Oh, the burden of expectations

22

By Betty Slade

When the woman of the house is sick, what happens? Nothing. Dust appears alongside muddy paw prints. Am I the only one who notices that the house is begging to be cleaned?

The doctor gave me a choice, “You can live with ‘this’ or have surgery. Now or later, something will have to be done.”

I surprised myself at just how much I was grabbing at a table or chair to pass through a room. I was struggling to walk, which you could tell by the grinding of my teeth. I had become complacent with my health and now had to deal with the consequences. 

One of our daughters picked me up the afternoon after my surgery. I didn’t feel horrible, but told her, “I’m going to milk this sick thing for everything its worth. It’s time I get pampered.”

She said, “OK, but for now, just take your pain pills. Just not before a Zoom call because you get loopy.”

Thank you, I think. Don’t say anything stupid. But be loopy if you feel like it. 

I had to have a double hernia repaired and was sent home with very clear instructions: “Nothing over 15 pounds.”

You have any idea how many things around you are at least 15 pounds push, pull, lift or otherwise?

I told my Sweet Al that he would have to wait on himself for a few weeks while I recovered. His response, as heartfelt as it was, made me laugh.

“I don’t need anything. I can take care of myself. But, if you don’t mind, I’d be happy with two slices of toast and a couple of eggs for breakfast in the morning.”

“Al, did you hear me? Did you hear yourself?”

“If you don’t want to do it, I’ll do it myself. Besides, you said nothing over 15 pounds. How much does an egg weigh?”

His logic can be ill-timed. Life’s logic can be ill-timed. Our son was born just a few days before Christmas. We had several friends and family come for a visit. After an overnight stay in the hospital, I was off to the grocery store to pick up everything we would need for the next several days. 

Christmas day came and there I was, making a full meal with all of the trimmings. I still remember how I felt that day. Everyone was laughing and having a good time, and I was in the kitchen just days after having a baby. 

Thankfully, I bounced back after those days, especially when I think about how I often found myself: reeling from life while picking up all of the pieces as I provide for those around me. 

Today, I’m not bouncing back so fast. But, it seems like all of life’s expectations are still there, waiting to be cared for. There are still meals to prepare and a house to pick up, even if I’ve been instructed not to lift even a Crock Pot or mop bucket. 

I’m not sure why we put certain expectations on ourselves or allow others to. Maybe we feel we need to meet a certain standard of productivity and please others while we are at it. Knowing what I can do for my husband or family brings its own level of pride. I like knowing they think I can stand up to the universe, even if we all know I would paint it purple and mess up all natural order. 

Years ago, someone said to me, “It’s freeing to be unimportant.” That was a foreign concept at the time. I thought everyone wanted to be important. What I have learned since is that being important often comes with a burden of expectation that may not be so “freeing.” 

I’m thankful that my husband and children still need me, even if their timing is off or they poke fun at me in the moment. It could be the gentle nudge I need to help keep my head in the game. Through thick and thin.

Final brushstroke: Burdens of expectations can be a part of healing if seen in the right light. After all, life happens. And, it will either defeat us or cause us to find strength we may not know we have. One thing is for certain: If we sit around and grow too comfortable with life, it has a way of sidelining us. That is, unless we have people around us who insist on keeping us on our feet. 

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