Expectation is a trap I set for myself.

Fallen Angel by Annette Wagner. Watercolor and sumi-e ink.

Expectation is a pinnacle point of achievement. A place far beyond where I live – always. I know this pattern well. It was conditioned into me as a child through the teachings of a father who thought making money was the only answer to success. And when he couldn't make that formula work for himself, he pushed it out onto his children. His legacy.

Expectation is insidious. It sneaks in when I let down my guard. It is a constant battle I no longer have any desire to engage in. When I focus my energy on doing something and I engage with that energy, expectation rolls right in and sets up shop.

If you are going to do X, then this is how high you need to jump. Oh, and by the way, the bar is high enough you will never reach it. Ever.

When there is an expectation of being successful, making money, winning the game AND the expectation is set out of sync with what can actually be accomplished, then the trap is sprung. I am never good enough because I can never reach up high enough to to achieve that expectation. I fail and this so-called failure fulfills the prophecy of the story of expectation: I am “not be good enough” yet again.

Except it is a false failure. Every expectation I set that is out of sync which what I can truly accomplish is false.

How do I know this?

Ask yourself: What is an expectation? Maybe its a goal you set for yourself. Or an ideal of behavior you reach for. Or a project you want to accomplish. Expectations are tied to something you want or have to do. When I achieve X, I fulfill expectations others have of me, that I have of myself. This is good. I succeed, win, feel good because I have made everyone happy including myself.

When I was younger, an expectation was something always out of reach. Something I always strove for but never quite achieved. I drove myself to be something or do something and yet never truly felt satisfied when I got there. Because before I got there, when I began to even get a little bit close, I moved the expectation higher and further out of reach. If I can do X then I should be able to do Y.

In my twenties, I realized I how I allowed this pattern to run my life and strove to bring the pattern into balance. One of the ways I did this was to change how I approached life by applying the philosophy of doing my best. Whatever I was about to do, I told myself I would do my best, whatever that might be, for today. Tomorrow I might learn something that meant I could have done today better and thats ok. Doing my best is not about beating myself up when I learn something tomorrow telling me I could have done what I did today better. Doing my best is about doing my best right now, right here. What I learn tomorrow can be applied on another day.

Having a strong driver as part of my personality, this philosophy of doing my best worked very well for most of my life. It kept my expectations in balance. I learned to allow myself to achieve my expectations and to feel happy, successful and fulfilled when I reached them.

The last eight years of my life have centered around transformation. These days I am happy to say I am truly ME - a wild, crazy, beautiful artist woman. I am happy. I am a working artist. I have fulfilled dreams I never even had on the expectation list. I am no longer the person who needs this philosophy of “best” to keep her expectations from running her life.

I didn’t really notice this fundamental shift until very recently. My critic, of course, noticed immediately. Over the last year, my critic has been using the expectation pattern to make me to feel guilty about everything from not pursuing every opportunity to “get my art out there” or to “make money” or to “run my own business” or to “teach workshops.”

Worse, my critic has been niggling at me about my work in the world. Continually asking me what my work in the world is and when will I start doing it. As a result, I’ve felt very unsettled and as if I am not doing something I should be doing. Instead of being satisfied with what I do in the world, with the creations coming into form under my pen and brush, with the relationships I have with those I love, the critic pokes at them again and again. Pushing for more, telling me there is more I should be doing. Somehow I am not good enough again.

What exactly is it that I should be doing?

I am in a loving happy relationship. I create every day. I share my art almost every day. I work in the Intentional Creativity movement. I am an Art Doctor for those moving through transformation via painting. I teach and paint and am a portal for spirit. I am raising a wonderful daughter. I am surrounded by a tribe of folks who love and support me.

Which raises a very interesting point. Why is it that when we reach a place in which our dreams are taking form that we continue to sabotage ourselves with old patterns? Because this is exactly what my critic is attempting to do. Think about it….

Where does my critic get off telling me I should be doing anything at this point in my life?

Why is my critic even engaging with this at all?

The critic is trying to set expectations again. Critics are like that, they hang on to old patterns like 4 year olds with tattered baby blankets. Its terrifying to let go of these old patterns for the critic because oh my if we don't have that pattern what might happen? The world might change or implode or, or, something!

Which means it’s time to turn this pattern on edge and empty it out. To pull the plug on false expectations. To release the old pattern of doing my best. To take the tattered blanket away form the critic and bring in the Muse to counter the tears and wailing. To transform this entire idea of expectations and doing my best and instead ask something entirely different:

What is wanted?

This inquiry came to me from a very good friend. I can tell it’s powerful because of how hard it is for me to work with. I wrote the words down on paper and sent them to myself in email. Why? Because my critic keeps wanting to change the wording to: what needs to be done – which is a way for expectation to sneak back in. Critics are little sneaks sometimes when they do not want to let go of a pattern.

“What is wanted?” comes from a very different place then “what needs to be done?”

Think about it. The second inquiry assumes I can do something and that I will do something. The first inquiry assumes nothing. There is no doing associated with it at all. And therefore no expectation. Anything or nothing or something might happen. Whatever the answer is, is ok. Inquires are portals and this one has a beautiful expansiveness to it.

Asking what is wanted is akin to opening a doorway for Spirit to walk in. And so, once again, I embrace transformation. I release expectation. I let go of “doing my best” as my protection against the beast of expectations. I call in the Muse to counter the critic. I lean on trust. And I ask:

What is wanted?

yours in red thread and creativity, Annette