Accepting failed expectations, without giving up.

Maybe you’re like me and 2022 didn’t start the way you were expecting.

You’d think we’d be used to it by now with the challenges created in the last two years of the pandemic. But still I struggled after being filled with inspired New Year’s intentions, to land into a month where familiar restrictions and isolation came down, telling me, “no, that’s not going to happen”.

I felt like all my emotional resilience was used up. A familiar pit opened up in front of me and I dove in: Disappointment, self-pity and the numbness of defeat. For a few days I let the familiar sensation take me and wallowed on the couch. 

Just to be clear, just because this state was familiar, doesn’t mean it was comfortable! As time passed, I knew I was giving in too easily and started to reflect. I realized I was struggling with a sense that my expectations had been betrayed. Something that has often come up for me over the course of my life. 

I am not a practicing Buddhist, but came across a famous quote from the Buddha that spoke to me directly.

“Serenity comes when you trade expectations for acceptance.”

Well I was certainly nowhere near serenity! As a person committed to spiritual practice, I could see this was a healing opportunity. My relationship to expectations was keeping me from finding my resilience.

I knew my expectations were making me feel victimized, but I still found it hard to let them go. I had to unpack what was behind my sense of attachment to the plans I had set for the New Year.

I was afraid to let go of my expectations because it meant I was letting go of my desire to move forward. If I just accepted it wasn’t going to happen due to lockdown, then that meant I was giving up. I recognized that I was seeing this from a very limited mind set, I was digging my heels in: I could either have it my way, or there was no way at all!

For me, this was an invitation to meditate! 

In meditation, I used my breath to bring myself into the moment. I allowed myself to feel the truth of what acceptance could mean. I realized it didn’t mean giving up and accepting defeat, it meant coming fully into the truth of the situation and knowing, to quote another buddhist saying: “the only constant is change”.

By letting go and accepting the truth, I could release my expectations to make room for more opportunity.

Sure enough, despite fearing another winter of lockdown, restrictions are easing. After a few weeks’ detour, my intentions are resuming where I left them. As a result of my internal journey to finding acceptance, I’m finding myself more focused and yes, calm – though I’m still working on serenity!

This small quote brought me to the truth of what I needed to travel this last wave of change. I hope perhaps it can give a breath of support to you.