Tuesday, 8 November 2011

expecting less

I have a problem: I always want to do more. There is a constant drumbeat in my head, sometimes louder than others, that pounds out "more...more...more...more."

But I feel like this needs to be my motto for right now: less... less.

I tend to have high expectations, which can be a really good thing. But it can lead to a lot of stress and disappointment, so I'm going to try something new for a season: expecting less. Of myself and of others. 

This seems a bit counter-intuitive, and my brain doesn't really like the sound of it. It goes against a lot of what I've been taught - to go for the gold, that if I can dream it I can do it, to reach for the sky, to push myself to be all that I can be. Normally, I want to be more creative, a better mom, a better writer, all things to all people, more, more, more... but this can lead to a feeling of never enough.

I want to be enough.

Here's one good example of expecting more of myself. Derek and I drove to Vermont to a funeral this past weekend - a nine hour trip each way. We drove Friday, went to the funeral on Saturday, then drove Sunday. Guess how many books I packed to read for a writing project that's fast approaching... 25! 25 books. Now that's just stupid. But it's not the first time. I pack all of this work, and then I'm disappointed when it doesn't all get finished. So on my way to Vermont, I told myself "expect less." Whenever feelings of stress would come to mind because of all that I had to do and the limited time before my deadline, I would say to myself, "less... less... less." And I had a great weekend!

"Expect less" could be a great motto for this Christmas season too - but probably not too many stores would use it as their slogan. It's something I want my kids to learn - to expect less, not more more more. Like my grandpa, who as a child was thrilled to come down on Christmas morning to find his dinner plate filled with nuts, candies, and one big perfect orange. Predictable, but very special. 

This tree struck me today because during this end of autumn season, it is expecting less. Each day it will hold less and less of the colour and vibrancy and fullness that the leaves and seeds bring. Soon it will be bare - the least it can be. Preparing for a distant season when it will again blossom and grow exponentially. Outwardly less, but inwardly holding much potential.

It speaks of gentleness and rest to me - not necessarily as the way I'll be forever, but for a season - because this is what I need right now. Even in the midst of deadlines and funerals and sick kids and travel - perhaps especially now - I need to expect less of myself. And this feels freeing and calming in a weird and wonderful way.


  1. My grandma has told me the same stories of waking up on Christmas morning and running to find that on each stair there was a plate for each kid. The plates covered 11 stairs! Nuts, candy, and an orange, just like your grandpa's plate. I feel a bit sad that I can't even imagine getting excited about a few things that are often on my weekly grocery list - well, maybe not the candy, but it's definitely accessible and affordable if I wanted it.

    You present a good challenge to think about how to make my expectations less instead of more. Nice post.

  2. Some days my personal mantra is "I am enough." There are days when it is a whisper in my head and others days I find myself chanting it many times throughout the day. Thank you for the reminder that striving for more isn't always the best choice.

  3. Kristen: sounds like our grandparents came from the same family! My grandpa was one of 10 kids, and each one had a plate of goodies waiting for them on Christmas morning. This "less" lesson is a hard one for me - but good, I think - to focus on a few things instead of more.

    Catherine: it's a good mantra. It'll go well with my less...less...less... mantra. :)

  4. So I have been thinking about more and less. I remember you commenting in another post, about santa, christmas, gifts etc that "less is more". And I love that concept. Yet, isn't true that when we do less of one thing we are in essence doing more of another. Less work, more rest. Less negative thinking, more positive thoughts. So what do I want to do less of and in what ways will I feel or be more? Thoughts in process.....Blah, Blah, Blah...Thanks and Cheers. :)

  5. Shauna: exactly. Less translates into more. Good thoughts, and fodder for a potential blog post, so thanks! :)

  6. Thank you Rebecca for perspective and perhaps a new mantra for me. What's the point of doing everything half-way, and never giving something my undivided attention. I know that I am a perfectionist (about somethings in life). Would I be happier, more fulfilled, less stressed, and relaxed if I tried to do a few things very well instead of crossing everything off the to do list in a day (or just transferring them to tomorrow's already too long to-do list)?
    I'll let you know how it pans out. I think I need to learn the word "no" in order to be successful with the less, less, less mantra.

  7. Tanya, it's so hard to narrow ourselves down when there are so many appealing things to do with our time! But I know what you mean about transferring items from too-long lists one day after the other. Yes, the word no is one I'm learning too.