(Not) Exceeding Expectations

“It is our choices that show what we truly are far more than our abilities.” – Professor Dumbledore

The Harry Potter novels are full of wisdom and life lessons, usually found in the words of Albus Dumbledore. There is meaning in most everything in the novels, and many people, myself included, have examined these meanings and written about the themes present throughout the series. All my best learning seems to come from Harry Potter.

Perhaps that is why my favorite podcast has become Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. Although this podcast has been around for over a year, I have just started listening, and I started from the bottom (Book 1, Chapter 1). But one session in particular made an impact on me: “Expectations: The Journey from Platform 9 3/4.”

The quote the session began with is what hit me hard and got me thinking (and crying) in my car: “Expectations are resentments under construction” – Anne Lamott

And it really got me thinking about the expectations I have had in my (short) life.

I was told that I sometimes make people feel like they’re just part of some plan I have in life. That hurt to hear, but then I realized that maybe there is truth in that.

I romanticize just about everything. (Not necessarily intentionally, and not necessarily consciously either.) In my Creative Writing course in college, my instructor told me he loved my story concept, and that I should keep writing it, but that I may have to end it in a way I hadn’t anticipated: with an unhappy ending. I gave up the story immediately because I love happy endings. I couldn’t put my character through the struggle I knew I would have to write because I wouldn’t want to go through it. I had an expectation going into writing that could not be met as I developed the character and the story. So I got upset and never wrote another word on it. Because I knew there was no way the ending could turn out any other way.

Choices show what we are, so what does this choice say about me? That I wasn’t ready to face the expectations I knew couldn’t be met.

I create these expectations of situations and people around me that no one can ever live up to. When those expectations aren’t met, I can become frustrated and angry, which only hurts the other person, me, and whatever relationship was there. It creates resentment because I just think “how could this expectation not have been met? was it that difficult?” And, of course, all that does is grow into a tumor of resentment in the back of my head.

I always thought growing up meant making all these plans and packing up ideas in a box with a neat little bow on top and presenting it, saying, “here’s the solution!” That’s what I expected from everything in life: school, marriage, a career. And that tumor would just continue to grow. But I’ve recently realized that isn’t the case.

If I learned just one thing in the seven years I was participating in higher education (and the one year I’ve been out), it is this: college is not reality. Do not base your expectations for life on what you experienced in college. Because in school, everything is packaged neatly: you have specific classes you need to take (with a few of your own choices scattered here and there), you have deadlines for assignments and exams, there are office hours with professors, you have a plan to lead you to graduation… That is all well and good, but life does not mirror that one bit.

I thought having these types of expectations for a person showed I cared, but, in reality, they breed resentment (remember the aforementioned tumor?).

Why?

Because no one can live up to romanticized expectations that sound like they’re out of a storybook, and life isn’t “once upon a time…”

When someone doesn’t meet those expectations and I become upset, it makes it seem as if I am trying to change that person or fixing something to be the way I want it to be, even if that was not my intention. It makes them feel as if they are just a cog in my machine of a plan of life and not the player or partner in it they should be.

My mom has often give me this little nugget of advice: don’t expect someone to do something (or act in the same way) you would because they are not you. Even if they began as good-natured expectations, those types of expectations will always breed resentment. Because you are expecting someone to act in a way that may not be in their nature. It leads to implications that their nature, who they are, is an inconvenience to you.

I have heard that a few times: that because I had the expectation of a plan, I was making the other person feel like an inconvenience. So these expectations can not only make us resent others, but they can also make others resent us.

Since hearing this perspective-altering quote, I have decided to adjust my perspective, to change my expectations. Sometimes, it’s best not to have any.

If choices show what we truly are, what does this choice say about me? I hope it says I am willing to recognize my faults and weaknesses and make things right when needed.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll go back to writing that story…

Finding Fulfillment

Finding fulfillment. It’s something we all struggle with at one point or another, some earlier than others. It’s something I have struggled a lot with in the past few months and something I have come to realize can mean many different things to many different people.

I grew up in an environment that told me to always pursue my dreams and to never allow being female to get in the way. I watched my mom progress through her career in a male-dominated industry and thought “That’s what a career is. That’s fulfillment.” While I admired her, and I still do, I’ve learned that as much as her and I are alike, we are also vastly different.

