Sometimes it seems as though nothing goes according to plan. For instance, after three weeks of having to postpone our daughter's homeschooling (vacation, illness, etc.), my wife was supposed to start it up again this morning. But they're both still asleep after what was a long, not very restful night. Once our little girl came into our bed sometime in the middle of the night, she woke up several times upset and crying, either at still having a cold and feeling stuffed up or because of nightmares. Either way, it means that the plan for today was de-railed even before the sun came up.
Even I didn't get up until around 9am. I went to bed around half-past midnight, but didn't actually fall asleep until after 2am. My mind was wound up, I guess. I was thinking about church stuff. And I was worried that my wife was still up and awake even though she had preschool with our daughter in the morning. Now thankfully, since it's just the two of them, schedules are pretty flexible. And though I slept in, Monday is normally my day off anyway.
Last night while lying in bed, I happened to say to my wife something along the lines that I wish things could go completely right and as planned even for just a few days. And she, though still struggling with depression, was able to say that our life was still pretty good. She's largely right about that. It seems quite a lot has to do with our perspective on things. I find that I'm becoming more self-conscious about my own moods and attitudes, and that a lot of the problem when I see things going astray or just plain wrong is me.
It's all about the difference between expectations and reality. How do I expect our life as a family to be? Or more simply, what do I expect to accomplish this morning? Or what do I expect of my wife this afternoon? And which of these expectations are actually realistic? Do I sometimes have unrealistic expectations for us? I'm guessing yes. Sometimes these expectations are pretty conscious--I know I have them and find myself frustrated when they aren't met. But sometimes expectations can be unconscious. I get frustrated but don't know why. I find myself in a sour mood but can't pinpoint the reason. I get irritated at my wife but am unable locate the source of the irritation. Or even if I think I have, it may turn out to be more than what I thought. So there are conscious and unconscious expectations that may or may not match up with reality.
But there's another kind of expectation that can cause even more difficulty: unspoken expectations. This is when I expect my wife to read my mind and understand what I want from her even if I haven't verbally communicated it. There's a certain self-righteousness that rears its ugly head here. "She should know that I would want this," I think. And then I blame her for lacking psychic abilities. We can all deliberately remain non-communicative about these expectations because we truly do believe that our spouse's ability to understand how we feel without our having to spell it out is part of the point. The hiccup in thinking this way, of course, is that we would never reverse the logic. I know I can't psychically intuit what's going on in my wife's head. Heck, even when she spells it out sometimes I still don't get it! Expectations need to be spoken, at least if you want the other person to know what they are.
Such expectations apply to relationships, and they apply to plans and life in general. I expect things to go this way or that way. Then they don't. I expect my wife to do this or that. And she doesn't. I expect to get this or that accomplished. And then I don't. Life doesn't always go as planned. And sometimes that's because we have unspoken expectations and sometimes it's because of unrealistic expectations. I guess that means I have to do a better job either of communicating my expectations or of measuring them and setting them in such a way that they come closer to reality and take what might happen and what might not happen into account. And that's one thing life is teaching me--through marriage, parenting, and ministry: be realistic.