Accepting more than Expecting

champagne-and-chocolates1On Valentine’s Days past I have written about loving oneself, one’s friends, one’s family, one’s pets. I have written – convincingly, if I do say so myself – about how love is all around. That we don’t need flowers, hearts, champagne, and chocolates from a spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner to make us happy. I wrote these things so well that I believed them year-round – for a decade or more.

Until this year.

For some reason this year, I expected well wishes to come pouring in. I thought I’d have some flowers. A champagne toast. At least an overpriced Hallmark greeting. Nope. Didn’t happen.

Perhaps it was the 50th birthday induced hangover? Lots of well wishes there, so the same would surely continue? Well, that’s not what happened. Dad and Mom sent a chocolate treat. Nothing from the sons. Nothing – not even a text – from a couple of friends who I thought would send a greeting at the very least. And, for the first time in recent memory there was a person from whom I really hoped for a greeting. Nothing doing.

I fell into a funk. A pretty deep funk. My disappointment was aided by the fact that I have had a terrible cold that has morphed into what seems to be the flu. My discouragement was enlarged by the fact that being sick has prevented me from going to the gym, so endorphins are nowhere to be found. This whole bummer of a holiday was compounded by the fact that youngest son decided to be a full-on teenager today.

So, what happened? Why, after a decade of preaching the virtues of treating myself and loving my friends, have I found myself in tearful disappointment at the end of the day on Valentine’s Day?

I had a friend in college who spent every Valentine’s Day – classes or not; frat party or no – in bed all day in her sweats, crying. I don’t clearly remember why. A broken heart, a returned ring, and general abandonment all played roles in her yearly depression. I don’t know what she thought was going to happen. Did she have a Gatsbyesque hope that the past would repeat itself and all would be set right? Was she waiting for a fairy godmother to wave a wand and cure whatever ailed her mid-February heart? what-screws-us-up-most-in-life-is-the-picture-in-our-head-of-how-its-supposed-to-be

It was all – for her back then, as it was for me today – a matter of expectations. And, if you are finding yourself in a Netflix and no champagne Valentine’s evening, perhaps it is the same for you. Did you expect something that didn’t happen? Was someone supposed to treat you and failed?  If we expect things that we can’t make happen or if we are unable communicate those needs to someone else who wants to make things happen, we set ourselves up for disappointment.

America has a thing with holidays – especially those that mean consumer indulgence. America has a way of making sure that we all know that someone else is having a better, bigger, happier holiday than we are. Most of us tow that line, buy into the commercials and the competition. I feel like that’s what I did this year.

For whatever off-kilter reasons, I expected things from the world on this February 14; I made up scenarios rather than living life. I constructed a way it was supposed to be, and that was my recipe for disaster. Now, as soon as I get over this cold, I will get to the gym, adjust my outlook, and go – as my mom used to say – onward and upward.

Until then, remember that I have been right in the past:  Love yourself. Love your friends, family, pets, and neighbors. Tell them you care. Show them you are there for them. Make every day one filled with more accepting and less expecting.

More than a Blue Moon

More than a decade ago, my sister called me before she left for a professional conference. I wasn’t home. She left a message. I heard the message, and I decided I’d just talk to her when she got back from the conference.

Yesterday was my birthday. Along with all the Facebook-prompted well wishes, I was the glad recipient of other birthday greetings throughout the day. Friends sent texts. One friend sent flowers. Another sent balloons. Yet another took me out to lunch. I received chocolates. Youngest son tagged along tolerantly while I wandered through my favorite book store. There were a few presents, some cake, a flute too many of champagne. It felt good to realize that people were thinking of me; that others cared; that some went out of their way and incurred expense on my behalf. I felt special.

blue-moon-treeThen, as I am wont to do, I got to thinking. And then overthinking: why don’t we do such things for others that we care about on a regular basis? Why should well wishes, Facebook-prompted or not, be limited to a birthday? Don’t we want our friends and loved ones to know what they mean to us? To feel special?

I know: life moves fast. The news bombards us. Traffic stalls. Budgets are tight. People get sick. Dogs have to be walked. There’s laundry to do. And supper to plan. Cats throw up.  Oh, and work. The kids need transporting. I own a vacuum cleaner for a reason. I need to make summer plans at the beginning of February. And, youngest son has a vocal concert. Then . . . then . . . then . . . sometimes I have so much to do that I do nothing. Still and all, it’s easy to be distracted by the tyranny of the urgent.

But maybe you’re different.

You likely think of others more readily than I. Maybe you make the unexpected phone call because you want to hear a smile. You send greeting cards on time for anniversaries and birthdays.  Are you the person who picks up a scone for a colleague who you know is struggling?  You might even be one of those grand romantic gesture people, standing outside with a portable stereo over your head a la John Cusack. Perhaps you simply answer the phone instead of checking to see who is calling and groaning and hitting the “decline” button.

We all want to feel remembered, answered, cared for: it’s natural. I wonder if I can do a better job of this: caring for others in the way they need. I wonder if I can listen to people’s hearts better. Might I help someone feel special? Maybe I can take a breath and really hear what someone is trying to say to me.  Can I return calls promptly instead of spending time crafting an apology about why I didn’t call back?

Maybe I can.

Maybe I won’t miss anyone else’s last call.