The Hemlock Cup of Expectations



A contract mentally written in the ink of the beliefs, suppositions or conjectures harboured by a person, the premise of which is crafted from the intuitive dispositions and life experiences of the individual. A strong projection that may be directed at oneself or another, enrolled across the spectrum of appearing just and fair. It is dependent on perception and attribution. It may be bane, boundary or beneficence.

It’s important to meet people where they are, not where we want them to be. There is a tendency, in many, to re-characterize people’s experiences without being asked. You tell them you are feeling badly, they tell you all the reasons you should feel good. You tell them you are challenged by your circumstances, they tell you what they think you can do to make things easier. You tell them that you have a plan to do something, they offer up another plan for you. There is a place for these offerings – particularly when requested – but often times they just make things worse. In fact, we are more likely to arrive at the next best place on our journeys when someone actually attunes to where we are at, without making any effort to improve upon or re-frame it. We don’t need to be saved- we need to be seen. That’s the healing, right there. I hear you, I see you, I honor your choices, goes a long, long way…

Jeff Brown

I was in an autumn of my life…

… a life in the colour of a shifted season. A season regaled by the blur of falling leaves, and the stolen crowns of tree groves… all thrown stark against the depth of an endless bitter blue.

And after a gruelling day that had shaken any attempts at better analogies, I found myself behind the wheel of my car… sparking life to the engine with a slight of hand. The silence was louder than that familiar hum, and my limbs conjured forth its last bit of energy to nimbly bat the gear shift in a familiar fashion within its socket. With idle mind, and eyes that had lost their summer, muscle memory brought me to the threshold of my own front door… eventually.

I knew back then, that I was committing the greatest injustice that a wallflower could upon themself. I was disappearing so far back into that wall, that I merely became woven into the pattern and the backdrop of a story I never thought I would be part of. I was not tangibly blooming where my beauty would be noticed. But blossoms know they fare poorly against the chill… and when their lives are in another season, they know they need to withdraw. Close the bud.

But I remember sitting there, burdened with a lethargy that weighed me heavily into the fabric of my seat. I knew my mind was an arid landscape unable to bear any frugal thought. And God, my eyes… Those eyes that I had allowed so few people to really look into; those eyes that held such magic in reserve to be cast on the new memories that I thought I would make; those eyes that had counted stars and stirred the cosmos because my dreams weaved between constellations …

… those eyes that were now dying celestial bodies. The magic in those eyes was all but gone now. But no one had yet seen. How could I allow it? And in that space of grey oblivion, that scene that felt devoid of colour, there was some reckoning of peace. It was unfathomable; but, it was real. And there was nothing but that moment – that moment when expectations lose their power.

I never allowed that specific autumn to become a winter. My emotions had fallen like a myriad of leaves, each colour distinct and yet… so indifferent… from the others. Yet, those colours were the soft and warm hues of the last drop of afternoon sun. There was still light. The chill never really did set in. Not wholly…

Because I did not expect of myself to allow that to happen…

As a wallflower, the power of experience is bound to the intensity of the emotions it affords us. Without it, the true value is lost upon us. So what we expect are emotions that throw us into the void of ignorance, only to spew us out with blossoming philosophies to reshape worlds – inner worlds – of which we are master architects. But to allow such beauty, we cannot permit ourselves to be lost among the nuances of such feelings for too long. So we draw boundaries, we set limits, and we create clear expectations of ourselves. But are often lost as to the words with which to describe them. But expectations are not merely an inner construction. They are held by other people.

When he fell out of love (because only that emotion ever truly births the stars in our eyes, or dim them in its absence) my autumn set in. And the very boles of my values were shaken by the cosmic affront…

So yes… This is about a man…

Why was this? Well, it was another expectation. But this expectation looked different. It took the guise of a belief… a belief that love was this altruistic striving, this incorruptible dream. This feeling that once found, it could clear the endless uncertainty that we so desperately seek to shed through our lives. So, imagine if that expectation were to be broken….

It did break. For me it fragmented into countless shards, which imploded and scattered across the ethereal planes of every hope and fear I ever held on the feeling. This was all, a game of expectations…

Let me allow you another look at the nature of Jeff’s words shared at the start. What he was saying, in essence, is that our frame of perception conveys an expectation that is impressed upon another – one which is often unwelcome. When our views are shared at the right time, such opinions/statements/beliefs may plant the right seed that can be fostered into meaningful growth. But when this view is shared in an untimely way, incongruent with the person’s readiness and orientation to life, then we are being unfair. And we may be preventing the growth of another.

Let’s root out the word once more: expectations. It may be a beneficial driving force when one regards it as a belief on the coveted outcome of a directed effort. It may be a boundary to protect against the undesired behaviour of another. Or, it may be a bane when muddled with a lack of clarity, communication, honesty and even… insecurity. Expectations are the building blocks to the many forts that represent our relationships. It may build, strenghen, maintain; yet, it may also weaken, or destroy. It is a double edged blade that requires a master swordsman. And it is near impossible to handle in the face of the beast of unpredictability, such as love. But darling, that certainly never doomed us from trying.

