Updated: Aug 7, 2020
I’m sure everyone’s thinking the same thing. How hard life has become under a syndemic at the confluence of a fatal pandemic and a raging climate crisis, all of which has exposed centuries-long racial injustices and social disparities. Over 700,000 deaths have occurred due to Covid-19. The climate crisis is causing 150,000 deaths a year. Over 120,000 square kilometers of tropical rainforests are being lost every year. Wildlife populations have dropped by 60%. A majority of victims of police harm are people of color. One in every three black boys in America can expect to go to jail. The daily news reports leave me unable to concentrate. I don’t know how to plan, I’m afraid of doing anything outside—or even to be with people. Going to my grandson’s baseball game could cause my death.
The year 2020 was going to be a big year for me. I had huge expectations, as did millions of other women around the country. This is the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, giving women the right to vote. Celebration plans were in the works for years—for a decade or longer—by organizations from all over the country,: marches, festivals, rallies, performances, readings, plays, films. My performing troupe expected to do dozens of shows. We had charts, letters of agreement, contracts, Excel spreadsheets. Everything has had to be cancelled, postponed, or put online. It’s been painful watching the year 2020 dissolve into protective masks, social distancing, and staring at computer screens.
But that’s the thing about expectation. When I make plans, I expect to carry them out. And if they fall through, I get disappointed. Expectations are about living in the future. Disappointment is pain in the present. It’s not fun. But how can I plan for the future and avoid the pain of disappointment?
There is another word like expectation: that word is ‘expectancy.’ While expectations prevent us from living in the moment and can lead to disappointment, expectancy involves living with intentionality in a flexible way. It’s about embracing change, looking for the positive. The Jewish month Elul is a time for returning to God, teshuvah, before the high holidays. It is a good time to turn our expectations into expectancy. This is the hallmark of a spiritual practice.
Shirley started a new spiritual practice: a daily online meditation group. Every morning, for the last 140 days, she shares a reading with the group and we all meditate on that and then we share our reflections. We have found this practice is a way to explore our authenticity. As we live on the edge of death in this unbearable syndemic, we think about hard-learned truths and share from our most deepest hearts.
The year 2020 has turned into a year of connecting on a very deep level, a year when I can go to events I never dreamed possible, a year where people from all over the world can experience my performing troupe. And I am getting more done on all sorts of backburner projects. But what I cannot forget is to keep my focus on teshuvah, the expectancy of a spiritual connection.
We’ll be living these new lives for a long time.
I was moved to tears by your writing. Thank you.
I went down the rabbit hole of “oh no,” and you brought me back up again. And it’s true, there are so many wonderful things that have come out of this pandemic. You have to keep looking for those. Thank you for that reminder.
I find one of the hardest things to do is to trade expectancy for expectation. I probably need to be reminded about that once every two weeks in meditation, I try to remind myself. It’s a lifelong issue, and then to have it here daily is a challenge. Thank you for the reminder and for your grace and working through the enormous amount of disappointment.
I had to look up expectancy. It sounds good, but it’s a hard concept.
I was stumped on the word expectancy. Your reading felt like a warm pool, the sparkly part was the concept of expectation to expectancy.
Expectancy is about being flexible. Disappointment is from ‘oh, it didn’t happen. I’ve lost all of that.” Expectation is focusing on the loss. Expectancy is focusing on what can come out of this change. It’s accepting change as positive. It’s looking for the positive. Be flexible and adaptable. Like the other day, we were looking for a place to go for a few days. We were getting various invitations but as we were getting them, I said ‘let’s think about a plan B and plan C in case any of them fell through. And when they did start falling through, we were flexible. We were already onto other plans. We had no expectations. What we are going to wind up doing is going to be more exciting and fun than what we thought was going to be exciting and fun.
I think it is about perspective and looking for the good, looking for the miracles. What occurred to me was the bazillion things you had planned, and can any of them equal the depth that we have here sharing on a deeper level? My husband and I have only three or four places for walking where we feel safe. Part of that is his comfort level. Can I just enjoy that and go deeper looking at what’s around me? It’s that flexibility thing, just staying open to what is good about a situation. It’s hard to maintain that, but having this community here is buoying us up and helping us to stay positive. Because alone, I can be my own worst enemy. Grateful for everyone showing up and for this platform for finding this kind of depth.
The idea of expectation vs expectancy came to me forcefully after my daughter was born so ill. In the process of trying to tease apart my downfall and depression, I found the poem Welcome to Holland (see April 5 blog). During the time I had a baby growing in me for nine months, everyone around me had expectations. After I had the baby and everything happened, it became apparent anyone who knew me was excited and asking how my new baby was, it was a disappointment across the board and fear. The poem made clear to me that my expectations were clearly spelled out and I had the expectation of what was going to happen and it exploded. Welcome to Holland is about these set plans to go to Italy and you get off the plane in Holland. And you start looking around saying I’m not supposed to be here, this isn’t it. And then you start noticing all the tulips and all the beautiful things you didn’t expect. That’s how the concept has been for me. It’s such a setup to etch solidly into stone what we expect to happen when in reality, anything can happen. It’s taught me to be more flexible.
I loved that you mentioned the year 2020 has become a year of connectivity. How ironic, this pandemic has isolated everybody. We are all isolated and quarantined, and yet you say it’s the year of connectivity. For myself, that is what it has turned into. It’s given me the gift of time, to pause and reflect. Life has gone on, but I am able to connect, to rethink and to reprogram, to reframe a different ending (see August 5 blog). To connect to you, to my family. My relationships have changed to a deeper level. Little quirky things that used to ruin my day don’t matter or bother me anymore.
Expectations, expectancy, connectivity. I told a friend yesterday how I love getting on Zoom: it first says connection, then it says successful. Yes, connection, successful.
I know what expectations mean. When they don’t come through, I get disappointment. It took me a while to come to this group and I had expectations it would end soon. Instead of worrying about when it will end, I asked about it. I was expecting it to go on for a week or less. I was happy to hear that the group will be going on. I am grateful.