Expectation is the mother of all frustration.
— Antonio Banderas
As a perfectionist with unrealistically high expectations of myself, there are many things in life I find frustrating. In fact, if I was to list them here, this post would go on forever. So I won’t.
The one thing I find most frustrating at this current point in time is the human tendency to want to apply a timeline to everything.
A timeline is an expectation — when will said event happen? — and the fact that I am finding the implication of a timeline so frustrating at the moment leads me to wonder if my perfectionist tendencies are waning, just a little.
My recent life (health) events have caused me to sit back and take stock in many ways — the most overt one being the rate at which my body recovers after certain procedures and allows me to return to my ‘normal’ activities.
My first words to my P.T. upon receiving my diagnosis were, ‘Don’t let me slow down.’
Well, within a month of commencing chemotherapy, my body laughed long and loud at that statement.
It was at this point, I think, my attitude towards personal timelines shifted from at all costs I must have x-activity done by y-date to it will happen when it happens and I refuse to set a deadline.
My understanding is that the latter is perfectly normal for some people; for me it is totally the opposite of the way I have conducted my life to this point. My expectations were high and if I didn’t live up to them a never-ending amount of self-criticism would occur.
With this complete turn-around in attitude, I now find innocent and well-intentioned questions about when I expect something to happen to be incredibly annoying. I have learnt, the hard way, that my body is not going to care less about when I want something to happen; it will be ready when it’s ready. If I push it before this time, forcing my body to meet my preset timeline, I will pay for it — not only physically, but mentally as well as my expectations will not have been fulfilled.
So, as for when I expect to be: back at training; back at work; able to return to the gym; out of hospital (not that I’m there at the moment, but I have been); able to join a particular group; have the god-damned drain removed from under my arm … I don’t know.
This is the answer I give in response to such questions.
I don’t know!
This does not mean I don’t WANT to know; I really, really want to know, but the absence of a crystal ball means that I don’t know.
What I do know (now) is if I try to guess, or say things like, ‘I should be able to do xx by yy‘ then I am really just setting myself up for a whole heap of frustration and stress.
Human nature dictates the need to put things into perspective by visualising some sort of timeline. I don’t at all begrudge the people who ask me to do this; in a way, it puts a positive spin on a negative event. But, what I have come to realise is that it also forces individuals to put heavy expectations upon themselves, often in a situation beyond their control.
A personal timeline (or deadline) is most often a good thing, it’s a motivator. In some circumstances, though, it can be absolutely detrimental to your wellbeing and mental health. Not achieving it leads to little else but frustration.
So, the lesson I’ve learned is this: if you ask someone to identify when they’ll be able to achieve something and they reply, ‘I don’t know’ — there may well be, in some circumstances, an underlying and damn good reason for this.
Don’t stop asking; just be mindful that while the answer may not be satisfying, it might be essential for the sake of a positive mindset.
** I am compelled to add, however, that my non-application of a timeline applies only to matters concerned with the physical recovery of my body at the moment. I have absolutely no intention to become one of those ‘rubber time’ types who wouldn’t know a deadline if it bit them on the butt.