Do you get frustrated and irritated while waiting in a long line that doesn’t seem to move fast enough? Or do you get angry because of slow service in a restaurant? Crazy when you have to sit for hours in a traffic jam or crawl along at two miles per hour for five miles- with no exits? And if there is an exit- everyone else had the same idea and took the same exit so it’s no better, off the interstate highway than on it? I’m sure there are plenty more examples of situations that test you to the limit and cause you to lose your cool.
I was contemplating these circumstances one night as I was trying to sleep. I thought about why we get so out-of-sorts when things hinder us, delay us or force us to wait.
Two words came to mind:
Expectation and Anticipation
We know the definitions of these words; however, I would like to define them in a way that may help with the struggles we face in our day to day routines.
Expectation – the way I think or even demand that something should happen
Anticipation – the realization of how things may and probably will happen
Here’s how it works:
I have to be at work by 7 am
I expect there to be no delays or problems on my drive to work. I wait until twenty minutes before seven to leave because that is exactly how long it takes me to get to work. I certainly don’t want to get there early and have to wait in the break area for any length of time before starting work. Besides, all I have to do is honk, yell, weave and push my way through any slow crazy drivers. I know how to maneuver- unless some idiot pulls in front of me and nearly causes a wreck- And of course, that would be his fault for being so incompetent and discourteous! Never mind the stress and the blood pressure – I expect everything to go exactly the way I plan.
I anticipate delays on the highway because at any time in any place, it is possible. Therefore I leave in plenty of time to avoid at least a one hour delay. Not only will I be less stressed in the slow moving traffic, ever how unpleasant, I will also have some time to contemplate, pray or listen to some good music. And if the delay happens to be two hours, at least I left in plenty of time to have a reasonable excuse for being late. If I get to work one hour early, because there were no hold ups, then I have time to prepare for my day- meditation, prayer, reading, chatting with a coworker- the possibilities are numerous. And my mind, body and soul will be better for it.
Waiting at Walmart (or any other very busy department store)
I expect there to be no lines at the check out. And if there is, the cashier should be fired. I also expect every cash register to be open so that no one has to wait. I don’t have time for this mess. These people are here to serve me. There is no excuse.
I anticipate there is going to be long lines at every open cash register. And I anticipate that only three of the twenty cash registers may be open at any given time because most department stores are under staffed, and those who work there are probably overworked. Or at least that is a plausible explanation. At any rate, I can’t change the situation. I can only work with it. I definitely know not to “run” in to grab something ten minutes before I have to be at an important appointment. Besides if I’m really in a hurry, I won’t to go where everyone else in town is shopping.
I expect my server to be nice, happy, and enthusiastic. I expect my food to be hot and delicious, and for it to arrive on my table within fifteen minutes of my being seated. I expect my tea, or soda or water to be refilled upon reaching 1.5” below the brim of my glass. And if my waiter anticipates a tip- well, I have one for him- get another job!
I anticipate at any restaurant, on any given day, at any given time- there could be problems. As much as I enjoy a good hot meal, delivered within fifteen minutes by a smiling friendly server with no personal situations in her life, I also realize that not every day in every life and every business goes well. I will give a tip to the server, no matter the service, because– it may not be her fault. Now granted, if repeated visits yield the same results, I begin to anticipate poor service and another choice for dining may be more suitable for me. However, if I choose to eat there again, I have no reason to complain. I know what to really expect.
In the examples above, “expectation” represents a “demand” for things to go MY WAY. If my expectations are not satisfied, then I feel justified being angry, frustrated or irritable. It’s stressful and unhealthy. And selfish.
The word “anticipation” carries with it a connotation of enthusiasm. We usually anticipate positive things and look forward to them. I suggest that we can also “look forward” to things going wrong. Yes – enthusiastically planning our days, with leeway for error, mishaps, or actions of others that disrupt our lives. It alleviates stress, and helps us to enjoy life more. What can go wrong- might go wrong! Be ready.
My mom had a little plaque that hung above our kitchen sink when I was young. It read:
Hope for the best, get ready for the worst, and take what God sends.
We may not always be successful at this. Tempers flare, and stress builds, and we lose our cool – So, anticipate failure. We may not always get it right, but at least we can attempt to.
Just remember- department stores, restaurants, traffic, family, friends, business, strangers- it’s just People living life. Anticipate it.