Society’s Expectations

cory muscara, letting go of your mind's dreams, elaina avalos

I follow Cory Muscara on social media. I’m not sure how I happened across him but it was probably via one of the podcasts I listen to or via one of many mental health professionals I follow, who shared his content. Dr. Rick Hanson, maybe? I listen to several podcasts that teach about mental health and wellness, mindfulness, positive psychology, and even neurobiology. So it’s not surprising I found him. Muscara was a monk at one time and is now a teacher and speaker as well as an instructor of positive psych at UPenn. I find many of his posts extremely encouraging and helpful. THIS one is soo good. He quotes Viktor Frankl (who has some quotes that blow my mind, by the way) in that reel. It’s incredibly powerful, in my opinion.

But this quote above, which he posted on Facebook, irked me. He writes in the caption:

“If you want to align with the life you are meant to live, you have to let go of all of your preconceived ideas of who you should be, where you should go, and what your life should look like, even the longstanding dreams your mind has desperately held onto. The soul’s path is a quieter, more subtle, moment-to-moment unfolding. Sometimes your mind and its dreams are aligned with it, other times they’re reciting outdated scripts, fears, and desires.”

So why did it irk me? It got under my skin because if there’s one thing I don’t want to think about, it’s letting go of the “longstanding dreams” my mind has “desperately held onto.” For me there is no more clear longstanding dream than being a mom and having a family. Can I technically consider myself a mom? Yes. Has the dream happened the way I thought it should, planned for it to, or hoped it would? Not even a little.

For the most part, I’m not sure it’s not part of God’s plan for my life in some way. I truly believe I was meant to be a mom. Until I’m incapable, I will do whatever I can – to have the family I’ve always dreamed of. But why would Muscara’s post, when generally I’ve found him to be thought provoking and encouraging, make me frustrated and uncomfortable? Because maybe I am still holding onto old paths to get where I want to go? Or maybe my attachment to a specific set of plans, ideals, or expectations has tied me to a path that isn’t mine to walk?

That doesn’t mean motherhood or a family isn’t in my future. But maybe it does mean that I’ve so focused myself on the dream, I’ve lost sight of the “moment-to-moment unfolding” of what God has for my soul. Or maybe it’s just that in releasing my attachment to a specific idea, I’d find a much better plan. I’m not really sure. What I do know is that my life has never taken a normal course. Not ever. I’ve always been behind schedule in literally everything. Haha. If you only knew. I joke about being old – but the truth is, I’m convinced my life has only just started.

When I get caught up in society’s expectations, I can find myself dissatisfied with the direction I’m walking. But I’ve never had any desire to live a life that complies with the status quo or the expectations of most. Never. Even from the time I was a tiny girl. In fact, the mere thought of doing what everyone else does/did infuriated me. Haha. But somewhere along the way, other’s expectations started to define my own life. I lost sight of that bold little girl who just didn’t care what things were “supposed” to be like.

I don’t know where the path is leading. I certainly have a wish, a hope, a dream. But I don’t care how I get there – not really. The paths I take to get there – or anywhere for that matter – should not be my focus or even an afterthought. Nor do I want to be so tied to the dream itself that I miss the life I was meant to live. I think I’m standing on this precipice of change and in spite of how hard change and opening myself up to hurt and disappointment can be, it’s the only way to the kind of life I want.

Earlier I mentioned Muscara’s reel that featured a Frankl quote. Here’s my favorite from Frankl.

Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.

Viktor E. Frankl

While it has taken some work, I’ve slowly seen the power of slowing down before responding or acting. There is power in choosing my response versus reacting. I think this fits well with the Muscara quote, to be honest. At some point, even after we determine to accept that our mind’s vision of our dreams and future may not be the full picture, it can be hard to stay on course. Especially when other’s expectations creep back in. But in slowly ourselves down – in between that moment of stimulus where the thought enters the mind – and our response, lies our power to choose a response. With that power comes a freedom that I’ve now experienced, in a way I would not have imagined, a couple of years ago. I’m still working on it – every day. Today, I sucked at it and let a very challenging person get to me. But if we can slow that response thing down when a thought enters the mind (the stimulus) it can truly change our lives.

The trajectory we find ourselves following can be moved along by the internal knowing we’re on the right path, met the right one, or found our calling, etc., etc. If we’re too concerned with the outside world, societal standards, and what everyone else thinks, we can easily get knocked off course. In the moment, when I’m tempted to judge my life and future path based on what everyone else thinks should happen, that is the moment to choose my response. In this case, it’s to throw off the expectations everyone else has, which weigh me down, and keep moving, moment-by-moment, to the life I know I’m meant for.

Improve Your Mood

If you’re looking for a way to improve your mood – in spite of what is going on around you, this podcast may be helpful. You can find it here. The title is “How to Improve Your Mood, No Matter What Life Throws Your Way.” I thought it had some useful information. I wanted to share as I continue to find new ways to live & be well.