Monday, April 30, 2012

The Mirage of Expectations

Remember when Bugs Bunny would pant along in some endless desert until suddenly he perked up and grew ecstatic about a body of water in the distance? You knew what was coming. And I knew. Can’t fool us, can you?

That bountiful oasis turned out to be nothing more than a kicked up sandstorm bathed in wretchedly hot rays of sun.
Poor Bugs.

Sometimes I feel like Bugs.

I get my mind (hear expectations) so fixed on something. I pant. I rub my hands in anticipation. I see it, sure as day. Sure as the sun in the sky. Sure as the sweat streaming down my face from all of my hard work. The water cometh.

Until it doesn’t.
Until somewhere along the journey, my mud-caked heels cracking, my throat parched as the coughing earth itself, it hits me. It was an illusion. A mind game. Merely a figment of my imagination.

Just as an actual mirage is a naturally occurring phenomenon, so too are our expectations. It’s natural to instill hope in something. It’s natural to dream. It’s okay to want. Where the sand stings our eyes is when we begin to count on it. When our hope slides down that slippery slope transforming into expectation or entitlement if you will.  Mirages become dangerous when we don’t have the full canteen of water to quench our thirst or the camel to carry us the rest of the miles.

Expectations appear precariously in our minds like mirages.
Yet I’m also inclined to think our expectations can have an upside. They have the ability to serve as excellent motivators. If we reach the place where we swore we saw a pool of water and there is none, we know to keep moving. We adjust our vision and focus on what’s real—what’s in front of us this moment. We have the opportunity to become resourceful and resilient.

Take this gold nugget from Wikipedia:  A mirage is a real optical phenomenon which can be captured on camera, since light rays actually are refracted to form the false image at the observer's location. What the image appears to represent, however, is determined by the interpretive faculties of the human mind.
What’s the takeaway? I believe our expectations, these mirages that rise out of nowhere, can teach us. They communicate volumes to us about what we value, what we were hoping for, and how much energy we’re willing to exert. Our mental mirages give us a glimpse of what very well may be…further down the path.

What is a mirage really? It’s bending light. A foretaste. A reason to continue hoping, but also to keep moving.
It’s only when we prematurely swallow our water supply, confident the light bending before us is about to fulfill our every need that we run into real trouble. We need to keep water on us at all times. We need to be mindful of the tricks our eyes are sensitive to believe. We need to not depend on the mirage to wipe away all of our needs.

I get it, Bugs. I’ve seen the bending light.
And I’m walking on…

Ever been on that desert path and have what you think you see down the path turn out to be a mental mirage of expectations? Have you seen the bending light?

*photo by stock.XCHNG

32 comments:

  1. "Yet I’m also inclined to think our expectations can have an upside. They have the ability to serve as excellent motivators."

    People experiencing mirages seem to enjoy them while it's going on. At least in the movies. Instead of feeling disappointed when coming to, I'd like to think it's just a taste of what's further down the road, and real!

    Excellent post, Wendy! And clever as usual!

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    1. Makes the disappearing part a whole lot more bearable.

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  2. Ah, expectations. They can be such dangerous things! I've spent most of my life fighting them, for when those mirages fade, I am usually left devastated! But I am learning to assume things are a mirage, and act accordingly, until they prove themselves real. Much better. Then I don't run out of water. ;)

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    1. Until they prove themselves real…reminding me of the Velveteen Rabbit. Ah, another topic for another time. Smart way to go about it. Until I’m actually lapping up water I’ll know not to think I’m about to have my thirst quenched.

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  3. Great post today, Wendy. This is reaching me where I'm at today, ma'am. Love how God does that!

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    1. Yours did the same & if I'm honest, it made me too sad and I couldn't write anything. So I hear ya on this.

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    2. I'm sorry, friend! I'd feel the same way if I read a post about good mommies. :( Hugs!

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  4. I have to echo Lindsay's comment--I know what it is to have my expectations dashed. I love the positive spin to it though--keep moving, keep persevering. Thanks Wendy!