I’ve been in school (basically) my entire life. As a fresh M.A. graduate, a foray into the “real world” seemed like a breath of fresh air—much needed, scary, yet necessary. It took months to even get interviews, and more months to get any offers. I knew I wouldn’t find “the dream job” immediately after graduation, but I thought that finding “the perfect job” would give me the fulfillment I had been missing as I stayed home without a single paper to write—and the money to do my part for my household. I had felt useless and hopeless for months, and I was looking for a way out of that feeling. I thought a job would provide me that.

I was wrong.

As it turns out, and as I’ve found as I’ve been reflecting the past few days, a career does not fulfillment make. (I don’t even know if that makes sense, but you get the gist.) So what creates fulfillment? That’s harder to answer than it seems. Why? Because it’s entirely up to you.

I’ve realized that what fulfills me is my faith and my marriage. This does not mean I do not desire to work, because I do. It also does not mean I rely on my husband as the source of my happiness, as my “end-all-be-all.” What it means, for me, is that is where I find my happiest moments and memories, my joy, and my comfort.

I am all too familiar with the feelings of guilt or being less than because of this mentality. I am also familiar with the feeling of the need to fit in with those around you. But fitting in in this world should not be my concern. Instead, I should be concerned with my heart, if I am doing what I am called to do.

I’ve realized lately that perhaps I am not.

I think I felt I needed to be my mom to make my family happy. Maybe that’s the mentality of an only child—needing to please. Whatever the psychology behind it, I’ve learned that’s not the case. I need to be me. And that means finding fulfillment however I find it, not my mom.

I’ve made mistakes to get to this realization. I’ve made decisions that were not right, that were made out of fear, before coming to this realization. But the important part is that I got there.

My goal is to go back to what truly fulfills me and stop trying to fill a hole with something that won’t fill it.

I guess my message through all of this is: find your fulfillment. Whatever it is, whatever it means to you. Do not be afraid to find that your fulfillment does not match how others’ may define it. Do not be afraid to find yourself. Do not be afraid to admit when you have done wrong, but also do not be afraid to make amends. Find what makes your heart happy, because your life will be all the less cheerful if you don’t.

In the Eye of the Storm

Right now, my life is chaos. I definitely feel I am in the eye of the storm I would inevitably go through.

That being said, I need to take a hiatus from writing in my blog for a while. I think it will be healthier for me. I’ll also be taking a break from social media.

I am praying God leads us through and that He shows me how to survive this battle. I rely on His strength, because right now I have none. As always, I will rely on Him, because He is the only one who can provide unfathomable peace during stormy weather.

Thank you to all of you who have read this blog. Writing is so therapeutic for me, and I never thought anyone would read what I have to say. But I have been pleasantly surprised. Thank you for interacting. I hope you have found a friend here.

So this is goodbye for right now. Because this storm is taking all my energy.

Reference Points

Whew! The past two weeks have been two of the most exciting, emotional, and revealing weeks I have experienced so far in my short 25 years. I say “so far” because my reference points are different, and they’re expanding and changing every day, every week, every year of my life.

So, let’s see. On Monday, January 23 my mom and I piled in my little car, with 2 cats and a dog, and drove 2 days to get from Arizona to Maryland. At 9 in the morning, I hugged and kissed my amazing husband goodbye, as tears fell down my cheeks, while my husband nodded to respond to my question: “You promise we will see each other?”

For 4 days, I unpacked, got the animals comfortable, and dealt with my own emotional repercussions. I worried, I cried, and my reference points changed again.

I had not experienced such emotional discontentment since my husband went to basic training in 2015. And there were no texts or phone calls then.

This past Monday, I started my new job. And I was, and am, so excited about it all. Yes, it’s still new and shiny, and I am young. But this is the industry I was raised in, this is the industry I fought for years to not be a part of, and this is the industry I ended up desiring to be a part of. This is my first “big girl job,” and I am really looking forward to how I grow and how my reference points change.

And they already have. Living with my mom, I commute an hour and 10 minutes each way (and in the DC metro area, it’s usually more like an hour and a half to get “home”). Even though I may not be doing lots of physical activity, I have never been more exhausted when I get home. And I’ve realized how my husband feels. While he doesn’t have the same type of commute, he does work all day. When I wasn’t working, I would want nothing more than to go to something when he got home at 5, or even do something on weekends, and I would get so frustrated when all he wanted to do was sit.

