Curiously anticipation is one word that, like a coin, has two sides. Anticipation can be that emotion which is fraught with anxiety awaiting some up-coming event, with uncertainty about its final course. On the other hand when I think of young children anticipating Halloween or a birthday or some other special holiday, that is an emotion laden with pleasure and excitement. We all prefer the latter. That said however, when I mentioned writing this reflection a new friend pointed out that there has been research that indicates the anxiety associated with anticipation of something like surgery, is actually beneficial in the sense that there is a biological response to the anxiety - preparing the body for the shock of surgery. As I think back on last week and the early warnings that went out to those up and down the eastern seaboard – and especially in the New Jersey and New York areas where the storm made landfall – it occurs to me that the anticipation that came of those warnings generated at the very least, some preparedness for the offense to that body of land.
Expectations on the other hand seem to me to spell nothing but trouble for those of us who engage. We “expect” something to happen – or not happen; we have some idea of the future or of someone’s or something’s response, that may not be wholly realistic. And therein lays the problem. On occasion our expectations are altogether off the mark, and we are pleasantly surprised. More often however, our expectations turn out to be fairly accurate – and we are disappointed. I expected to be tired for several days after my return from the hospital and began to feel worn down when that did not turn around as quickly as I’d hoped. In New York and New Jersey expectations ran high for help – any help – from outside the community of despair in which the people found themselves.
This is a reflection – just that– and not a treatise that hopes to change our behavior for all time. We will always anticipate … and we can pray that it is most often of happy events. When the event is not one we relish, then we should take comfort in knowing that the anticipation is a helpful part of whatever it is that’s going on. Maybe we think of anticipation in this setting as a warm coat in the cold, or a slicker in the rain: something that protects us, if even in small measure. Expectations on the other hand, for my money, are something I need to lose. I cannot count the number of times I have expected someone to behave as I would have them behave … until some time later I remember, they are not me. And for that, we should all be grateful!