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    1. I think there's a difference between hoping and expecting. I hope to remain in the former when it comes to most things in life. Makes it all flow so much smoother.

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  5. Wonderful analogy. I've been watching that mirage now for going on five years both with writing but mostly with my life. They do offer hope and keep me going when I don't want to anymore.

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    1. Mirage as inspiration. Going to have to think on that for a while. Glad yours have served to inspire you.

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  6. Love this, Wendy. So true. We can't put everything on this mirage....but we can let it motivate us onward.

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    1. Onward Ampersand (huh, has a nice ring to it). ;)

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  7. Oh, I remember those Bugs Bunny mirage scenarios!

    And expectations pop up when you least expect it...like walking through Barnes and Noble and fingering the Christian fiction books, imagining what your cover will look someday...

    It's always a good thing to have dreams. But expectations we always have to give back to the Lord. I came into marriage and motherhood with lots of expectations, but usually God had a bigger plan of growing ME, rather than dropping all the blessings in my lap at once! Grin.

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    1. Yep, I'm with you about giving them back. I've seen the bending light in just about every life experience. Such a teacher experience can be (that came out very Yoda-ish).

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  8. Wendy, wow, this really resonated with me. It's hard to know how much you really want something until you can't have it. On the other hand, you also find out what you can live without. Thanks for this post!

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    1. An important lesson no doubt--finding out what you can live without. Oh great, now I'm rhyming. ;)

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  9. Very good. I never thought of mirages in this sense of teaching us what we value. I guess the next step is to determine if they are an accurate reflection of what we want/need, or are just empty desire. If a define want/need, then it is time to get to work.

    I posted an article last week on expectations in marriage. Perhaps they are mirages, too. But, if we hang in there, the mirage that evaporates can reveal something even more substantial and valuable.

    Good post.

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    1. I love what you wrote about determining whether they're an accurate reflection. I kept thinking about the verse that speaks to Jesus being the living water when I wrote this.

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  10. Expectations are a tricky thing. On the one hand, we need to be hopeful and look for oppotunities and keep pressing on, but on the other hand we need to be realistic and cautious so we don't go running after something that isn't real or attainable. The sad thing is when we do find that oasis, the one we've been dreaming about, our human hearts start to look for one even better and we set out into the dessert again.

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    1. So true. Or the water becomes too lukewarm, not sifted enough, too full of pesky critters, etc. We'll find anything to keep searching sometimes, won't we?

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  11. I do agree that there is an upside to mirages too! But I loved what you said here: "It’s only when we prematurely swallow our water supply, confident the light bending before us is about to fulfill our every need that we run into real trouble."
    That is the truth.
    Great post!

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    1. I think that's the kicker of the whole post--the difference between hoping and expecting.

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  12. I have great expectations for you, Wendy! One day soon an editor is going to read your work, recognize your amazing talent, and rejoice that no other house had already snapped you up. You just wait, my friend. That day is coming!

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    1. Aw Keli, Anyone ever tell you you have some rockin' expectations? ;) Still, I remain hopeful and maybe someday I'll be pleasantly surprised. At the right hour. Thanks for your comment.

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  13. Awesome analogy! I've seen that bending light. I'm still moving forward.

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  14. So glad I read this today, Wendy - you know why it speaks to me, sister! I've seen a mirage or two (or 14) along the way!

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    1. You are more of an inspiration than you know. Would love to have coffee with you (and spend all day at the coffee shop).

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  15. Beautiful writing here. I believe I expect to much from the world of publishing, when I need to expect more from my efforts.

    God Bless!
    ~Britt Mitchell

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    1. I expect a lot from myself and you make a valid point, looking inward. It's really one of the best ways to find a sense of control and a way to gauge growth.

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  16. Thanks, Wendy, for a timely post.

    I prefer to think of the "mirages" as a foreshadowing of things to come. The example that came to my mind was the various aspects of the Old Covenant that pointed to Jesus. Perhaps we need these glimpses, so we'll recognize the genuine when it appears.

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