I’ve been thinking for months about an interview with actor Michael J. Fox that I read in the April/May issue of AARP Magazine. I also found the interview online here.
Fox has Parkinson’s disease, and he addressed its effect on his life in the following passage:
“'There's an idea I came across a few years ago that I love,' he says. 'My happiness grows in direct proportion [to] my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectations. . . . That's the key for me. If I can accept the truth of “This is what I'm facing — not what can I expect but what I am experiencing now” — then I have all this freedom to do other things.'”
I’ve been pondering this passage from the interview for months. I wanted to understand it. I intuitively felt that it could be an important concept for me to grasp.
I copied and pasted it in a Word document and kept going back to it.
I didn’t understand how expectations could be hurtful. Shouldn’t we expect certain things to be a certain way? Aren’t we supposed to have expectations of others?
I finally had a realization about this one evening at home.
I was sitting at my computer, playing solitaire, feeling sad.
I had opened up my Word document earlier in the evening and read the Fox quote again.
But then I started thinking about how a person had disappointed me.
The details don’t matter. The fact is that I had expected this person to do something a certain way, and when she didn’t, I didn’t like it.
I felt terrible. I wondered what was wrong with me to cause this person to act a certain way. I wondered why things never seemed to turn out the way I wanted them to. I knew I was indulging in distorted thinking, but I just kept on and on down the negative trail.
Then the pieces came together. I realized that if I accepted the actions of this person—without judging her or myself—I felt a lot better. I could just let go of the incident.
I accepted her actions. I didn’t try to explain it to myself. I didn’t need to think about it anymore.
I just accepted it. And I couldn’t believe how better I felt. I actually felt lighter.
I create expectations based on all sorts of things, mostly on what I want. And usually the expectations are about things I cannot control.
Getting upset over things I can’t control just doesn’t make sense anymore.
Acceptance of what I can’t control, letting go of expectations—I felt it in action sitting there playing solitaire.
Now I just have to keep on accepting.
I’m still pondering this and thinking about Fox’s statement. What do you think about what he said about expectations and acceptance?