After Meg passed away we were adamant we weren't getting another dog. The plan was to eventually become a two-dog family. But the dynamic of having three dogs wasn’t working and McCaw, our American Bulldog, seemed pretty down without having his best mate around. And so, just a couple of months ago, we added a puppy called Justice to our pack.
We picked her up one Friday evening. She was a tiny bundle of white and brindle fur, and we were smitten. Until she peed in the house and spent all the next day yapping. We had forgotten what it was like to have a puppy, and our patience wore thin quickly. But Justice soon settled and we fell in love all over again. Until the evening of Christmas Day when, as we were trying to relax and watch a movie, it was like she had taken a hit of cocaine washed down with a six pack of Red Bull. She followed this up with the same performance on New Years Eve!
But all in all Justice has slotted into our pack well. While Charlotte hates her, McCaw adores her and Diesel and Kaos tolerate her. Which was all we ever wished for.
It’s my reaction towards Justice I have found most interesting. Over the last couple of months I’ve had to work hard to remember that Justice isn’t Meg. She’s Justice. And she’s still a puppy. And she is going to chew everything. And she isn’t going to listen when called. And she isn’t going to walk nicely on the lead. And she has her own, unique personality.
Because when I don’t remember those things, my expectations of who I think she ‘should be’ are ruining the experiences I could be having with her now. I snap. I get grumpy. I tell her off. And I don’t enjoy the fun of her being an excitable, loveable, dorky puppy.
Justice isn’t Meg. She never will be. And when I think back, Meg was a shithead puppy as well. So I need to remove my expectations of ‘who or what’ I think Justice should be, and just enjoy the experience of ‘her being her’.
But here’s the thing I really want you to think about … expectations don’t just ruin our experiences with a new puppy. They can ruin our relationships, our careers, our personal growth and our lives.
How many times have you read a book you loved, waited in anticipation for the film adaptation and then been disappointed when it didn’t live up to your expectation?
How many times have you argued with your partner because they didn’t respond to a situation in the way you thought they should?
How many times have you let a friendship fizzle out because you felt like the other person wasn't giving back as much as you expected them to?
How many times have you given up on a passion project because it wasn’t turning out the way you thought it would?
How many times have you stopped going to the gym, journaling or meditating because the actual ‘doing' was harder than you thought it should be?
And how many times have you self-sabotaged something you really wanted in life because you felt like you weren’t worthy?
Expectations can ruin experiences, and the only way to stop them doing so is not to have any expectations at all. But just let things be what they are. Which is usually messy, hard, frustrating, beautiful and rewarding all rolled into one life experience after another.
So I have let go of any expectations of the sort of dog I want Justice to become, and am just letting her become whoever she will be. Just like I have let go of the expectation that my partner should be a mind reader, or that my friends should text me as often as I text them. I’ve let go of the expectation that building the career I want should come easily. And that intentionally creating the life I crave, and becoming the person I know I can be, will be simple as long as I declutter my utensil drawer.
And you know what … I’ve also realised that the movie is never as good as the book, so I’ve stopped expecting it to be.
Expectations ruin experiences. So let them go.