Expectations

Over the years, I’ve written about some of life’s certainties — birth, death, time and change. You can guarantee we will all experience those things.

Birth and death are at the centre of our existence. We are birthed onto this Earth, to leave it again. No matter where we’re from, how much material wealth we may accumulate or what colour our skin, the scent we exude. Us humans are birthed into this world to die. Animals and plants too.

Birth and death occur in tandem with time, which leads to change. Life is in a constant state of flux, sometimes deep and challenging, other times gloriously joyous and uplifting, tender and sensuous. Change happens as time passes, ticking over every minute, day and year. Tick, tick, tick …

Rushing, darting, dashing, being somewhere, anywhere, and nowhere. Time, there's never enough, we always want more. Time to act and do. Time to be and play and have fun, time to walk and run.

Faster, quicker, need it yesterday ... I don’t have time. More and more, more time to work and more work. Time’s ticking, always ticking.

Time to feel, time to heal. Time to see and be. Time to love and be loved, and feel the love. Time to feel sad and hurt and heal from the sad and hurt. Or, we can have too much time. To think, and do nothing. The trepidation in time.

Life’s certainties don’t stop there though because we also have the dreaded: Expectations. We all have them, no matter how hard we try not to.

Expectations come from the act of expecting, wanting, requiring. Demanding. They can be ego driven, selfish and ungracious, and can creep in like muted millipedes found curling in a corner of your home. Black, hard little critters. Or they can thrash in as a heavy, weighted monster that won’t budge.

The problem with expectations is when they aren’t met, they lead to all sorts of frustration and disappointment. I’d go so far as to say that unmet expectations can be killers. You set your mind to attaining something, and when you can’t achieve it, become disheartened.

It becomes doubly so, tripled and quadrupled even, when that something hindering your ability to reach your expectation is something you have no influence over. An expectation of a sound sleep can be lost to a neighbour playing loud music at 2 am; the expectation of juicy apricots in summer can be lost once insects bore into the 20-year-old apricot tree, and dies. Most obvious is COVID-19. Without banging on about the obvious impacts, the expectation of many to carry on with our ‘usual’ life has been quashed by the outside influence of COVID-19. Many expectations pre COVID-19 are today unmet, and the impact of that can be debilitating.

Unmet expectations aren’t necessarily in the extreme and can be as simple as expecting to walk your puppy around the block in 15 minutes, only to be gone double that time because your puppy wants to sit or chase a butterfly, or refuses to walk and instead wants to bite at the lead.

Of course, it can go the other way too. That rascally puppy who runs amuck in the backyard, chews the skirting board of your home, might be the epitome of the model walking dog. The expectation of mayhem and mischief on a walk is a pleasant surprise when the puppy walks tall.

The challenge is in managing those expectations, especially when they’re unmet, is letting go of them before they twist you into a tourniquet that’s too tight to untie.

Some say to have a goal and set a plan in action to achieve it, but be prepared to change the plan if it isn’t achieving your goal.

Perhaps it’s as a friend said to me the other day, who believes everything derives from and is love. Life is about ‘the love of the self, to become sovereign to the self.’ I liked that and took it to mean being respectful of one’s self in all one’s entirety, in all beauty and flaw. And to be grateful for what is, appreciate who you are and what you have and don't have.

In our constant motion of time, look around and breathe in what we see, drink it in and savour it, whether bad, sad or positively blissful and everything in between.

Wonder at life. Be inspired by the expanse of red soil that meets a horizon of blue in the distance, find the awe in the incandescence of snow laden mountains illuminating at 2am in an Arctic winter. The natural world is full of marvel and being in awe of it puts expectations into perspective and can shrink them into a manageable insignificance.

Sit with a young child that’s waking in your arms, and appreciate their faith in your love and protection. Meditate with the birds calling in sunrise, or fall asleep to waves that never stop their rumble into shore. Take a three hour lunch with a friend on a sunny winter’s day, chat with someone who has known you over lifetimes; appreciate kindness.

I love this quote from Julia Baird in her book, Phosphorescence: on Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark, for it’s a reminder to take the time to appreciate:

We need to learn how to regard and pay attention, to mine our inner strength, and accept the possibility that we can emerge from pain and grow by moonlight — in times of darkness — that we can push ‘right back’ on winter and find inside a summer. We also need to seek and settle upon a purpose in life — something many people seem to discover once they fully open their eyes (Baird, 2020, p. 204).

Perhaps that’s another of life's certainties: learning how to let go of, and manage expectations.

Maybe it’s a case of expect the imperfection in life, where expectations are one of them. And take note of those moments of satisfaction and fulfillment in simple pleasures.

