“I dreamed a thousand paths; I woke and walked my own.” ~Chinese proverb
Time was, I woke in the morning with dread in my heart. I fell asleep that night depleted and defeated; worn and desperate for the space within my head to be cleared of those invasive thoughts and where, in slumber, my imagination could run free and dream.
A slow fade, the daze… A flash.
And awaking once more.
I couldn’t do it for very long. I knew I’d never last. I knew I’d waste away into nothing living that lifestyle that drained me so heartily of any ounce of purpose or meaning.
And the honest truth is that I could afford to escape it. I had the privilege. The comfort and the opportunity. I’m not a champion or a survivor. I’m not an example or a leader for having left a lifestyle that I grew to loathe. The truth is that I didn’t need to suffer in that state of depression and unhappiness, devoid of the soulful longing that demanded I stand up, that I be me, that I put pen to paper, and experience where life’s journey wished to take me.
So I left it.
But what I’ve learned over the last four years is that it’s not just the circumstances that burden you over your journey. It’s your expectations.
Expectation robs you of presence. And presence is where any and every opportune ounce of magic, experience and love is found in your journey.
You rob yourself of your journey when you expect, anticipate and over-analyze your journey to death. You rob yourself of the joy of the body beside you when you over-think every possibility through to a possible conclusion, and then try to work backwards to choose the “right” words and actions and decisions to force that outcome to appear. You rob yourself of the love that is begging to infiltrate your ears and chest when you entertain all of your ego’s worries and fears.
Expectations are the hardened, imaginary standards of who your soul-mate will be or immediately relegating a new person entering your life to some peripheral level of friendship or acquiescence before you even get to know them.
Expectation robs you of the magic of what could be. The magic is lost before you give it the chance to become anything, at all.
And I truly believe that your expectations are as much a catalyst of discontent and longing than the circumstances that burden you. Expectations burden you because they rob you of truly experiencing every opportunity as a gift; every face as a piece of the Universe; every silly dance, extra drink, haphazard pickup line and moment of wandering from opening up your world to more than you ever knew was there — readily available, ripe for the picking.
Letting go of expectations means letting go of them. Choosing to not entertain them. And instead, letting the juices of that ripe moment run down your chin — without regret.
These days in Hawaii, meeting amazing new souls before me, I feel these reflections bubble up in the silent pauses between breaths of sharing who I am and what I do and where I’ve been.
I pause in those gaps of conversation and think about how I’ve gotten here. And then I think back to reflect and question how my own expectations in recent years have deceived me, hurt me, let me down — and outright stolen from the joy of a journey I was so desperately longing to live and experience when I was stuck in a rut four years ago.
Some of those expectations were things like…
- Thinking that by showing up, I would win. Showing up is a bare minimum. It’s fundamental, and a base requirement. No one gets a trophy for showing up. It’s just what you invest, commit to, and continually do time after time — just to give yourself any chance of getting where you wish to go.
- Believing “a” break, “a” book, “a” moment would make everything else easier. Think of your favorite author, entrepreneur, celebrity, well-off friend or peer. You think they’ve “made it,” right? And that everything else gets easier and simpler thereafter, right? Wrong. It doesn’t get easier as you go along. It gets more complicated and complex. It gets heavier and headier. It gets tougher because you have more dollars, more eyes, more lives, more responsibility and more fall-out riding on every word, decision, action, effort or launch. Popularity ain’t freedom; it’s enslaving.
We expect for different reasons. Sometimes out of naivete and other times out of ignorance. Sometimes we expect out of hope. Other times we expect as a hollow defense-mechanism — as if a preemptive strike upon the future at the cost of the present.
Expectations are not the wit and logic of a dreaming mind but the fear-bound worrywart of a heart that longs to experience more of life, more love, more faces and places — all that beckon our simple presence, and nothing more.
And what I’ve found is that life, work and play are all the more rewarding when we can pull those distant meandering expectations of tomorrow into a present state that honors everything you hope for “some day” but can feel, taste and touch, presently.
How to detach from expectations
Honestly, I’m preaching from an easy place today. It’s a lot easier to honor your journey “wherever your journey takes you” when you’re somewhere new, beautiful, exciting and invigorating — full of life and new faces, names and chances. “Putting yourself out there” a lot easier when the environment reciprocates at nearly a moment’s notice.
That’s how it was when I lived in New York City last year. That’s how it feels now over the last few weeks here on the Hawaiian isles. Back in Rhodey, over in small-town USA, or being in any location or populace that’s overly comfortable and familiar… it’s usually not the case.
When you don’t have travel or an infusion of “newness” to honor where you are, all you need to do is to shift gears and enter a gentle state of pursuit.
Continually “put yourself out there” in personal efforts or spiritual practices just as you would a new environments. Shake up your routine and break an easy, automated habit — even where you pick up coffee in the morning.
And make the practice an internal one, too.
Instead of listlessly meandering into expectations of what tomorrow ought to be, cut a few hours of time every day to venture into your bliss, today. Instead of wondering whether or not he or she will ever call, kick back, read a book, eat some damn chocolate or watch a few episodes of Seinfeld. For work and creation, let go of how the next book or blog post will be received by readers and friends and spend an extra hour making it special — because of how much you love to say it.
Pursue different ends as limbs grow from a tree.
Concentrate each push outside of yourself as an extension from your core — a piece of you, never bigger than your whole; never so much as to throw you off kilter. Know that a storm will come and break an arm or two — when you least see it coming. Honor your journey by pruning often. Keep upright. Rise ever upward — with your feet rooting more and more deeply into the earth beneath you. Stand. Give shade. Make a home.
All of this is where my journey had taken me. Every ounce of that past is as much a part of me now as it ever was. I honor that with these words I share with you, today.
So honor where you journey takes you, friend.
Detach from what was, without regret. Detach from what might be, so that anything and everything truly can be. Invite opportunities, conversations, collaborations or simple friendships with openness and in a state of light-heated acceptance of everything and everyone.
Instagram Photo: Leaving my mark on the wall of travelers at Seaside Waikiki Hostel. 3/30/13