These aren’t the brain squeezers and heart wrenchers.  These aren’t the things that meltdowns are born of.  These aren’t the unmet expectations that in the past eventually got me to say “f*ck it” and pick up because I had no other way of dealing with things.

So when the real expectations started to crumble – the ones I hand crafted to induce sorrow and abject failure, I found that gin and tonics helped tone down the crushing blows.  Fortified wines and ales dealt with the aftermath of yet another collapse.  My body and spirit were starting to flag under the unrelenting, self-sustained pressure.  You can only crush cars to near nothingness so many times before the mechanisms and pistons start to give out.  And I gave out.  And gave up.  And I gave up in the spectacular way that only alcoholics can do it – with an impressive implosion that crumbled the authentic self and galvanized the control that the Bitch-is-Back ego had on me.  I gave up having expectations at all.  I stopped caring.  I stopped the bleeding by cutting out the heart.  I stopped putting anything on anyone.  I sheathed myself in indifference and intolerance and made it a habit to push away everyone so that I wouldn’t get hurt any more.  No people, no expectations.  No expectations, no boo boos.  Simple logic.  Glug glug. More gin please.

You're not the boss of me anymore, chump.  Get your pompous primary colours out of here and hit the road.

You’re not the boss of me anymore, chump. Get your pompous primary colours out of here and hit the road.

It wasn’t so much the not having expectations on anything or anyone any more, but it was in how I reacted and lived in that mess.  What I really felt was that I wasn’t worth the bother.  I felt loneliness and isolation.  What I experienced was that if you didn’t act or do what I thought you should do, then you didn’t love me or care for me.  And that was a blow beyond words to me.  I could only live that way for so long.  Giving up on others and myself meant giving up on life and that is what I was doing in my drinking – a suicide by installment plan.

What I have learned since on my path, in my recovery, in my journey of healing is that no matter what, I am going to have expectations of some kind.  The complete absence of expectations might be a lofty ideal, but since this is about progress and not perfection, I will assume I am inside the 40 yard line when it comes to having expectations.  And that’s OK.  What has shifted for me is the exploring and the taking responsibility for my responses and reactions  to any perceived failure of someone living up to something I have constructed in my mind.  I can’t take anything personally.  I can’t imagine that everyone thinks like me (they don’t , thank God).  I can’t take on what people think of me (some people are going to dislike me no matter what I do or say, so I might as well stand up for what I believe in).  I have my backup plans at the ready, just in case things don’t turn out the way that I want it (and who says it’s all about how I want things to turn out – it’s not my chessboard to play on anyway).  I do my best to not judge or take anyone’s inventory – who am I to do so?  So in seeing that I have my weaknesses, poor habits and/or frailties like anyone else, I can be more empathetic with others when something does goes sideways. There is nothing for me to lash out against.

Whatever.

Whatever.

What has worked for this alcoholic is creating healthy boundaries with others and even myself.  Being clear in what expectations I have or don’t have has aided me in moving forward spiritually, and given me added serenity.  Peace of mind.  Being upfront with people, especially at work, has been beneficial for me in not projecting myself onto them and then being disappointed when they don’t act the same way I would in a given situation.  I have also learned to express my wishes to my friends and family when needed.  I let people know where I stand when it comes to their expectations of me.  I am not a faith healer nor am I yokel (well, sometimes…) but I am also willing to get out of my comfort zone and be teachable and face things I may not have wanted to face in the past.  So I am not fixed, or immovable.  I am learning to be flexible and stretch and grow into myself and at the same time realize that others are doing the same.  So I have to cut them – and myself – some slack.

So if you’ve read this – groovy.  If not, that’s alright too.  My happiness and value of self and love of self is not tied into any expectancy or assumptions I have on others (as much) any more.  I can only do what I can do and am given to do.  I can only move with the undercurrent below the surface and not fight it.  I have to have faith, pause and reflect often, look within myself, honour and accept who I am and what the Creator made me to be.  Acceptance is the key.

It’s a lot less complicated than the Mega Extreme Chinese Checkers, that’s for sure.

25 responses to “I Expect You To Read This

  1. Really appreciate following your journey. Alcoholic or not, this is a journey everyone has to go through. Often, we are all feeling like this and have to go on this journey for self-acceptance, being comfortable in your own skin – and extending grace to others for where they are at. Sounds like you are peace with who God made you. It took me a while to get there, but thankfully, I am there more days than I am not. I wrote a little bit about that 2 posts ago, but there is peace in letting go of control of others, of your life – into the hand of God and letting Him craft you into who HE’S created you to be. Ball’s in his court. Thanks for sharing.