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The Nannu kiss

There’s this kiss that’s the purest of kisses. I’m not sure whether I can describe it or do justice to its nuance of power. It’s greater than any other kiss I’ve known, the epitome of all kisses: moreish without being delicious, deeper than lust and desire crocheted in the intricacy of passion, leather and lace.

I was lucky to have one smack-banged on me recently from a most beautiful soul, a compassionate man who personifies gorgeous that oozes from his insides out.  

I’ve only had a few in the past 20 years, since my grandfather died. I can count them on one hand. My grandfather was a strict man, an ex-army troop sergeant in World War 2 for the British Army Royal Engineers, although he was Maltese. He saw a thing or two with Malta being the most bombed allied country during the War. Forty years on and he would bark orders as though he was still in the army. Us grandchildren, 16 of us, would smirk when we heard them as they were directed at anyone but particularly at our parents and as children, we revelled in our parents being told off! We’d receive his orders occasionally, like if we were washing up incorrectly or cleaning up after a meal in a way that he thought he wasn’t right. He’d direct us to do it his way in his sergeant tone.

But his orders to us were different, they didn't contain the serious undertones so distinct in his orders to others and even when they did, we knew we could disobey them. When we did, he’d have a little grumble then quickly break into a little laugh and invariably, end in one of his kisses. I call them the Nannu kiss and Nannu would kiss us in this way anytime, not just when we disobeyed his orders. It was his signature kiss.

The few I’ve received since his death have come from a gentle giant of a man who I consider an older brother. I’m the eldest of my siblings and so to have this older brother figure is comforting. His kiss normally comes with a hello or how are you. It could be that he kisses me in this way simply because he is almost a foot taller than me and the practicality of giving the kiss is because of his height.

But I don’t think that’s the case, not when I feel such care and a sense of protection in the Nannu kiss. It’s a strange feeling, that of protection, because it’s not as if I'm in any danger. The kiss though, conveys such kindness and respect, and that everything is okay, no matter what. It’s a reassurance that I’m safe, that someone ‘has my back’ and I can rely on them. 

Timing is everything and the Nannu kiss I received from my gorgeous man this week came at the most perfect time, if ever there is such a thing as the perfect. It came with lashings of care, compassion and grace and allowed me the humility to lean into his grounding and know that no matter what, he’s there and I'm okay. It came with the reassurance that he’ll be beside me in the patience of the most enlightened of monks and while he may not be able to stick any broken pieces together for me, he’ll help search for every shard that may have ricocheted into the ethers and catch them if they fall while I glue them together. His nurturing strength is deeply rooted in solid poise, so that anything can be achieved. The Nannu kiss is unwavering.

I hope you get to experience the Nannu kiss in your lifetime and when you do, be sure to draw in all the tenderness that it’s given with. Feel that kiss when it’s coddled, caked or caressed onto your forehead, suck in every minuscule of its giving and feel it spread from the top of your head into every part of your body. Breathe in that cherish of the exchange for it will give you the strength to accomplish even the most difficult of despairs.

And if you’re lucky enough to witness a Nannu kiss being planted on someone’s forehead, observe the lowering of the giver’s eyes, the warmth in their smile before they pucker their lips to kiss the forehead of the lucky receiver, whose head is almost bowed in anticipation of the gift. Watch the receiver tuck into the chest of the giver, their body giving into the comfort of the steady foundation. Appreciate the vulnerability in the kiss being received, and the humility with which it’s given.

The Nannu kiss is the embodiment of love stripped bare. It can empower to achieve and accomplish anything, even the perceived insurmountable. Christmas or not, Nannu kiss or not, the gift of unconditional reassurance and boundless strength is something we’re all worthy of receiving. And giving.

 

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You know

Some things you just know, without understanding or reasoning. They just are.

From that first breath we’re privileged with, the gasp that comes from the longest silence, you know there is something greater than any understanding can reveal.

It’s a look. A smell. A touch that melts a hundred hardened hearts and can prompt the unfurling of the first delicate petal from the centre of a tightly bound rose. It unleashes an unimaginable, a vast infinite beyond comprehension.

It’s when time is nothing and growth is everything, when nothing can morph into everything and everything can become entirety. That first breath tells all. Is all. The first step, the first word spoken. It’s when a teenager openly admires a parent’s bravery, and that other teenager rises to speak her mind in forthright candour and with a strength you wish all people had.

In that, is a knowing that can’t be explained. It’s something that stirs deep within the youngest of people and oldest of souls, and prompts action when no action may be wanted. It comes on impulse voicing care and concern, as a surprise savvy loaded in activism that inspires and binds to accomplish more.

As the croon of tyre on bitumen can hum into daydreams of what was yesterday and what’s to come tomorrow, mumbles onto foreign lands can feel so familiar. To start over or return, it can be the same and one, as is the knowing and not knowing and catching a whiff to follow your nose when there is no scent.

