Lowered Expectations

When the leader takes us out for kayak paddles under the full moon, she can’t promise us anything. She can’t promise the moon will shine, even. She just knows it’s the full moon, and she takes out a group of women to paddle and see what happens.

Here’s what happens: Sometimes we watch the sun set. Then we turn and realize that, while we were doing that, the moon rose over the trees and is shining down on us. We’ve seen a blue heron glide over the lake. While watching in awe, we saw a stream of urine pour out of it. (So much water comes out of that one bird, by the way.) As we gathered in a dark inlet, we heard a barred owl. One of the kayakers talked to it, and they talked back and forth until they woke up a screech owl, who joined in. As we left the inlet, owls on the woods on either side called to one another, above our heads. After moments like that, we glide around in the dark, under the moon, finding one another, losing one another, until we paddle back.

The leader can’t promise that any of this will happen, but she knows it can happen. She is open to making it happen. And so long as I make room in my schedule and get into the kayak before the sun sets, I can be privy to it.

This, I think, is the key. Happiness is out there. Joy and beauty are out there. I can’t strive for them, or expect them, or think I deserve them. I can’t be disappointed if they don’t come. I can only put myself in a position to be open to receive them when they do. I must lower my expectations and open myself to the possibility of them happening, or not. Being open takes practice. Being open is practice.

I’ve been practicing at home. Since the kids have gone back to school, cooking has been a way to keep me grounded. I buy my goods at the farmers market and distribute the nutrition across the week. I feel good knowing that they are filled with good food. They ask for so many warm drinks, and I come through with hot cider, herbal teas, spiced teas, hot chocolate. I put ginger and garlic and cinnamon and cloves in their meals, drinks, and desserts. I am fortifying them, hoping they will feel safe and warm. I don’t mind if they don’t love my dinners. So long as they try a few bites and don’t complain, I can take it. If one of them is unexpectedly delighted by a cabbage dish or something, I am pleasantly surprised. It’s all laid back. But one day last week, daughter got downright pissy about a dish I’d been creative about. I was surprised by my impatience for it. She complained about it before we left for horse riding. She was complaining when we returned, so I didn’t even try to serve the sweet potato under the stew of chickpeas in coconut milk. I gave the grumpy girl the bowl of chickpeas in coconut milk and the sick, lonely boy a cup of tea, and I retreated upstairs. Hours later, she was still mad at me, because I didn’t give her a cup of tea.

These cups of tea mean a lot to my kids. They fill their bellies, they keep them warm. I think the tea makes them feel safe. My denial of tea to her was a denial of care. I didn’t mean to send her that message. I was only so disappointed by her complaining about the Dinner I’d Worked So Hard On that I was done serving people. I shouldn’t have gotten my expectations up about the dinner. If she didn’t like it, fine. If she was being rude, I should have called her out on it, but I didn’t need to make her mood affect my mood about household labor.

I kept that cooked, unused sweet potato in the fridge and turned it into sweet potato biscuits over the weekend.

Chop wood, carry water. Brew the tea. Pack the lunch. Float on the lake.

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