But now I understand. My reference point has changed.

And I told him so. I texted him yesterday to say I was sorry for the way I had acted and treated him when he was working and that I understand now.

Throughout this process, I have felt as if God wanted us to learn something. I am beginning to see what could possibly be the first lesson: reference points.

I can get very needy and clingy when I am not busy. Of course, my husband becomes the object of this neediness. But because I didn’t have the reference points, I couldn’t understand how he was feeling or why he would get frustrated when I would get this way. Now I do. Because now I, too, am tired when I get home from work.

Like I said, I feel like God is trying to teach us (and me) something here. I think He is trying to teach me that I need to learn to relate to my husband on this different level. I think He is trying to show me that my reference points will change as I continue through this life, and that those reference points are going to be what help me relate to my husband as we both find our careers.

I think these reference points are also going to help us connect with each other. When we experience similar things, those reference points become similar, and it makes it easier to be on the same level when we discuss careers, moving, or anything that comes in this life.

The change in my reference points has already made an impact on me. It has changed the way I talk to my husband, it has changed the way I think about our life together, and it has changed the way I view our careers. We don’t have reference points for what life will be like in 10 years, or even for what it will be like in one year. But we have reference points for what we are going through now, and those can be our guide as we continue to navigate our current situation, our careers, and our marriage.

I still think God is teaching us something. And if I can already feel the first lesson, I know the next lessons will be tough. But I also know that I have a husband who is strong, supportive, and loves me no matter what; and I love my husband more than anything. Those are my reference points.

My kids have four legs and fur

Our little guy is home! He is sore and tired, and he will be on antibiotics for a bit, but we are so happy he is home. We are confident he will make a full recovery. The other cat, my cat, on the other hand is quite displeased she is no longer Queen Bee. I’m sure she’ll get over herself soon enough, though.

But as I’ve been freaking out over our cat’s health and bladder problems, I started thinking how awkward I am. Maybe. Maybe awkward isn’t the right word. Out of place? Weird? Anyway. I started thinking: I have friends that are my age or a bit older than myself who are happily married and pregnant and about ready to have said small human. Then there’s me, over here crying about our cat’s emergency and how he cost us $1000. Crazy cat lady.

But our cats are our kids right now (and I’m trying to get us to get a puppy at some point!). Sure, someday we will have real (aka: human) children, but that won’t be for at least 5 years. We aren’t ready yet. And we plan things. And we have things we want to do, start, and finish before kids come along. And that’s okay. We have things between us we need to sort out first. Plus, it’s a lot easier to move with two cats, and I’m not quite ready to settle down entirely yet.

Pets are family, too.

Kitty Update

Today I took a few minutes to visit our kitty, Raptor, in the hospital. He has a catheter in, but he perked right up and wanted love when I came over to his kennel. The nurse said that, even though he is tired, this was definitely a good thing. Here’s the little boy:

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He doesn’t like the food the vet is feeding him, dry or wet. He only likes Fancy Feast wet food. The vet has approved me to bring by his regular food later this evening. He would only eat the dry food in his kennel if I held a few kibbles at a time, he got to lick it, and then I dropped it in his kennel. In other words, he is a picky kitty, but I suppose that is from us spoiling him.

Here he is enjoying the attention (a bit sleepily):

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They let me take his cone off because I was there with him and I could keep an eye on him. Raptor never once tried to lick at his catheter, so I was really proud of him.

The vet called me after I left to tell me that he is doing very well and they will take out the catheter tomorrow afternoon and see if he can urinate all on his own. She also said he has been a fantastic patient, and that if the excellent recovery continues and he doesn’t re-block, he can come home Wednesday!

It’s also snowing today, and Raptor loves the snow. I wish he were home so I could take him outside and let him roll around like he loves to do.

So, I am still praying for our little baby, but I have a feeling the worst is over. He is a young, healthy cat. I think he is just picky about litter.

Please keep him in your prayers with me. I know God works in marvelous ways, and I have faith He will be with us even for a cat health crisis.

