Expectations

Sometimes I think my greatest frustrations come from me not living into my own ideal expectations. As I have grown older I think it has only gotten worse over time.

I am someone who loves routines and rituals. Or at least I say I do. I think I do.

Some of my routines are easier to follow than others. If others participate in my rituals and routines, it makes it ten times more likely for me to follow through consistently. If it’s up to just me however, or up to me to initiate, I am good for a little while, or here and there, but I’m just not consistent. And that really bothers me. Like, a lot.

For example, I have the extreme desire to write nearly every day. But I’m the only one motivating myself to do it, so it just doesn’t happen. I love to make coffee every morning using my aeropress or chemex, and if my girls make themselves a pot of coffee, I almost always make myself a nice cup of coffee for myself as well. If they don’t, I often don’t (unless I really need one).

I’m not sure exactly why that is.

A few years back when I shot photography using Pentax cameras, there was a great online community of Pentax users who shared a daily photo with each other. We all commented on each other’s photos every day from all around the world. I loved being a part of that group and it really helped me to understand the craft and art of photography. It forced me to be creative, to notice things every single day that were around me. I felt the pressure, but it was a good pressure. I loved the ritual.

want to do that now that I’ve switched to Fujifilm, but that sort of community doesn’t exist as far as I’ve seen. So here I am wanting to take photos like I used to, at least one each day, challenging myself to notice things around me and capture them in interesting ways, but I just don’t do it without the support of others. And then I get frustrated.

But it’s not just those sorts of unnecessary routines that I don’t follow through with, it’s also the ones that I definitely should be doing. Laundry. Cleaning up after the boys. Taking out the trash when it first needs to go out. Organizing the bills and mail and emails and tasks. I’m not as good with that stuff. I also don’t have people encouraging me to do it. My wife is good at almost never nagging me about it, but there are times I wish we were more supportive with each other to get these things done.

I don’t do the necessary routines, I then I get frustrated with myself that there’s laundry all over the floor, or that the boys have their toys scattered all over the room, or that there’s now two bags of trash sitting next to the trash can that I need to go take out to the dumpster.

The other day I was super frustrated about it and I just said in desperation to Sarah, “I’m so sick and tired of living this way!” And I am. But I don’t really know how to overcome it. I could make myself artificial motivators. I could create checklists and chore lists or something like that. But I’m not sure that would even work.

I have no real solutions to my problems right now. But my frustration has opened a window into an insight about myself that I’ve been recognizing recently. I plan to write about it soon (but probably won’t because…well…yeah, no other people encouraging me to do so). But I think I’m actually an anxious person and just haven’t seen it until recently. Maybe it’s that I’ve always told myself that I’m not an anxious or stressed out person in comparison to those in my family. But perhaps if I can address this element in myself, then perhaps these other daily tasks and rituals have a better chance at coming more naturally to me and actually happening more consistently.

Who knows? But it’s the path I’m planning on taking for now.

Forgetting to be happy

I like the feeling of being happy, but I sometimes forget to be happy.

It’s not hard for me to experience happiness because my life is filled with blessings. But for whatever reason the pull to be grumpy and annoyed is weirdly strong. I say weirdly because being grumpy isn’t fun. There’s nothing fun about it. And sometimes all it takes for me to not be grumpy is to simply remember to be happy.

How can I forget to be happy? Why do I forget to be happy?

Emotions are so fickle. I’ve written and pondered about this before, but they are frustrating things. It’s amazing how quickly I can go from happy to angry and from angry to excited and from excited to sad and so on.

Anxiety is a happiness thief.
I hate that.

I was sitting with a group of friends on vacation the other day. One of my best friends was there with me and as we were sitting around chatting and laughing I was thinking about how much I enjoyed being there in that moment. I felt like I belonged, I wasn’t just trying to fit in.

One of my best friends was in the mix of people there. He’s been working at Boys Town for over 18 years now. As we talked and laughed about stories of the past, people would mention previous couples who had been here.

Someone mentioned, “You were really close with them, weren’t you?” and he said, “Yeah, I was.” And I immediately went from feeling happy to feeling anxious and like I didn’t belong. Was I just another one of the couples that has come into his life, and will leave eventually, and just be someone mentioned for a few seconds as someone that he used to be close with?

I’m not sure what it is exactly about that thought that makes me feel so uneasy and sensitive and anxious. But whatever it was, it caused me to forget to be happy about the moment I was in. I was with my friends, enjoying life, telling stories. And I forgot to be happy.

The next day I found out that Anthony Bourdain committed suicide. I didn’t know a lot about him, but I know enough that I was still shocked by it. Reminded again how powerful the change of emotions are in shaping our behaviors and decisions.

There are moments recently that have made me very happy:

  • An incredible morning boat ride on lake Okoboji in Iowa. The waves were super choppy and at full speed kept hitting them letting tons of water splash us inside of the boat. We did this for nearly two hours. It was so much fun.
  • Simply being one of the adults at a camp made me happy. Throughout my entire childhood I went to camps and gathering in which I was never in charge. But now I’m one of the adults making the decisions, leading groups of teenagers. And sometimes I would simply pause and take in that fact with deep satisfaction. Whether it be in the dinner line, or as kids walked up to me to ask me if I would drive them on a boat. What a life I have!
  • Seeing Ezra play on the beach and keep himself entertained was so much fun for me. To see how joyful and happy he was made me so happy.
  • Being with my wife, Sarah, and having a group of six teenage girls with us that we together call a family.
  • Having three other guys there with me who understand what this job is like, and the challenges and joys that come from it.
  • Riding in the van hearing the girls laugh while dancing to songs on our Okoboji playlist.
  • Seeing an amazing sunset the first night while I rode on my Boosted board.
  • Great food.
  • Seeing one of my girls win “Camper of the Week.”
  • Taking pictures and video of moments with the girls on the trip.

Those are a handful of moments that helped me remember to be happy. To be grateful.

The struggle is to continue to remember to be happy because there are great blessings all around me.

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