Today, I am sitting on a beautiful beach in Kauai, soaking up the sun, making up for months of darkness and clouds that our Pacific Northwest brings. Bring on the Vitamin D! Getting out during the winter and finding a sunny spot somewhere is a great pick-me-up during a Northwest winter.
Winter vacations, whether they be for skiing, sun, or just going somewhere else are always appreciated. But what if it rains in Mexico? What if it’s too windy at the beach? What if the temperature warms up the snow turns to slush? What if the kids get sick? What if you get a bad cold? There is a long list of unplanned experiences that can turn your vacation into something other than what you wanted or expected. On one summer vacation, we had several thousand head lice accompany us to the beach with our kids!
Expectations of sunny warm days have a way of turning into disappointment and anxiety. When our expectations are exceeded—the forecast of rain while on a ski trip turns into a major snowfall, we jump with joy! Woohoo! What good fortune! But what about when our expectations aren’t met. We feel downtrodden, angry and resentful—a victim of circumstances beyond our control.
Rain is in our Kauai forecast, so we hurried to take advantage of today’s sun. But by the end of the day, we were both exhausted! I thought this was supposed to be a vacation! By the time we got to the beach, the wind had whipped up and it just wasn't what we hoped for.
It’s completely natural to hope for and desire good fortune—at home and work. Joe worked hard for a promotion at his company. His hope—a big raise. But during that year, the company ran into some unexpected competition, and earnings were down. Joe felt terribly disappointed and discouraged. He thought— “All that hard work for nothing!”
It’s not that we shouldn’t have hopes and dreams. Our dreams can propel us to choose a new direction or take action on our own behalf. But at the same time, we have to recognize that there is a great deal that is outside of our control or influence.
How do we balance our desires with reality?
Don’t get overly attached to your expectations.
Work hard for the promotion, but recognize it’s a gamble that may or may not turn out the way you want. Check the weather report on vacation, but consider what other activities might be fun if the weather turns wet. Adopt a more “neutral” attitude towards change in a negative direction. Of course, you will be disappointed! But don’t get stuck there. As one friend said— “It’s okay to visit Pity City, but don’t rent an apartment there!”.
Life is change.
I know—some people appear to have been born under a dark cloud. But for most of us, we have our share of both good and bad fortune. There is so much that changes. In my lifetime apartheid ended in South Africa, the Berlin wall came tumbling down, and we elected an African-American President! These were unimaginable changes when I was a young man. In our lifetimes, we experience both big and small unexpected change.
Let go and live today.
I know—letting go of disappointment is hard! But by doing so, we are better able to appreciate the moment. If it rains today, I have a good book on hand. Or maybe, Diane and I will go for a car ride or watch a movie. Sure, I’d love for the sun to come out and catch a few rays. But either way, I will be content.