The bumpy road of expectations

Expectations. We all have them. We expect the people around us to be kind, sometimes lie to us and stroke our egos. We expect the world to have some sense of fairness and folks to follow the most basic rules of conduct. We expect the opportunity to make a living, to be accepted for who we are. And, somewhere in this “youth culture” milieu, we expect to not change, not see our physical or mental abilities diminish, not have our “privileges” imposed upon.

When reality dope-slaps our expectations, disorientation and disappointment ensue, and depending on the severity of the disappointment, the process of grieving begins.

Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified five stages of grief as related to patients and families coping with terminal illness: Anger. Denial. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. We don’t always follow this in order, and sometimes when we are grieving (and really, isn’t disappointment a minor stage of grief?) we revisit feelings and behaviors we have coursed through already.

This morning, I’m not talking about death and dying. I’m talking about disappointments that come from the subtle but real expectation that we aren’t going to “get old”. Our reaction time will stay the same, our vision won’t really fail, our ability to concentrate won’t become scattered. We will always be able to drive – safely.

Driving. Our steel horses that carry us away to where ever we want to go. Power at our feet and finger tips. Freedom. Our youth culture is built upon it (as is our economy).

Then, one day, that freedom is gone without warning.

A letter from DMV comes in the mail. “It has been brought to our attention that your ability to safely operate a motor vehicle has become impaired…” There is no trial. No jury to convince. No charges filed against anyone. Someone saw you weaving or slowing down abruptly and called in your license plate number and now you have to prove that you are not impaired.

Worse, you might have to admit that you are.

This is a real scenario. Of all the expectations that leave one’s sense of worth and independence shattered on the rocks of despair, losing the driver’s license and the freedom we cherish, is near the top of the list. You can lose a spouse, but still, you can drive yourself to the market, church, the widow’s group. Your health can fail, which makes driving all the more important. When vision fails, well, then, that’s not your fault and people will help – but to accept the idea that you have become addled or incompetent to do this most basic thing – drive a car safely – tears at the independence upon which we have so much pride.

Anticipate this. For your parents. For your auntie, and for yourself. Start the dialog now. “Hey mom, have you ever thought about how you’d get around, or where you’d want to live if you weren’t driving anymore?” It’s a loaded question, but it begs proactive thought. If it makes you uncomfortable, you can always start with, “I was reading this blog today, and an interesting question was posed….” I don’t mind. I’ll be your scapegoat. Know your resources. Know your parents’ thoughts about their future independence. Bette Davis is quoted as saying “aging isn’t for sissies”. I’d add “it’s no time to stick your head in the sand”.

Talk. Plan. Avoid crisis.

Happy Sunday everyone! Call your mother (or dad or auntie)!

Peace and laughter,

“The antidote to disappointment is gratitude”.

(I’m sure someone has said this before me, but I’m saying it this morning! 😉

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