A few years ago, I wrote a post about this season of Thanksgiving as it is particular to (and peculiar of) the United States. Throughout the world, the end of the year is seen as a time to reflect on what has happened and how we can approach the coming year. This reflective time is linked to human dependence on the cycles of growth and harvest.
Although we are no longer dependent on an agrarian society since growing periods are extended throughout the year with greatly improved transportation and methods of farming, we are intrinsically linked to an understanding of life cycles.
Spring is activity. Summer is watching. Fall is harvesting. Winter is preparing.
In ancient times, the new year began in Spring, not the dead of winter. September was the seventh month, October the eighth, November the ninth and December the tenth—as the Latin origin of their names evidences. Winter begins in December, with one solstice and ends in March with another.
The pace of our lives has accelerated to such a degree that we are increasingly impatient for the next big thing and our enterprise allows us to create the environment for “immediate gratification” to be a realistic expectation.
But what is lost?
In some of our lifetimes, the advances in human enterprise went from driving a horse and cart to the potential of a trip to the moon, from kerosene lamps to laser lighting, from newsprint dailies to online “nano-secondlies,” from celluloid film chemical processing to digital instant-view.
What have we lost through this immediacy?
That peculiar excitement of waiting for the wedding photos to come back from the photographer’s shop all set out in a white satin album; the months of being a newly acquired author before your book is released while you bask in the glow of success; the days spent travelling to a new location through territories you have never visited before, meeting people you will never see again but will always remember for their kindness or otherwise; the hours, weeks, years of effort to be able to buy your own home or pay off the mortgage; that childlike wonder of “Are we there yet?”
While I was still in college, one of my classmates advised her friends: “Have no expectations. That way you cannot be disappointed.” Even then, that seemed like very poor advice for anyone of any age and certainly not for the “Under Thirties.” Without expectation there is no need for achievement.
I am forever thankful that I rejected her advice. When I was fourteen, I ‘expected’ to live in Europe. I did, for thirty years. When I was twenty, I expected to be published. I worked hard on a short story and it was published and later broadcast on National Public Radio. At the age of twenty-nine, I expected to marry a Welshman I had known for two weeks. We’ve been married long enough to be enjoying grandchildren.
Good things come from expectation and anticipation is the delectable time of wishing, hoping and making it happen. Enjoy the time you wait for the good things, even more good things happen in the interim.
Disappointment is short-lived unless you allow it to be the sum-total of having no expectations. In that way, disappointment becomes a lifetime wasted.