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Day 80: Expectations Examined

“Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.” -Mark Twain

There are some days that defy our expectations to such a degree that you have to ask yourself how you could have been so far off in your thinking. The weather has been unseasonably spring-like here in the Northwest. Balmy days and brilliant sun are holidays for us and so as the week kept promising more of the same in all the weather forecasts, the idea of laying close to the surf on a warm sunny beach took hold in me. I should have known better, living in Oregon for over a decade, to expect the weather at the coast to be what is promised. Our piece of the Pacific Coast with wild, huge expanses, crashing waves and tall evergreens is stunning and full of weather patterns that are not typical beach weather in most resort towns.

Arriving at the coast, the grey clouds and wind had already been pulled in from the sea and the visions of balmy sun and warm sands disappeared into the familiar whipping of hair around the head. The beach roared in all her wild glory and I wept to find my jacket left at home, the last straw for my visions of the afternoon to be swept away by the cold wind. I tried to rally in my unprepared state and was watchful of what happened inside. We have had this experience before on vacation at the beach. Leaving behind beautiful inland weather to get pummeled at the coast has not brought out the best in me. My children braced themselves, all of them smart enough to not own up to taking my jacket out of the car.

I actually did ok, with the positivity quest at my back. We decided to turn tail after a brief 40 minutes on the beach, eating the picnic I prepared on the way home, praying for the end of the sunny day at home. The clouds beat us back. It was still balmy here, but the transit time ate up the sun. The car ride was full of jokes and songs and memories of other coast vacation cold weather disasters. There was nothing wrong with the picture and still I held onto not having the day that I had envisioned. Then we got the text message that Kansas lost to Northern Iowa, an unthinkable upset in the second round of March Madness. The bracketing and planning of outcomes a national pastime and one that gets serious dinner conversation in my home. So, clearly, we weren’t the only ones not having the day we expected.

What we do with our expectations, which can also be thought of as a form of goal setting has a lot to do with how we work with our own positivity. For many people, myself included, Tom Magliozzi’s reminder that, “Happiness equals reality minus expectations” rings true. We lose the day we are having when we mourn the day it isn’t. Sometimes there is nothing to be done about it, the disappointment and upset of what is lost is too big to just go with the reality at hand. Other times it’s just stubbornness and the ridiculous conviction that we know how it is supposed to happen.

This is where goal setting starts to get a little unbelievable; and maybe even becomes an invitation to set yourself up for disappointment. The longer I live, the more clearly I recognize that life has a plan of it’s own and it’s usually a pretty good one. So the real trick is how to pay close enough attention that you can align your goals to what life is handing out. But definitely don’t start with the weather report.