Some time ago I read a book that has stuck with me: If the Buddha Dated, by Charlotte Kasl. Kasl has written a series of books about relationships using the tenets of Buddhism to guide the reader to find fulfillment in his or her relationship. I have found the tidbits I recall from the book to help me with relationships not only with my significant other but with friends and family. The one I am mindful of right now is “letting go of expectations”. If I expect my friend to somehow intuit that I am sad and call me when I am blue, I could be pissed if she doesn’t call. If I expect my husband to remember to take out the trash when it is full or bring me flowers, I could be resentful if that doesn’t happen on my timetable. I will be even more delighted if any of these things happen when I don’t expect them to.
Years ago my ex and I were living in a drafty Army barracks apartment in Tooele, Utah, on the Salt Flats. The garbage had to be carried across a scary yard overgrown with weeds and home to rattle snakes and scorpions. Because of my traditional middle-class upbringing, I expected him to carry the trash across that yard daily, but it didn’t happen. Our tiny apartment was full of stinky garbage. I got really mad at him and told him that it was his job to take out the garbage. Didn’t he know that? He said he hadn’t gotten that message. I told him I blamed his mother for neglecting to instill that understanding in him. He picked up the phone and dialed his mother to tell her I had something I wanted to say to her, and then he handed me the phone. I was irate and unloaded on her. “I can’t get your son to take out the garbage!”
She replied calmly, “Well, why should he?”
Now I was really mad! She didn’t think he should do his part in our relationship. I felt like I was doing it all. “Oh, really?” I spat. “Then who should do it then?”
“Well, dear, get the maid to do it,” she explained, as if I were an idiot. This was a woman who had always had household help and she expected that obviously I would too. She had no idea that we were living in a tiny one bedroom apartment with dust and later snow blowing through the gap between walls and floor. A maid? Not then, and not any time later.
It is hard, though, not to have expectations and to be crushed when they do not come to fruition. We stock up for Christmas in retail shops, and expect that we will make enough money to carry us though the winter, but when the weather turns ugly, shoppers do not come in and those Christmas items gather dust. I could whine all day about my expectations that business will be extra brisk at this time of year. Instead I will count my lucky stars.
Many of you know that the building across the street from Chifferobe had a big surprise in the recent snowstorm. The weight of the snow crushed the roof and both Poppy’s Popcorn and Sassafras Books and Coffee had to evacuate until the building can be deemed safe. This is the busiest season for both businesses. Every day before this happened the UPS truck would back up to the door of Poppy’s and take away hundreds of cartons of popcorn. And Sassafras has a huge selection of holiday items on their shelves waiting for Christmas sales. All that has come to a screeching halt. We can only hold our breath while we wait for the building to reopen and hold those business owners in the Light.
On the lighter side, I sometimes say something I think is hilarious and I expect the listener to laugh. That doesn’t always happen, though. Last night we had a wonderful dinner at Benne on Eagle in the Foundry Hotel in Asheville. After our meal, we wandered upstairs to the hotel lobby where we rubbed our eyes in confusion. In this elegant setting a good-sized orchestra in tuxedos was playing, and about twenty couples were dancing. The dancers were all middle-aged to elderly and were dressed in sparkly clothes. They all knew how to fox trot and were doing some fancy footwork, twirls and dips. It felt like something out of the nineteen forties.
When I couldn’t get Ron to dance with me, I turned to a young waiter nearby and asked him, “What is this? A Bar Mitzvah?”
He looked at me as if I were crazy and answered, “No. It’s a string orchestra.”
At least I laughed.
Have a wonderful pre-Christmas week, and let go of all those expectations that your partner will read your mind and buy you diamonds.