Acceptance and Letting Go of Expectations


Over Memorial Day I took a trip down to Los Angeles to visit my mother. It was a belated Mother’s Day celebration visit, yet I felt dread.

Ever since my mom opened her Vietnamese restaurant in 2010, she’s been very unavailable, even when I come down from San Francisco. Her eyes are on the prize, she works every day, even when she has pneumonia. TRUTH. The last few times that I’ve visited, I’ve gotten my feelings hurt terribly. I would come out for a multi-day visit yet only see my mom for a few hours. It was just weird, and it hurt a lot.

My therapist had me total out the amount of time that I spend with my mom over the course of a year and all I could think was total, maybe a 6-12 hours? A day or two? Who knows. After a few years of these trips I started feeling abandoned. Over time I accepted that my mom is a workaholic. There’s really nothing that can be done. And even though I know this, my mom’s utter dedication to her work stings every time.

While I was preparing myself emotionally for this visit, I thought… what if I do things differently this time?What if instead of bemoaning the fact that my mom can’t spend as much time with me as I would like I simply accept that it’s not going to change and focus on enjoying the time that we do spend together?

I can’t say that I didn’t make it through the trip without feeling a bit exasperated, but the shift in thinking helped a lot. Instead of going “oh, here we go again” when my mom was late or had to go back to work I just let it be. I had plans, I lived my life. She popped in for a little bit and we had fun. It was so much… easier. I accepted that my mom would be busy at work and I let go of the expectation that she would take massive amounts of time off to hang out with me.  This sounds simple, but it was a revelation.

Today I was upset and angry about being let down in the same ways time and time again by those close to me. I was thinking to myself, if they would just stop doing this one stupid thing that hurts my feelings, if they could make an honest effort to change maybe we could get along better… Then I stopped myself, thinking of my nice trip to LA. Reason intervened. The truth is that maybe they will change, maybe they won’t, or maybe they can’t- but it’s really not up to me. I’ve already voiced my feelings and desires.

What I can do however is work on accepting them as they are and changing my expectations and my reaction.

So a friend keeps letting me down in the same way every time we get together? What if I just decide that it’s not my problem and I won’t let it bother me anymore? What if I let go of wanting this one thing? Would I stop being disappointed and hurt? I don’t know, but I hope so.