These are the times throughout the day that a silent alarm on my smartwatch buzzes. In the few seconds it takes for me to respond and push the button to turn it off, I take a deep breath and say the same two words to myself.
I started this practice a few years ago because I became aware that my anxiety was most often triggered not by the situation, but by the story I had in my head about how the situation should be. The anxiety came from the disappointment I felt when the narrative I had created or hoped for didn’t match the reality.
For example, I would like to be the kind of mother who is obscenely patient with her well-behaved children and we calmly start our day in our tidy, serene home. Instead, I am the kind of mother who has to repeat herself a bazillion times at various octaves to wrangle children who are most likely either fighting or playing baseball (or both) in the messy house, and now we need to rush out the door and I’m pretty sure we forgot to put on sunscreen.
8:55 a.m. Release expectations.
I had planned to squeeze in a yoga video or a brisk walk before I jumped into my workday, but then I remembered that I needed to send one quick email to a prospective client. The next thing I know, I have fallen face-first into my in-box, my window for morning exercise has passed, and now I’m in meetings and calls the rest of the day. I’m frustrated and annoyed at myself for not prioritizing my wellness, which only makes me feel worse.
10:20 a.m. Release expectations.
My car is due for a safety inspection (which I miraculously remembered on the final day of the month) and I managed to drop off the car at the shop during my lunch break so I am feeling pretty good about how well I’m adulting. That is until the mechanic lets me know that there’s something wrong with one of the tires that will need to be replaced and the windshield wiper pump is broken, but the part won’t arrive until tomorrow so the car won’t be ready for pick-up until then.
1:11 p.m. Release expectations.
I am the kind of person who accomplishes everything on her to-do list, glides through the day feeling productive, and never has any lingering projects that need to be pushed off or carried over into the next day. At least, that’s who I am in my head. In reality, some days it feels as though the tasks have turned into Gremlins that have multiplied (maybe I spilled water on my keyboard?) with their own subset of to-dos that have also multiplied and taken on a life of their own.
3:45 p.m. Release expectations.
I aspire to be the kind of parent who feeds her kids only the healthiest unprocessed foods as part of a balanced diet that they willingly eat before asking for seconds with the politest of manners while expressing gratitude for the warm meal which has lovingly been prepared for them. Instead, well, you know how this pans out…
6:40 p.m. Release expectations.
As we head into the fall and the myriad unknowns about workplaces, schools, travel, etc., I don’t have any expertise to offer regarding what is best or right or ideal. What I do know is that there will undoubtedly be situations where the reality is not going to match the image of what we had built up or hoped for in our heads. Letting go of that story and instead embracing, or at least accepting, what is may be the only way that we can reasonably navigate this next phase.
Deep breath. Release expectations.