As I walk the dogs, I remember this line from an Alice Walker poem. But I remember it differently. I hear it as, “Expect nothing. Live frugally/on despair.” Why did I love this line long ago? Did my despair feed me? It didn’t. I wanted it all, but I was afraid to hope. Or I jumped into relationships, jobs, or events with full-throttled enthusiasm and then found myself disappointed. I expected happiness, completion, the best, and I was left wondering what the hell I did wrong many, many times.
Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise. It’s not in my nature to not expect something from relationships, jobs, and events. I think we call this idea anticipatory excitement. Maybe it’s the false idea that the world is good. Isn’t it good? All I know is last fall, a year ago, I stood in my kitchen with my husband and cried over dashed expectations, a fallen friendship.
“You expect the world to be good, and it isn’t,” he said to me.
“I know, and it breaks my heart. Am I supposed to close myself off? I’m so open,” I replied.
“No, being open is the best part of you,” he said.
This is the conundrum: how to be open, but expect less. How to look for beauty but not be crushed when met with the everyday meanness of the world. To stop over-thinking relationships, jobs, and events that ended badly. Sure, grieve the loss, but don’t make it all about myself. We all mess up, but hindsight isn’t 20/20. I’m not going to figure out where the blade in the smooth path popped up, the sharp edge that screamed “Game over!” I don’t need to place all the blame on me, and I’ll never figure out what someone else was thinking. It’s like the mind-training slogan “Don’t figure others out” from an article written by Zen teacher Norman Fischer in Shambhala Sun.
Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise. Instead of thinking, walk the dogs and look around. Spiders on webs; the neighbor who talks with me about endless yard work projects; Liz making up a blues song to be sung by our friend’s dog. It turns out this dog Riley is in love with me, and he’s in despair because he found out I’m married to Chris. Expect goodness and live richly on surprise.