    • Hi Kate,
      Thank you for this thoughtful and wonderful reply. Yes, I am much more at peace with who God created me to be. I raged against the machine my entire life it feels and being in that place where things feel OK is still somewhat new and sometimes scary. But they are fleeting moments, like you have, and in the end it’s about letting go, letting God as they say. I am glad you are in a good place as well 🙂

      Blessings,
      Paul

  2. I think that’s one of the hardest things anyone could ever do. Let go of that passive aggressiveness when you expect far more than a person could ever give. I’m guilty of it myself, and I’ve been hurt by it too. But eventually you start building up those walls so that no one can ever hurt you anymore.

    • What I found is that the passive aggressive approach, or anything that is tinged with anger, is that it’s me that is harmed the most. The more I let go of these things, the lighter I feel. Unhealthy anger focused outward also damages me inward. I have no peace when I lash out because of ego or pride. Healthy anger is another thing – that is also something I am still learning to harness in a proper and appropriate way. I think we are all guilty of it! The thing about those walls you speak of also keep you imprisoned. You can’t stretch or grow when you’re caged in. And the great thing (and scary) about this is that we are our own wardens – we can let ourselves out any time. Getting hurt might happen, but it’s how we deal with the hurt that drives our character 🙂

      Thank you for your wonderful comments – I very much appreciate them 🙂

      Paul

  3. I have tried leaving comments to other threads you have posted here but for some unknown reason they were not printed ??? so I will try again. You are my cyber disciple. I love they way you communicate your own personal truth in that quirky, groovy way you have. Very flippin beautiful and awe inspiring. Thank you so much, it’s like you are speaking to me personally because every word here resonates with me over and over and helps me feel less alone and weird. Love and peacefulness to you from the UK xxxx

    • Hi Bernadette – strange that you haven’t been able to have other replies posted? It worked this time….so sorry that you have wasted time on comments that didn’t get published. I have no clue. 😦

      Anyway, thank you so much for the very kind words. Blush. As for alone and weird…that’s us, isn’t it? lol. just kidding. I think that is why talking to and listening to / reading other alcoholics’ stories and emotions and thoughts is very important in my recovery. I can always make myself feel “terminally unique” and isolate. But being here, being there, being with others helps me out enormously. And having you here also helps me. It really does. Thank you for hanging out. You are important 🙂

      Love and peacefulness from Canada

      Paul

  4. Love what you have to say here, brother.

    Resentments…expectations…passive-aggressiveness…It’s impossible for us not to have feelings / thoughts. We’re human. But the trick is to recognize those thoughts when they arise and yank them out like weeds in our thought gardens!

    Keep up the good works!

    • Smiling at your phase ” yank them out like weeds in our thought garden” Yes, indeed the trick is to take a mindful step back,acknowledge them for the ugly stranglers they are and snip them in the bud.

    • Thank you Al. You’re right that we can’t or won’t ever have those feelings. It’s how we react and respond to them that allows us to gain insight and clarity and serenity. I certainly react differently than I did before…and have lots of room to improve, that’s for sure.

      Thanks for being here – means a lot to this alcoholic.

      Paul

  5. Just getting over to absorb some of your frame of mind. I love this idea that we will progress through life with expectations. Geez, how could we not? For me it is a matter of realizing I have them AND others have them too. It does give everyone a little breathing room. For this girl, who suffocated her family with expectations, anything, and I mean anything is better than the way it used to be. Great topic. And I see you were freshly pressed! I’d be a liar to say I wasn’t jealous. (Geez, more to spiritual growth to work on) … 🙂

    • Hi Lisa,

      Yes – it would be blind of me think I can detach from expectations and float on a cloud all day. Perhaps some can – I am not one of them! My expectations always led me to disappointment. But they don’t have to. And you’re right – I have to remind myself that others have expectations too, and i am not in charge of managing those.

      And for the FP – it was fun, but it reminded me that the ones who mean the most to me are those who have been here all along. I hope to have made a few more connections, but in the end it’s about this little family and community we have here. I can’t remember where I have heard it, but “attraction, not promotion” comes to mind 😉

      Hugs

      Paul

  6. I like what you and commenters wrote about the difference between recognizing and accepting expectations and resentments and banishing them forever. There is great relief in believing that I should stay open to when I’m feeling or acting unreasonably. I do this in sobriety, more each day I like to think. Accepting that it happens does take the starch out of it sometimes. It keeps it from festering and shortens it. Progress, I guess. Thanks for the awesome post, Paul.

