We are born idealists, or at least I believe so. I center this theory on the idea that gratitude is learned while expectation is innate. We expect things to go well, when they do not, we experience disappointment. No one sat me down and taught me to be upset when things did not go my way, but I did have to learn to choose attitudes. As a natural part our maturation process, we learn to let go of ideals and embrace the usually un-welcome harsh reality in its place. Yet there are some things, some ideals, of which we never fully let go, thus leading to mature, adult frustrations and if you’re me, mature, adult tantrums in a grocery store aisle. Regardless of the constant reminders all around us that life is anything but fair or easy, we persist in our disappointment in the following areas…
Parking Our Cars
We all know the feeling of wanting to go somewhere and having trouble parking. But I’m not talking about parking far away and walking a distance, I mean when there is no place for anyone to park anything but a unicycle. There are places in my home city that I have never been simply for parking reasons, and because I do not have quarters in a holster waiting ready for every possible parallel parking scenario. And yet our disappointment with parking has no perspective. I could be disappointed about walking miles a day, and yet expectation is so ingrained in my being that a few extra feet, and a few extra circles of the block or, God forbid, a few quarters or dimes.
Waiting in Line
It doesn’t matter the reason or circumstance, no one likes waiting in line for anything. But what is really intriguing about our lack of patience in these situations is our continual surprise at having to wait. Is it surprising that other people need to use the bathroom? Or use the ATM? Or get into a concert? No, these are all situations that attract people and yet when presented with the reality of waiting in line, we are shocked that all of these people have suddenly materialized for no other reason than to irritate us. How kind of them.
I think the reason why gift-wrapping ends up being so hard is because we spend all of our mental energy gift-shopping. So when we finally return home and set our wares on the living room carpet and go searching for paper and tinsel and tape, there is a grumbling acceptance of the fact that not only must we purchase gifts that people are usually expecting depending on the season, but we must also further postpone gratification by masking the gifts behind shining paper that no matter how you cut it, still either doesn’t quite fit or is far too large. Last year I complained inwardly about wrapping Christmas gifts, which was legitimate until I considered how much more inconvenient it would be to be without family and friends. Suddenly wrapping seemed easier.
Have you ever tried to cancel a gym membership? Why is it so hard? I know people who pay monthly to gyms of which they never darken the door because they cannot figure out how to stop payment. It’s always worse when you ask the front desk for help too, like a very awkward break-up. They try to get you to stay, making it seem like you are the one with all the power when it is they who hold your voided check. Eventually you launch into some sort of “It’s not you, it’s me” speech and somehow at the end, you’ve signed on for another year.
I remember the year I vowed to take more vitamins. It was this year, and last, and the one before that, and every year. As I busily prepare myself for work, I tell myself “I just don’t have time today”. Excuses have reached a terrible level when I don’t have time to take a sip of water and swallow something that could possibly extend my life. Yet for some reason, taking vitamins proves to be a difficult thing that really shouldn’t be difficult. And yet it would take me far more time to pull salmon from a raging stream and extract their oils for ingestion. Pop the vitamin, folks, because they’re easier than being actually nutritious.
Disappointment is natural, difficulty inevitable, but bad attitudes remain optional. While you grumble “sew that on a pillow, Rachel”, rest assured that I speak to myself in each one of these points, and try to remind myself that so long as blessings outweigh difficulty, patience must continue to be a pursued virtue. And if you’re reading this now in the comfort of your home or the screen of your smart phone, if you can relate to any of these difficulties, then I assure you your blessings have won out.