The Denial of Expectations

It is said (by therapists and self help books alike) that you can't truly love someone else until you love yourself. But how the fuck do you love yourself? Have you SEEN yourself?

We tell each other (and ourselves) avoidable lies.

We actively hurt others (and ignore the hurting of yet others).

We steal office supplies.

We are overwhelmingly hypocritical.

We wipe boogers on furniture and blame our farts on other people.

We are all ridiculously narcissistic.

How do we love ourselves?

We overlook the flaws.  We forgive the mistakes.  We justify our failures and successes with context and compassion.  We find it in our selfish, hateful natures to support ourselves as best we can.

How do we love others?

We overlook the flaws.  We forgive the mistakes.  We justify their failures and successes with context and compassion.  We find it in our selfish, hateful natures to support others as best we can.

It really shouldn't be so hard, yes?

But it is, man.  It is hard, isn't it?

I believe this has more to do with the concept of transactional behavior than for any other reason.

I've always tried to have the policy of giving prizes (learned it from Mom).  Birthdays, Christmas, Arbor Day - whatever.  Giving prizes is fun.  And the key was always to give it freely and with no expectations of any return.  It's not a gift if you expect some sort of trade for it, right?  In my own self righteous bullshit, I believed this was true for me.

One Christmas, I was with a woman who put that piety to the test.  Her friends told me not to buy her jewelry.  That she was incredibly picky about jewelry and I'd be better off just avoiding it as a Christmas gift choice altogether.

I'm Irish and Southern and stubborn as mentally possible. So I took the challenge.  I spent two months before Christmas looking for the perfect piece of jewelry for her.  I mean, I spent every other day looking for a piece of jewelry for her.  It was like a mission.  I looked at what she wore and assessed the style she liked.  I tried to find something unique but in the same aesthetic.  Finally, I landed at the MCA store and found a one-of-a-kind necklace made by a local artist that fit the bill.  It was pricey for a first Christmas together prize but I was committed.

We spent Christmas apart (she in California and I in Kansas) and exchanged gifts on New Year's Day.  We slowly went through the presents, me saving the necklace for last.

In the bag was a note explaining that I had looked far and wide for this present and I hoped she liked it.  She opened it.  She sighed.

"I don't love it." she said. "I probably won't wear it."

I was devastated.  She was being honest and, if my stance on gift-giving was true and not a lie I've been telling myself for decades, it wouldn't have mattered.  But there WAS a transaction I expected.  I expected gratitude.  The price for my gift was her appreciation of it.  I was furious to the point of simply not speaking for almost 24 hours (which, if you know me, is remarkable in and of itself...).

Of course, I blamed her.  Some of you probably do, too.  The blame (if there is to be blame) is for me to bear.  I was wrong to be angry at her because it was my unspoken (and unthought of) expectation of transactional behavior that caused my frustration.  I, once again, was being an asshole and feeling wounded and unappreciated in the face of A) her friends rightly advising me to avoid jewelry as a present and B) her no-holds-barred honesty (a trait that I appreciate in every other daily trial).

When it comes to both loving oneself and loving others, this transactional expectation is most often unspoken.  It is expected that a friend doesn't sleep with your ex.  It is expected that a colleague will not throw you under the bus.  It is expected that if you loan someone money, it will be paid back.

These expectations aren't unreasonable or naive.

It is, however, in the face of the denial of our expectations that we become our worst selves.