Thank you for the positive thoughts and support, and goodbye for now from me and Raptor.

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One of my worst nightmares…

Today, on our return home from church, we found one sick kitty—our youngest, male cat, who is about 4. I called the vet to see their opinion, and they told us to bring him in.

It’s a good thing we did.

He has a blockage, which means he has been unable to pee. The said his swollen little bladder is smaller than others she has seen, but this is classified as an emergency. He is currently under anesthesia undergoing surgery (insertion of a urinary catheter) and tests. She also told us, when I asked, his odds of survival from this first round look to be in his favor since he is otherwise healthy.

However, if he cannot get unblocked after this, then we do it again.

I am hopeful that because he is young and active, and just picky about the texture of his litter, that we will only go through one round of this.

Regardless, I ask for your prayers. I know that this is a cat, but our cats are our children, and we love them very much. They are a big part of our family. So, please, set aside judgment of me in this request.

I have been crying for the past hour, and, even though my husband isn’t crying, I know he is upset too.

I am praying for a full and quick recovery for our little baby. If God can heal humans, surely He can heal cats too.

Be Thankful

When life gets tough, it can be difficult to find reasons to be thankful. But here’s the thing: life is rarely easy. That just means that sometimes we have to be conscious of what we are thankful for and repeat that to ourselves as a mantra, especially when we are feeling let down. So, in light of that and in honor of Thanksgiving, I want to share a few things I am very thankful for.

The first is a thing and a person: my husband and the relationship I have with him. Things around here have not been easy since he joined the National Guard. There can be a lot of frustration, confusion, and worry. And sometimes I feel like he is the one making a difference and doing something meaningful while I am stuck with another year of school. While the decision is a hard one to get over and learn to live with, it has made us take new steps in our marriage. My husband constantly reminds me that I do make a difference when I teach and that I will make a difference in the future. I just need my master’s to do it. Instead of giving up on us and just deciding I overreacted to his decision to join the Guard, he encouraged us to find someone to speak with. I am thankful that he works so hard to provide for us so I can continue my education and not have to pick up a second job. I am thankful for his kiss goodbye in the morning when he heads to work and his kiss hello when he comes home. I am thankful for his comforting embrace when I am stressed or just having a rough day with school. I am thankful for his encouragement and devotion. He challenges me to think harder and be better every day. I am thankful God allowed me to find him so early in life, allowing me to spend that much more of my life with him.

The second reason I am thankful is for such wonderful parents. Being an only child, I am a little spoiled, but they have worked so hard to provide for me, and they still help my husband and I now. They love my husband and never once doubted my feelings for him when we were dating; they knew it was only a matter of time before I would marry him. They supported me through a move out of state to college, when I changed my degree, when I got married, when I got accepted to graduate school. They have always supported my dreams and have encouraged me to go where God leads me and to listen to His plan for me. They let me know to take deep breaths when I feel like everything is caving in around me. They always let me know they love me and will always be there for me in everything they say and do.

Third, I am thankful for my Nana. My Nana, my mom’s mom, helped raise me, and I am forever grateful for the wisdom (and wonderful recipes) she has imparted to me over my 24 years. I know she loves me because, even though her and I butt heads sometimes, she is honest with me. Even in our spats, I know she loves me. Because if she didn’t, I don’t think we would have the same fights. I am blessed to have helped her mold me. She has also encouraged my husband and I on our journey, and I know she loves him, which means a lot to me. She took him in as her grandson-in-law (as she calls him), and spoils him like she always has spoiled me. She is a wonderful woman.

I am thankful for my close extended family for leading me to Christ. Without the trip to Passion, I don’t think I would ever be where I am or have gotten through my husband’s decision to join the Guard.

I am thankful to my extended family in general for raising two amazing people who turned out to be two amazing parents. You laid the foundation for my parents to raise me and have impacted me greatly.

I am thankful for my friends, old and new, for being people I can trust and be honest with. You have all showed me such different views and have given me so much to take in. I am so thankful that we can have the conversations we do and that I do not have to worry about being judged for who I am or what I believe.

More simply, I am thankful for my job because it means I have a paycheck. I am thankful for my instructors and my program because it means I have the ability to learn, improve, and change my world. I am thankful for having to clean our apartment because it means I have a place to call home. I am thankful for a church that challenges not only me but also my husband in our faith and encourages us to act.

