Expectations, Hope, and Vulnerability Setting You Free

A fortune cookie, cracked open, with the words, "the plan you have been working on will come to fruition" on the fortune inside. Photographed against a light blue background.
Photo by Elena Koycheva.

Expectation vs. hope.

For one, you think something is going to happen. You may have planned around it and set yourself up for the inevitability of what is coming your way.

For the other, you might not even think it's likely. You may have written off all the possibilities in your head. But your heart - that dang persistent heart - envisions a future with that reality in place, and it would very much like to reel that future in.

The difference between the two has become a lot more salient to me lately, in my professional and personal life.

Since personal confessions tend to be more interesting than professional ones, that's the path I'll go down with you today.

I was recently dating someone. It was in that awkward in-between stage of kind-of-casual, because we weren't seeing each other super often and hadn't expressed any commitment, and maybe-this-is-a-"real"-relationship. Then, can you guess? He ended things.

The reasons were good. They were the very same reasons that had kept me holding back from fully investing in the first place. I couldn't argue with them, and I honestly wasn't even sure that I wanted to.

But that was all in my head. In my heart, there had been a growing attachment and hope that we could become a "real thing." My heart had started to see the possibilities of what could be if the circumstances were aligned for us instead of against us, and it didn't want to let go quite so easily.

In the week that followed, that disconnect began to weigh heavy on me. Because not only had my heart run up in front of my head (as it is wont to do, according to my counsellor), but I had not been honest with him at any stage about those feelings. I was holding some secret, lopsided sense of attachment and my heart didn't know what to do with it.

I knew that if I shared the truth about my feelings with him, nothing would come of it. He wasn't going to turn around and say, "well then we should be together!", and even if he did, I wasn't actually sure what my response to that would be. (Again, circumstances were not in our favour.)

Given this reality, I debated whether I should even bother saying anything. But in the end, the truth was swimming around in my gut, getting heavier and heavier, and it needed to be let out. I went forth and released my wriggling truth: I told him how I felt with zero expectations.

Zero expectations, but, if I'm honest, a heart that clung to a little itty-bit of hope. Because how could it not?

Of course, the result matched my expectations. Nothing changed.

Nothing, except that my heart was a little more clear now because I had shared the truth. And now the hope, unfettered by the weight of being an unwelcome secret, could fade away all on its own.

It was an excellent reminder of three things:

That vulnerability is a key element in keeping your heart from folding in on itself like a self-protecting armadillo.

That hope and expectation really are different things and it's okay if they are in opposition to one another. In fact, if you are me, it might happen a lot.

That offering a truth without expectation, even if there is hope, is fully scary and also fully liberating. (And that the lack of expectation will usually mean that your truth won't become a burden for the other person.)

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