When All Else Fails…

If all else fails, lower your expectations!

For a long time, I hated this advice. It came directly from the dark, satanic mills of despair and cynicism. It was an excuse for uselessness. But no more!

In somewhat the same way as some black Americans have re-appropriated the n-word (but without the lingering odour of disgust), or that some gays have embraced their “queer” status (but without the perverse acceptance of marginalization, be it ever so giddy), I am reclaiming this phrase as a healing medicine. Where once it signified the jaded “whatever” of the terminally disappointed, for me it now means something like “do your best to make the world better, but don’t break yourself against the walls”.

The “if all else fails” part is key. To start by giving ourselves only basement-level hopes is crippling and just plain sad. On the other hand, for those of us who chronically expect the near-impossible of others and especially ourselves – not only being all things to all people but trying to be everything we might ever be all at one time – lowering expectations is a balm and a consolation. It doesn’t mean failure and it’s not about giving up on growth. It’s more a case of putting into regular, sustainable practice a less feverish intensity. (Oh, my goodness: it’s about moderation. What a concept!)

And it only took me a couple of decades to figure it out. I’m not very good at it yet, but I fully expect to master it immediately. (Or maybe next week, latest.)

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