We tried. Me and him. But he did not share his expectations. The ones he really had. So he set others; ones that did not attune to the person I was. And ones that lamely substituted those he should have made known. He could not set the right kind of expectations. And so, in response, neither could I. Because I did not even know what to expect from myself. We were lost amid the vicious cycle of overcomplicated caveats and unjust assumptions. It was all based on reaction and impulse. It made the rosebed of romance thorny with the lack of half-grown honesty it was being nurtured with.

The line was drawn. I needed to communicate more, and with the necessary thrift and immediacy when I was presented with a conflict. I needed to pluck myself from my garden of inner thoughts, reservations and reflection and plant myself squarely in his line of sight with emotions bare and exposed. I needed to show a greater vulnerability, and harden against his extroverted siege of words that energised his assault. I needed to root myself in firmer, simpler, and clearer beliefs that bound themselves to the normative reality. I needed to catch the breeze that was this false sense of positivity and optimism that agile mind shifts and denial affords one. I needed to feel better now and not when I was ready. I needed to not be in my head so much (because he did not know how to get in). I needed to know myself better, and gain confidence in who I was.

There it was… His contradiction was the clearest sign of a lack of truth… but he could not unring the bell. I was alert. And I knew something else was at play. But with all that warning, I simply found out too late.

But this is not a story about him. Not wholly. This was me, a blossom in the face of adversity. This was about me, trying to redefine the nature of expectations by attempting to create my own.

So we are back at the moment of my silent reprieve from a burdening day. I sat there and I was not thriving. I was flooded first with the freedom permitted by the very lack of expectations that being heartbroken affords you. There was only this feeling first, uncomplicated and yet powerful. It was dealing me a suckerpunch, but there was a hard and needed healing in that surrender. Secondly, the K. I. S. S. principle was wondrously at play. The situation was simple: I was the one that was dumped (lets drop the poetry, because the main premise is the same). I could not save something that he regarded as lost. I could not decide on some of the emotions that I was intended to naturally feel. What I could do, was decide how to react and move forward. What I could do, was take accountability for the thing I could mark with influence: myself. What I could do was expect myself to bloom… again.

But only in the truths to which I felt a resonance to. The harm in his expectations were the fact that they poisoned, instead of having remedied. But his words were being bartered in a golden chalice, instead of a clear crystal cup. And inside was swirling (though perhaps unintended) deceptions. I was being confronted with issues that were not part of the problem. I was being confronted with variations of his truth, informed by his frustrations. He was pushing the whole principle of reality, when he was not sharing the reality of the problem. And he was expecting me to open the doors to my Narnia, and get back to his world riddled with war. Because he could not get in where the magic was. And only later, when fire and brimstone was rained on his toxic extrovert ideal – the moment he pushed me too far – was the moment when the real expectations came a little too late.

And yet, I was perhaps not the scapegoat, but by no means the innocent on trial. The more he was projecting these perceptions of my secluded mind, the more I was drawing a veil over every thought and emotion that fit the crime. Self-fulfilling prophecy or perhaps projected reality…

Our personalities were never compatible. But that truth was hidden behind so many variations of perceptions of the truth (to which I was also contributor), that we were withholding each other from life journeys we had both respected.

I learned key lessons then. One among them was that the ‘quiet revolution’ is not a war we wage by never speaking our mind. It is a display to the power inherent in silence of which the essence is to avoid conflict, not to stir it because we are incapable of accommodating a louder world. We are wallflowers, and thus we must learn enough from our observations to be able to adapt to a degree after all. But in the second place, your personality is not a commodity to be traded in compromise. That expectation is altogether selfish, and cruel, and best countered by assuming a peace with such violence and setting an expectation of a different sort. Darling, these are called boundaries. And you best f*cking defend these with your last breath! Vocal sports is a practiced game and it has its champions. But silence is an inborn talent that knows no equal! (Insert Simon and Garfunkel here, and let us relaunch this debate some time).

My petals took on a different colour after that day. Self-talks are beautiful little gardening tools to repot our roots within a more congruent mindset.

Attunement is a skill the wallflower cultivates and makes part of their daily practice. How? Because we observe; because we reflect; and because we then feel what parts of ourselves need expression. We know what to expect of ourselves, but we cannot always rely that the expectations of another will allign. And this is Jeff’ s concluding remark:

We don’t need to be saved- we need to be seen. That’s the healing, right there. I hear you, I see you, I honor your choices, goes a long, long way…”

So to all those wallflowers out there, or to those that tend to them:

Avoid the self-administered bane that is expectations out of touch with your own fragrance. And then, deny the drink from the hemlock cup filled with the unjust expectations offered by another (avoid offering it to another yourself) . For if your opinions are not being watered for growth, your particular season of spring is being shown dishonour.

Love and Light fellow Bloomers! “I hear you, I see you, I honour you…”

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