By Joyce Alexander, RNP (retired)
I don’t normally by lotto tickets because the odds of winning are so powerfully against winning. Yes, I know “someone eventually wins,” and “if you don’t buy a ticket you don’t have any chance of winning.”
When the payout on the recent Powerball got so high though—a half-billion dollars—like lots of folks I decided “why not?” I bought a $3 ticket and let the computer pick the numbers for me.
The odds of being attacked by a shark are 1 in 11,000. The odds of being the lotto winner are about 175 million to one.
On the way home, my son and I fantasized about what we would do if we won the half-billion dollar payout. We decided we would take it in one lump sum rather than a yearly payout. Two days later, when we had the drawing on television, we got out our ticket and compared the numbers to the Powerball numbers, and of course, we did not win! We were mildly disappointed, but we were not crushed by losing. We expected to lose. The odds against us were just too high, so that we didn’t expect to win.
Expectations for my son
I think many times in life our expectations are what cause us problems. Expectations, versus reality not measuring up to the expectations, cause us grief many, many times. I can think of several times when my expectations were very high for something to happen, and when it did not happen, I was crushed, because I expected it to happen.
Back when my son Patrick first started his criminal career, I could “see down the road,” even without the benefit of a crystal ball, that if he did not stop the way he was headed, he would wind up with a criminal conviction. That would totally demolish my expectations for him of a college education and a successful professional career. From the time Patrick was a little kid in all the gifted and talented classes at school, I expected that he would be a “big success” in life. His IQ was in the top half of the 99th percentile. My little darling was a genius and could have done anything he wanted to successfully.
As I saw my expectations for his life slipping away, I still held on to what I now call “malignant hope:” The hope that somehow, some way, I could find just the right words to say to him, to get him to “see the light” and to “change” his behavior. I couldn’t let go of my own expectations for his success.
Obviously he did not share my expectations, and in fact, fought tooth and nail against anything I wanted him to do … study in school, quit stealing, quit running the streets at night.
Other times I have had other expectations that did not come to pass. I had a job that I dearly loved and would never have voluntarily quit. But it was down sized to part time and that forced me to quit in order to obtain health benefits for both myself and my husband with another job. I was devastated because I had expected that I would stay at that job until I retired at 65 or 66.
As it turned out, though, it was a godsend, because shortly after I left the job I loved and took a “weekend option” job that I really didn’t like, but it was only two days a week (Saturday and Sunday) and full benefits, my beloved stepfather was diagnosed with cancer. My part-time job allowed me to be with him throughout his treatments and his subsequent death 18 months later. That was time I was able to spend with him, and ended up being some of the best months that he and I spent together. Quality time. I am grateful.
I also lost my husband about a year after I took the weekend option job, and so I was able to spend more time with him before his death as well. For that I am grateful. At the time I lost the job though, when my expectations of being at that job I loved were quashed, I was devastated. Before long I was actually glad that my expectations were not met.
Expectations and pain
As for my expectations that my son Patrick attend college and become successful at whatever job or career he chose, I finally realized that he had been successful at the career path he had chosen. Not the path I would have chosen for him, but the one he chose for himself.
I don’t consider a criminal who gets caught a high percentage of the time and goes to prison a “successful” career. But for some reason that I am unable to fathom, Patrick considers himself a success. I guess if I could have a bumper sticker it would say, “My son is an honor student in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.”
When we expect someone else to change to meet our desires, when we expect them to quit doing what they are doing that hurts us, themselves or others, our expectations are what cause us pain. We must learn to quit expecting things to happen that are not going to happen. It doesn’t matter if it is winning a lotto drawing against all odds, or if it is that the person we love will “see the light” and quit behaving in a dysfunctional manner. We must accept reality, and expect what is likely to happen.
I used to have a sign in my office; I wish I still had it. It said, “I feel so much better since I gave up hope.” I didn’t know at the time just how right that sign was.
Since I gave up hope that my son would change, I no longer have unmet expectations. I no longer hold on to that malignant, cancerous hope that ate at my every thought during every waking hour. I accept the fact that he is not going to change.
I may buy another lotto ticket some time, but I won’t expect to win. If I lose, I will not be crushed by the losing because I am going to keep my expectations real.