I’m nothing if not a collector of maxims. Especially in the last year, I’ve made a habit of memorizing particularly Truthy maxims so that I have them at my disposal when I need to give myself or someone else encouragement, or to explain away bad habits that refuse to die. They definitely come in handy.
The one that I use most regularly? “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”
I think what I find so Truthy about this is that it so perfectly reflects my life. I’m a planner, and when I make plans I have an image in my head of what will materialize. I try to see the potential blemishes that may arise, sure, but when you have an image of something lovely in your head, you don’t want to see them. I can’t help but have expectations; I think it’s natural to believe that the best will happen if given the chance. It’s very human to be hopeful. But it’s also dangerous, in some ways, to count on the best happening, when there are so many variables outside of your control that, despite your best efforts, can turn the best into something terrible.
So what to do when this happens?
Heartache is no fun for anyone, and should, as a rule of thumb, be avoided if you can help it. In this case, it seems that the obvious solution would be to simply lower your expectations, to hope for less, to dream less beautiful dreams. That makes sense, yes, but who actually wants to do that? And should we have to?
Another of my favorite maxims comes from W. Somerset Maugham: “It’s a funny thing about life: if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.” I’ve been thinking lately that this runs counter to the old adage that tells us to make lemonade when we’re handed lemons, to find a way to make the best of a bad situation. And while I’m definitely in favor of that route most of the time, sometimes there’s only so much you can do as an individual to “make the best of it.” In certain instances, the rottenness of a situation is beyond your power to change it for the better and it puts your overall sense of joy and happiness at stake, and when that happens, sometimes you just need to say “I’m sorry, but I refuse to accept this. There is something better out there for me and I intend to seek it out.” The only tricky thing is figuring out when that statement becomes necessary, and when you need to just take a chill pill and stop being a baby. It’s a fine line between the two.
This is what I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about during my blog break. I wish I could speak in less vague terms about this, but I hope to be able to soon. Until then, I’ll be continuing to attempt to navigate that line between expectation and reality, between making lemonade and simply making a change, in order to get the best. Suggestions and advice are welcome.