“There isn’t a way things should be. There’s just what happens, and what we do.” Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett was a best-selling English author who died in 2015 of early-onset Alzheimer’s, so he knew first hand about the futility of thinking that things “should” be a certain way…but it is a lesson that I am still struggling with.
Yesterday’s Valentine’s celebrations, or in our case lack thereof, demonstrated that despite lesson after lesson, I have yet to learn the futility of having unrealistic expectations that my life will somehow mimic a Hallmark commercial.
After 30 years of marriage I know full well that celebrations like Valentine’s Day have never been my husband’s strong suit, and his recent cognitive challenges have only made things harder for him in this regard as for so much else. I also know that, despite the Hallmark commercials and the abundance of Facebook posts and Instagram photos showcasing Valentines celebrations, there isn’t a way Valentines “should be” and that sometimes just being together is enough.
I tried hard to remember all of this yesterday, and to focus on all of the good things in my life and my marriage, but I couldn’t shake a nagging feeling of disappointment, resentment, and sadness that the holiday didn’t live up to my hopes and expectations. It is true that there were things that Don did, and didn’t do, regarding the holiday that I was rightly sad about, but it is also true that how I reacted that colored what could have been a nice, low-key, day of togetherness even if there weren’t hearts and flowers and Hallmark cards.
It feels as if over the past couple of years the universe has been trying to teach me what Terry Pratchett said so clearly. I know that if I don’t learn to give up my expectations of how things “should” be, the coming years will be so much harder than they need to be, and yet I stumble time and time again. Yesterday was no exception.
The process is painful, but each time this happens it feels as if there is another crack in the hard shell of my expectations, opening me to greater acceptance of the reality of whatever situation I am in and a more compassionate, grounded, and accepting response.