It knows. As sure as the sun rises each morning and sets each night, even when it hovers in a haze of pink and orange to dance on a horizon and never really set or rise, you know. Deep in your centre, it calls. Even when a kick in the gut strikes in the dim of dark to seethe in swells and spits of molten lava, or the broken of heartache that has no end, in all its fragmented fracture, it knows what to do. It understands what is.

When a touch can send quivers into a rabid fever, when luminous and incandescent eyes of blue, green or brown pine unwavering into you, whether human, canine, feline or other living creature, you know. No matter where you are, what you’re doing or for how long.

It’s there in the last breath in a long line of breaths, bellying out as a knowing in one’s core of all that is. That knowing of instinct, you know it, even when you don’t know it.

And yet the simplest action for all of us is to listen. Hear that call, hear that knowing of instinct. It can flutter in the flap of a butterfly wing, or a bam-shazam punch of tungsten tough.

Stop. Breathe. Listen in silence.

What it is that we know, is in the pits of no end. Hone in on that knowing for in its centre, is the sound of love. Touch it. Stroke it. Gaze upon it. Taste it and smell it. Devour it. That’s all we need to know.

 

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The magic mirror

My kitchen window is the portal into another time and place. I’ve been looking through it and writing about what I see for years. Even when I don’t see any physical activity apart from the day that is – a gluttonous sky thundering over the Chinese Elm, the first blossoms on the apricot tree or chooks basking in the dusty hole they’ve dug to bathe in sunshine – I see so much.

The three little boys that once jumped in and out of a portable swimming pool in summers of years gone, white in a heavy layering of sunscreen and laughing with each butt print made on the hot concrete path. They’d ride scooters and bikes from the back gate onto a track in the grass, have parties with friends and chip golf balls on a make-shift putting green. They’d hang washing on the clothes line while I washed dishes over my window, throwing the ball for Teddi and hitting it out with a cricket bat when they got tired of throwing. They’d bring washing in, all folded and ready to sort. They still do.

Today through my kitchen window is one of them with his love pulling weeds together by that clothes line, cute in their occasional smiles and exchanges. He’s older and wiser now, although sometimes when a shopping trolley full of garden stakes and an azalea bush plucked from an anonymous front yard appears after a night out with friends, I do wonder.

    Our house, it has a crowd

    There’s always something happening

    And it’s usually quite loud … Our house, in the middle of our street

Madness sings over the radio, reminding me of how time moves at a snail’s pace, and yet ever moving with the rotating Earth. This magic window of mine shows glimpses only I can see. Memories of little boys that are now as men, a second 21st birthday in weeks.

Waves in the unseen pulse through, hurts from deep love and happiness scar in a life meandering as a unique Jackson Pollock drip painting. Sharp pains clash in lines of reds and blues highlighted in ochres, the clash of words that gnaw within the heart.

    It’s a fine line between pleasure and pain

    You’ve done it once you can do it again

It’s the Divinyls now, prodding the longings, whether known or not, for him or her, that thing in the corner. To be by the beach; to be home. A longing for peace without turmoil, peace even when the ocean roars its endless rhythm of now and what’s to come. Longing frees the honesty within the heart, to smile when not smiling. Perhaps that’s a contentment, even with emotions brimming and wanting to spill.

Whether I’m looking through my kitchen window at those boys of yesterday and today, or for the rabid clucks of chooks being chased by Teddi and Schnooze, all in good jest of course, it’s always wide open and full of reflection. I can be cooking butterflied lamb that’s been marinating for 36 hours for dinner and whizzing past the window from bench to stove, stopping at the kitchen sink to wash hands of sticky garlic oils, and still, all manner of stark brutality can flood in to choke. A gulp of rosé from the antique crystal glass can smooth it away, spritely and clear compared to the robust of swallow of the same wine from my brown short glass last week. Senses swirl in the heady grilling, aromas fill nostrils to where I can smell no more.

This evening it’s simple burgers browning in a pan with bacon and pineapple and it’s not until one of those boys walks in from work that I realise I’m immersed in the Monika-world.

‘Mmm, that smells nice,’ he says. ‘I can smell it from the back gate.’ His hello kiss brings me back to today with bonds to yesterday. Another sip of rosé.

That magic mirror can show possibilities of what’s to come, of more little children running through the yard or by the beach in their little Hawaiian shirts, more dogs and chooks and golf all fusing as that next part of a growing life. My magic mirror keeps me wide open to possibilities, many I cannot imagine.

There’s always a kiss of tomorrow, the kiss from far away that should have been, could be. Kisses maketh thy life.

    Here comes the rain again

    Falling on my head like a memory

    Falling on my head like a new emotion

    I want to walk in the open wind

    I want to talk like lovers do

    I want to dive into your ocean

    Is it raining with you        ~ Eurythmics

 

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