I have never been too excited watching detective films. I didn’t even go for Detective Byomkesh Bakshi despite the fact that it is Dibaker’s film. While I’ve always been happy when my children have thrown me surprise birthday parties, they have often been disappointed by my reaction to the surprise. For someone who as per my eldest brother is very easy to please and gets easily excited, my reactions to surprises seem very lukewarm. I found the answer to this in my overall approach to life per se. While it may seem like a boring sort of thing, there is a flip side to this not getting surprised that really is quite wonderful. It enables me to live in the moment, a space of minimal reality-expectation gap.
Most of our unhappiness stems from this gap. We have a certain expectation, when the reality is unable to meet that expectation, there is immense pain.
I remember watching an Olympic gymnastics final once. Such grace, such beauty, I was totally captivated by the performances. I had come upon it while just aimlessly surfing channels and it was beautiful where I had landed, watching the beauty of the gymnasts landings!! While I was still soaking in all that elegance, the points were announced. Of the participants who were waiting with bated breath as the results were announced, one person jumped with joy and the other broke into tears. She had just won the Olympic Silver and she was running out of the arena crying hopelessly. There was no joy in that moment for her. All those years of immense practice and hardwork, and accomplishment, boiled down to a single moment of huge disappointment. The reality did not match up to the expectation.
It is not to say that one shouldn’t expect. That i think is in one’s intrinsic nature. And also necessary I suppose. I mean who trains to come 2nd right? If there wasn’t the goal of winning or acquiring something, how then would one be committed to something that requires years of practice and commitment? Cause let’s be honest, it can’t always be about the joy of doing. For all those children taking entrance exams, how much joy can there be in taking practice tests one after the other? If it weren’t for the goal and expectation of getting into that premium engineering college, how else would they burn the midnight oil as they do! And when you work that hard and don’t make the cut, there is bound to be disappointment.
Honestly, I completely empathise with the gymnast who cried. Disappointed losing team members with their display of emotions is not an unusual sight in any sport. In a lot of events, there isn’t even a next chance, which makes the disappointment even more acute. And therefore it is completely natural to have such strong emotions. Problem is when some of us are caught in this reality – expectation gap in a chronic manner. Then instead of a life with occasional failures, our life becomes a series of constant unhappiness and ingratitude. When we succeed, we don’t feel grateful to life and all the synchronous moments and opportunities that brought that moment of accomplishment. When we do not succeed, we become either bitter or quitter!
What we need to do is minimize this reality-expectation gap and not fall into the trap. Our life shouldn’t become a series of reactions to whether or not our expectations were met. There would be reaction to negative results, but it should put one in a mode of proactive action and course correction. Intelligent analysis of one’s own aptitude and options when faced with setbacks could be of great service. Fine tuning one’s expectation set while simultaneously working towards enhancing the reality is what is needed. It doesn’t mean one cannot be sad about outcomes but to wallow in that disappointment and self pity is detrimental. And nothing wrong with being flexible revising one’s goal either! Though the decision to revise should be based on an objective evaluation of one’s own capacity & available opportunities, and not as a psychologically defeating response to failure.
One more way of minimizing this reality – expectation gap could be to not have any expectation at all. But then that’s too much of an expectation from one self! Moreover how many of us could be motivated to perform and do our best if it weren’t for the expectations we have? I’m not saying it is not possible. It could be very rewarding if one could expect nothing and yet be motivated.
There is one more option, which is probably why I don’t really get too surprised. (Mind you it doesn’t mean I don’t feel happy.) And that is Expect Anything….cause really anything can happen! We see and hear of the most incredible events and incidents from all walks and spheres of life. Acts of courage and compassion in the face of extreme circumstances, windfalls for people living in most piteous circumstances, stories abound about courage, hope, compassion, betrayal, desperation…spanning the whole range of emotions and relationships from the human as well as the animal world. Our own lives are full of coincidences and synchronicities we could never have imagined.The soap opera of life has greater surprise elements than any twists in scripts the most creative writer can churn out. Just watching every episode unfold, marvelling at the comic or tragic timing, is a great joy. And when one can expect anything, one can accept everything. The gap is erased, there is just the moment. The understanding of which could very well take us into the state of prasad buddhi.