Monday, April 6, 2009

Expectations: When Vacation can be Stressful

It's just barely 8:00 a.m., Mountain Time. I have been awake for over three hours, sitting in the Denver International Airport for most of that time. My flight doesn't leave for another 2 1/2 hours.

Getting up 6 hours before my flight because it's the only time I could catch a ride to the airport was annoying. Realizing I had neither blogged during my 10-day trip nor posted anything about being off the grid for the past week made me flinch a bit. Spending a week of intensive group time with my family and our friends was fun, but stressful.

I had tried to prevent any stress for the trip by being completely organized, and figuring out every last detail before we left. I made spreadsheets indicating where we could rent skis and at what rate. I had worked out a system for grocery expense sharing, and had created a schedule for who was responsible for preparing which meals. I thought nothing could go wrong, I had the important things thoroughly planned out and had left plenty of room for flexibility and spontaneity.

What I hadn't counted on was how different it would feel to be surrounded by people for a week straight. I'm an extrovert, I love my family, I was thrilled to have Ian come along on the trip and to see old friends. I just hadn't realized how much I have gotten used to having complete control over my own time.

Starting the day we arrived, people were rushing me - everyone had different priorities, and different expectations. Mom thought I'd be helping her with the first grocery run. My brother wanted us out the door and on the slopes by 9 a.m. Ian wanted to sleep in and cuddle and maybe not even go skiing the first day. I wanted a healthy breakfast and time to meditate. By the time we snapped our boots into our bindings, even the gorgeous snow and bright sun struggled to pull me out of my BAD MOOD.

As the chairlift scooped us up and carried us to the top of the mountain, I knew I had to find a way to let go of my annoyance with my brother rushing me in the morning, mom constantly asking questions about the meal plan (and refusal to refer to my meticulously prepared spreadsheet), and my need to have things be a certain way, or there was no chance that this trip was going to go smoothly.

My short fuse stemmed from the fact that I hadn't Ascended in a few days and was sleep-deprived from our 6 a.m. flight, but the real problem was I had expectations.

Having expectations that things "should" be a certain way sets us up for unhappiness. Especially when those expectations go unexpressed. If you don't tell the people you are with what you want out of an experience, they can't help you create the experience. Worse, they'll probably get in the way, because they have their own idea of how it should be.

Expecting a particular outcome is essentially the same thing as deciding in advance that we will be unhappy unless things turn out a specific way. Sounds pretty stupid and self-sabotaging when you think about it that way. Not to mention that when we are focused on expectations, we are forever thinking about how we want things to be, rather than enjoying how they are. It pulls us out of the current moment, and into worrying about the future or being unsatisfied with things in the past. I only had a week in my favorite place to be, and I didn't want to spend it being unhappy thanks to un-communicated expectations I had set.

So I took a deep breath, and decided to let go of my expectations for the trip. The things that were really important, I communicated to the people involved. I decided if I wanted my quiet morning, I needed to get up before everyone else. If Ian wanted to sleep in, we'd plan to ski on our own rather than holding up the group. Once I chose to be okay with how things were - kind of chaotic, definitely out of my routine, but spontaneous and fun nonetheless - I started to feel like I was actually on vacation.

1 comment:

Ariah said...

nice post. We were just on vacation and had a bit of stress too, mostly related to two toddlers running around.