Expectation versus reality is the invisible wall we hit whenever our high standards are defeated, the same one that prevents us from processing disappointment and failure. Simply put, we need to lower those expectations and cut ourselves (and others) a little slack if there is any hope of finding inner peace, and it wouldn't hurt to ditch a few assumptions along the way.
I've always been tough on myself, picking failures apart until there is nothing left but regret. It seems nothing I do is ever good enough — for me — and placing those impossible standards on others has only led to another level of frustration. Surprisingly, I'm not alone. There are a lot of strong feelings getting tossed around right now, most of which relate to the wall in question. We are building pedestals so far removed from reality that no one can see the fucking top.
While walking the dog this morning, I stumbled across a photo that someone shared on Facebook. The image shows the World Trade Center engulfed in black smoke and a fire engine — Ladder 118 — crossing over the Brooklyn Bridge on their way to put out flames and save lives. According to the post, this is the last known image of those firefighters because everyone on that truck perished.
Existence is only as bright as we allow it to be. By putting too much pressure on ourselves and others, we essentially flick the match. Tomorrow marks the nineteenth anniversary of 9/11: the day the world stood still and watched The Falling Man, followed by 199 others, plunge to his death. Those of us sitting at home that day — eyes glued to flat-screens — could not believe what we were seeing. When it was over, many observers, myself included, curled up in warm blankets of grief and vowed to live each day to the fullest.
There are moments we want to remember, and those we wish to forget. People did not jump out of a 94-story-building that day because they wanted to; they did so to avoid the alternative. In the (literal) heat of the moment, the victims made a desperate choice, and those of us surmising their options from a safe distance understood why. But that was almost twenty years ago, and not everyone was old enough to witness the horror of that event in real-time.
We are facing another disaster; only this time, the culprits aren't flying an airplane. Instead, they are spinning out of control all over the place, demanding that everyone meet their expectations. Friends, shaming people with assumed results is not reality; it's a step away from gaslighting, and that technique only leads to more failure.
In light of 9/11, let's honor those who lost their lives by staying alive. What would happen if we laid our swords down and found another way to prove a point? If the only moment that matters is this one, then why are we wasting it fighting with each other when we could be problem-solving together? Let's face it; throwing a tantrum in a toy store is how four-year-olds get their way. Doing so as an adult is absurd. When was the last time you listened to what a screaming child had to say? Have you ever? Or do you just tune them out and send them to their room?
When someone says something that pisses me off, it's usually not what they said that upset me; it's how they said it. Whenever I feel like someone is talking at me instead of communicating with me, it triggers my brain to go on auto-pilot and forces me to check out of the conversation. In other words, if you want people to hear to what you have to say, then stop throwing temper tantrums, and speak your words clearly. Conversely, pause your righteousness long enough to listen to what others have to say. Spoiler: none of us has a fucking clue how this will end, but if we work as a team, we might have a shot at survival. My money — what's left of it — is on kindness.