I am thankful for so many things in my life, and these are just a few of them. Sometimes those simple things, like cleaning the apartment, are hard to be thankful for, but they always mean something. I encourage you to look for the deeper meaning in everything and see that God has given you so many wonderful opportunities to be thankful and so many things and people to be thankful for. The next time you are having a difficult day, write down one or two things you feel thankful for that day and see how it makes you feel. I bet it will improve your mood and perspective.

So, what are you thankful for?

Moms and Best Friends

When I was younger, junior high and high school, my mom would tell me, “I am your mother, not your friend.” This usually came up when I was doing something slightly rebellious. I was not the typical rebellious teenager. I didn’t sneak out except to quietly open the door to meet my friend…and do a late night Taco Bell run. In fact, there was one time she was leaving for an evening for work, she told me I could have friends over, but I was not to get into the liquor cabinet. I seriously looked at her, confused, and said, “we have a liquor cabinet?” She laughed and said, “I am a lucky mom.” So, I think the few times I heard this phrase were when I wanted to live with my dad (she thought it was because I thought the rules were looser, but that wasn’t the reason) and when I tried to wear something, let’s just say, a little older than I was to school (I swiftly changed).

Over the last few years, though, I have noticed something. I have noticed it especially since I have been married. Now that I am out of the house and on my own (well, for the most part), she is more of my best friend.

Don’t get me wrong. She is still mom. When there are weeks (even days) like this, where my husband is gone, and I have to go somewhere, she still wants to know I make it home safe. She still helps us, especially financially. There are times, even when my husband is home, I just want “mommy.” And I will never call her by her first name unless I’m introducing her as not my mother (like to my classes) or if I’ve said “mom” three times in the store and she still didn’t hear me.

Now, though, I call her for advice—from work to personal things. When my husband and I fight (let’s admit it; all married people fight), I typically call or text mom to vent and/or ask for advice. I vent to her about work sometimes and ask what I should do in a particular situation.

But that can be typical mom stuff, right? Well, I also send her memes and funny pictures. We send each other stuff on Pinterest. We talk about what sort of vacations we need to take. She texted me and said we had to go back to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter so we could ride the Gringotts ride (it was broken when we were there). We are Facebook friends. She even reads my blog occasionally (hi mom!).

When she visits, she takes me grocery shopping. But we also go clothes shopping together. She gives great advice on appropriate work and fun attire. She has helped me to feel more comfortable about who I am in various types of clothes.

We had a stage where we didn’t get along well. And now, I can’t even really remember why. But over the last, at least, five years, we have grown a lot closer.

She is passionate, she is loving, she is hard-working, she is motivating, she is resilient. She is also frustrating, too Type A at times, sometimes forgetful. She is a lot of things. But I got all the best parts of her.

She is still, and always will be, mommy. But now she is also my best friend.

Killing My Own Spiders

My husband has left for his two week long training. Yes, I miss him already. Yes, it’s been weird to be on my own all day again. And I have realized that two weeks is going to be easier than the three months we were separated, but that it is still different than the three days he is gone for drill every month. It is somewhere in between I think. But do you know what might be the worst part about being on my own?

Killing my own spiders.

Yes. I despise spiders. I’m afraid of them.

I was laying on the floor reading the letters I got from my husband while he was at basic training and reminding myself of some Bible verses when I saw our playful male cat trying to play with my husband’s sneaker that was in the middle of the floor. I thought he was just playing with the shoelaces, but then he moved the shoe, and…out crawled a big black spider!

To me, this spider was huge. Especially because my face was inches from the floor! But it just stayed there. It was almost like it was staring at the cat and me.

I emitted a small squeak and groan and crushed it with a piece of paper I had.

See, when my husband is home, I squeal, and his instant reaction is to look at me and say, “where is it?” Because he knows. I don’t do bugs, but I especially don’t do spiders. They just look terrifying. He actually joked the other day about it, asking me, “do you think it’s going to just jump on you?” Yes, yes I do.

So he kills them while I stand back and tell him thank you.

But on my own, I have to kill the spiders I’d otherwise call him in for. I hope I don’t encounter anymore the next few weeks.