In the Scheme of Things: Not as Expected

Last week, I ordered an item from the world’s largest retailer. While it arrived quickly, its contents were not as expected. The plastic that held the toe protectors was taped, the items stretched, and the gel-lined fabric dirty. How did such a used product get resold as new?

I expect occasional quality issues when I buy online at an auction or estate site for my vintage shops, but not from the world’s biggest retailer. My expectation is people who work for that organization are engaged enough to notice dirty toe protectors and empowered enough to decide they can’t be resold. I also expect it’s an outlier and won’t happen again.

But expectations are funny things. They’re beliefs about what should happen, how it should happen, or that it will or won’t happen. We all have them about everything from food and movies to places and people. We’re influenced by what we expect to find. If we think online retailers sell junk, we won’t be disappointed if that’s what we get. Expect terrible bosses, difficult spouses, or untrustworthy people and you’ll find them; expect engaged, compassionate, and wonderful people and you’ll find them.

Some believe if you don’t expect anything, you won’t be disappointed. Others say you get what you expect. But the real question goes deeper: Do we get what we expect or help create what we expect? Some of both, I think.

Our beliefs and expectations influence our outcomes. My husband and I celebrate 43 years married this month. Engraved in our rings is a saying that’s guided our life together: “You invent the future that you want to face.” Those words from a Fleetwood Mac song keep us grounded in a committed vision toward a shared future, each other, and ourselves.

That saying applies to more than marriage. My expectations about other things I want in my future create a vision, too. I expect to live on a planet where we can drink the water, breathe the air, and hand off a better world. I expect to live in a country that won’t tolerate children murdered in classrooms, women marginalized, or those with different skin tones, religions, backgrounds, or orientations treated as less-than. I don’t expect to find the country I love breaks its commitments, tolerates rigged elections, blocks health care for those most in need, snatches children from parents, or closes its soul to humanity.

But the reality is, no matter what my expectations are for the future I desire, I don’t control what happens. But I do control what I do. I control if I care for the planet, operate with compassion, and live the values of this country. I control who I vote for, how I act towards others, the words I use, the books I read and write, and my engagement and contributions.

In the scheme of things, a critical key to our shared future is this: Each of us controls who we are and who we are becoming. Like any life dream, goal, or vision, it’s not the dreaming, but the doing that brings them to life. While our expectations for what the future should look like may differ, let’s not wait around hoping that future will be great only to discover it’s not as expected. There’s a sign on my bookcase which reads: “Let your life speak.” It seems like there’s no better time than now for each of us to do that.

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