Choosing Possibility Over Disappointment
My husband and I love to travel. Since we met six years ago we’ve travelled to thirty-one countries together. However, one of the trips we look forward to the most is the ski holiday we take each year. It’s typically our most expensive trip of the year, but for us, it’s worth it. We both grew up skiing and now that we live in the Middle East it’s our only week of “real winter” every year.
This year we booked our ski trip to Les Trois Vallees in the French Alps. We were there two years ago and absolutely loved it so decided to go back this year. Flights were booked, the apartment was paid for, the rental car was arranged and I had brand new skis I was really excited to try out. We arrived in Geneva last Saturday and made the drive into the mountains. As is typical when travelling, things didn’t go perfectly smoothly – the airline temporarily misplaced our luggage, the rental car company got our reservation mixed up with someone else’s, and there were delays on the road due to the yellow-jacket protesters, but that’s just part of traveling and we’ve learned how to adapt to those types of things. Though unplanned, they’re not necessarily unexpected.
The big complication struck on Sunday.
We were two runs into our first day of skiing, the skies were blue, the snow was surprisingly good, and I was loving the feel of my new skis. I was turning hard, really testing my new edges when spasms suddenly shot through the right side of my back. I managed to stop, but then couldn’t move. I have dealt with back pain for over ten years, but I have only had attacks that felt this debilitating a handful of times – even shifting my weight from one foot to the other was excruciating.
From that point we spent the next 90 minutes or so just getting down the mountain and back to our apartment. In previous years I would have traveled with strong pain medication, muscle relaxants, and a back brace. But these are all things I hadn’t used in over a year and so I didn’t pack them. It was very obvious at this point that the week was not going to look like the week we had expected to have.
This was a trip we had been looking forward to for months, especially having been there before, we had a clear vision and expectation of what the week would look like. We would have been well within our rights to wallow in self-pity, to rail against the unfairness of it all, to write the holiday off as a waste, or to play the “what-if” game. To be honest, we did give in to these urges for a bit. I sulked, I cried, and we considered packing everything up and going home. But then, we didn’t. We stayed. And you know what, we had a great week.
We had to be intentional to let our original expectations go. We expected to ski for five-and-a-half full days – we ended up skiing for two full and two half days. We expected to ski hard, Chris and I at the same level – I ended up skiing slower, cruising more casually while Chris had to stop and wait regularly. We had expected to spend our evenings going sledding, walking around the town, eating fondue, and playing games – we ended up spending our evenings lying in bed streaming curling on tv. If we had been unable to let those original expectations go, we would have been miserable making the adjustments we needed to, but as we reset our expectations we were able to find joy in the new normal.
The thing is that this didn’t happen by accident, it had to be intentional. Unfulfilled expectations can ruin our lives. They can make us bitter and resentful, and can cause us to miss things that would bring us joy. It can be especially dangerous when these expectations are unexpressed. We can sometimes feel dissatisfied without really knowing why. We compare people or situations to expectations we may not even realize we had developed. Whenever you feel disappointed or dissatisfied make sure you’re clear on what you were expecting and why. Like our recent ski trip, your expectations may not have been unrealistic, but with circumstances changing they may no longer be possible. Instead of hanging onto what could have been great, shift your expectation to focus on what can be great. Be intentional to shift your perspective to see new possibilities instead of unfulfilled expectations.