The Bliss of Low Expectations

An appointment this morning made me think of a project assigned by my high school French teacher a million years ago. I think we had to create a collage centered around a particular phrase that evoked some emotion with which we could identify. That’s a pretty brave thing to ask from a room full of angsty teenagers.

I chose “Expect nothing and you will never be disappointed.” Google Translate shows that as “N’attendez rien et vous ne serez jamais déçu.” Since language skills are extremely perishable, I can’t remember if that’s what my paper said all those years ago. I do, however, remember the look on my French teacher’s face when she saw it. She is one of the kindest people I have ever known and I thought she was going to cry.

That phrase has been my go-to for decades and it has served me well. Perhaps that’s why I have spent so much money on therapy. Regardless of the root cause or the emotional cost/benefit analysis, I leave plenty of room for pleasant surprises. Think of it as an extremely conservative emotional budget.

So back to my dental appointment this morning. My hygienist has a disposition which is far too sunny for that time of morning but she is truly a delightful individual. I was embarrassingly pleased with myself when she told me my gums “are in tip-top shape.” She also said, “Everything looks great.” I am the valedictorian of gums and she absolutely made my day. I will concede that is a sad state of affairs but consider the alternative. I’m pretty sure I win.

I attended a Daughters of the American Revolution luncheon last month and was asked if I am 35 years of age or younger because I could be eligible for a Junior Membership. The lady who asked the question was extremely apologetic because there’s just really no easy way for those words to flow. I burst out laughing and told her that was the nicest thing anyone had said to me all week. I missed that cut-off by nearly a decade and was thrilled to have been asked.

I guess my point is if you stumble through life expecting adoration, you will end up bitter and disappointed. The more satisfying alternative is to start out bitter and disappointed only to be proven wrong. Everything is awful; except when it isn’t.


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