On June 20th some years ago, my sister Lizzy sent me a picture from her morning meditation reading that included a line from Gone with the Wind, "Life's under no obligation to give us what we expect." The last sentence on the page reads, "Expectations are premeditated resentments." I was struck.
The lyrics came pretty quickly from my lens as a father of two boys, at the time around 6 and 9-years-old. Especially the younger of the two I envied a bit because of his great capacity to be in the moment. For those who spend time with kids, most of us have found a better path forward when we join those kids at doing their job really well...just being present kids. They aren't fitting into our adult expectations, the things we feel need to be controlled and deserve our chagrin, goofy stuff like sitting still, stopping one activity immediately because it's time for the next, knowing where shoes (or glasses or backpacks or...) are located. The chorus borrows from Ring Around the Rosie:
"We will all fall down, so spin around,
just be like children,
and we won't miss what's happening."
This children's tune is about dying from the plague (sleep tight)! We're all headed that way (not the plague - geez Peter) and so don't really have a right to expect things a certain cultural, moral, political, religious, birthright, national, etc. way. If we do, we miss out on the best relationships this one short life offers.
I wrote and recorded a couple musical jokes, trying to shuck musical expectations. Western musical tradition folks, we like our simple 4-quarter time. So I threw in a 3/4 bar to close the chorus! Also, common to this genre is to stack voices, meaning to record the same thing twice and create a different timbre. So I stacked whistling (in addition to voices)!
The second verse stems from an interview question I once received, "What's your greatest accomplishment." I answered, "My children." I think it landed me the job. I am so proud of the men that they are becoming (to be sure, they are both still very much little lads), yet...warning...expectations rear-up again.
"All I hoped for
Is that you’d be better than me.
No way I could have predicted
That you would grow up
the man that I’d like to be."
"Predicted" is a pseudo-substitution for "expected," sure. "Hoped" was the intentional word I chose. Hopes (and Faith & Love) are prayers or gifts, things that should not demand a result or return. If God answers in the way I expect, what a blessing, but also how bizarre, spooky, and even a little egotistical. God always answers, so "set aside your expectation" – you don't want to miss what's happening.