Generally the weight of worrying about failing someone else.
What if we rephrased it though?
How many things in our lives are weighing on us, that could be eased by just changing the way we talk about it?
I don't naturally love the "expectations" conversations before a deployment homecoming. You know, the ones where you ask your service member what he/she wants at home. What meals? Do you want family around? Do you want to have some fun right away or ease in with some quiet time first?
I might have some baggage around the word “expectations.” I have found approaching the conversation with that word in place daunting. Maybe it’s because I’m afraid I will fail those expectations. Maybe it’s because I end that sentence with “expectations of me,” and that makes me feel like the stakes are high and I’m expected to perform. Maybe it’s because the word expectations in the face of the reality of being exhausted from the months of deployment makes me grit my teeth a little.
I’m not sure.
I also have a hard time framing the things I want to tell him about my hopes around homecoming with the word expectations. He’s just walking through the door. Do I really want to hand him a honey do list and a list of rules of engagement (ok. Sometimes, I do want to hand him a honey do list).
The idea behind the “Expectations conversation” was recently posed to me in a different way: What if instead I asked, what are you imagining?
That wording changed the whole tone of the conversation to me. I can't always articulate what I "expect." But I can tell you what I imagine.
I imagine dinners with all of us around the table.
I imagine evenings watching Netflix shows together.
I imagine trips on the weekends (but only after we’ve all rested up a bit).
I imagine help around the house.
I imagine not having to mow the lawn.
I imagine someone else driving the girls to some of their activities.
I imagine someone else taking care of trash night.
I imagine back up when disciplining the kids.
I imagine time processing and unpacking all that has gone on for both of us over the months he’s been away.
I imagine time with him. Just being time.
When I switch the wording from “expectations” to “what do I imagine?” I can actually find the things that I am really hoping for when he comes home in a way that I can start to talk about them. There actually are some “expectations” on my side there, it turns out. It’s all buried there beneath the things I’ve been daydreaming about.
At the same time, when I hear from him about what he is imagining, I don’t feel expectations that I can’t meet. Instead, I hear what he’s been daydreaming about. I hear his vision of being home. That activates my creativity to figure out how to make those things a reality for all of us. It also helps me to feel the intention behind the expectations. It’s not about me and my kiddos “performing” for Dad. It’s about us collectively drawing up a vision of what time together looks like when he gets home.
“What do you imagine?” has totally flipped the expectations conversation on its head for me. It’s made it a conversation I look forward to having instead of one that makes me feel like I can never measure up. It’s helped me see deeper than the baggage of a word I have a hard time with.
There are a lot of things I am imagining for homecoming.
May imagination become reality soon.