    • Thanks BBB! I think you’re right there – progress is progress as long as I am moving forward, no matter how much I am moving. Staying open to when feeling or acting unreasonable – what a wonderful way of putting it! And when I am not open to it – I get that pit in my gut and I get obstinate and I no longer chug ahead.

      Thank YOU for your awesome comments 🙂

      Paul

  7. What is interesting to me is how many men I come across in recovery who talk about putting so high of expectations on themselves, then crash into low self-worth, deep self-esteem and hardly No confidence within them……MUST be a guy thing??? I don’t know the answer to that.
    The next thing I got from your informative post, was no matter what childhood back ground we come from, like you said, loving, told you can be anything……to mine, with childhood trauma, verbal abuse…..being told I was a liar, didn’t stay home because I didn’t love my family……..and we both ended up drowning our sorrows of self loathing……you in booze…..me in Escapism in gambling……hhhhhmmmm……Just goes to show that addiction doesn’t care who you are, how you were raised, loving home or not, it will grab you by the throat and have it’s way!!

    Now……about that PIC…Guy in Shorts???….That is SO WRONG in SO many ways!!..LOL

    Another Great Post Paul….Thanks for sharing…. Hugs & Blessings! Catherine 🙂 🙂

    • Interesting, Catherine. I never saw it in that male / female way. Perhaps it’s more noticeable when men discuss this? Or I could be wrong. Who knows, but it’s always a safe bet to guess that I am wrong…lol. But certainly it’s some taboo social thing for men to get openly deep about stuff like this. I think in recovery circles it’s somewhat more normal, but I can’t have the kind of discussions I have with addicts and alcoholics with non-alcoholics and no-addicts.

      And you are bang on – doesn’t matter how you grew up, what your zip code is, what you have or haven’t in your bank account, addiction will get us. At least, 10% of us 🙂

      Thank YOU for sharing, Catherine – you are a true friend out here 🙂

      Paul

  8. Wow! This post is great! I could write forever about this post but instead I’ll just mention this.

    “Hell, throw in some sarcasm in there and we everything we need for a good old fashioned Pissy Picnic.”

    That line made me laugh my ass off!!!! You just made my night.

    • Ha ha…glad that you got a chuckle. I can still throw a good pissy picnic at times. I think last night I had a little one. Ugh. Not always proud moments, but at least they’re sober moments:)

      Blessings,
      Paul

  9. I loved this post but I would have Freshly pressed the one before this one, it made me cry!!! Haha, but that’s just my humble opinion. I have said it before, you have a gift for writing and making us readers dig deeper than we want to haha.
    Getting rid of expectations sounds easier than it is to actually do it! Working on it, though. Lots of loove!

  10. Hi Paul,

    So I come back from vacation, get through my 18 loads of laundry (that have yet to be folded, but progress, not perfection, right?), and sit down to read and comment on back posts of my favorite bloggers…

    And here comes Paul, all Freshly Pressed, and with 8,000 new commenters!!!!

    I am so sorry I missed the fanfare (if there was any, I’m just starting the catch-up process!), but may I first say the most heartfelt congratulations I can muster, I am so very happy for you! Especially given the recent communication between us, I can’t help but think that your Creator has sent you a very simple, but very powerful, sign… keep writing!

    Okay, based on the comments above, you are very humbly accepting compliments, so I won’t go overboard (although I want to), but, again, I am very proud of you, and you deserve all the rewards you are getting. I am honored to be a follower.

    Now, onto the post, I wish I could say I was as evolved as you, but I am definitely still a work in progress on this one. But, as I look back, especially as guided by your insightful words, I see that I have come a long way, so I am grateful for you writing this post.

    My favorite part: “but also of the ones I thought people had of me.” Those were the real killers for me… me projecting what others were thinking of me (all negative), and then me developing serious resentments as a result. One of the myriad things I am grateful for in my recovery is the ability to turn that thinking off, as quickly as I turn off the kitchen sink, because those thoughts lead me down the rabbit hole of active addiction.

    • Hi Josie – welcome back!

      Thanks for the kind words. Yeah, funny how those things kind of work out…lol. Considering what we had discussed, yes.

      I wouldn’t go so far that I am quite that evolved, as I too am a work in progress. I tend to write in general terms, but I certainly have my bad days along with my good, as we all do. My goal is to have the good ones outnumber the bad.

      As to your last comment, I found that the thoughts I projected onto people were also the things I unconsciously and consciously made real. If I thought that someone thought I was a goof, I would make sure to act in a way that was goofy in a way to prove them right. How twisted is that??

      Alas, those days, in general, are long gone…for both of us. Upward and onward. Thanks again for all your support – you’ve been instrumental in my recovery.

      Blessings,
      Paul

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