Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Anticipation, Part II

Two weeks ago I wrote this post that included a bit about the high of anticipation.  But there are other facets of anticipation.

We've all done a fair amount of waiting in our lives. The photograph in this post is from my father's hospital room; in another hospital room on another day we waited for him to breathe his last breath.  Anticipation then was dark and sad and filled with tension, and the outcome seemed impossible. It was anticipation of something we knew was inevitable. We were powerless in the face of it.

And then there was the earlier nebulous anticipation of the time my dad would die.  Even before he fell, I would spend time thinking about what it would be like, preparing myself for the loss. It seemed that I might think that he had lived a good life, be thankful for the time we were together, grieve and move on.  The first two things happened.  I was grateful for his life and our time together.  But I haven't really moved completely on from it.  Grief is bearable now, but not finished by any means.  So this was anticipation not based in reality.  

When I found out I had breast cancer and the doctor started talking about surgery and radiation treatment (I wasn't a candidate for chemo, which is good and bad), I freaked.  I won't even let my dentist take x-rays of my teeth unless I'm in pain; the thought of exposing my heart and lungs to killer rays scared the hell out of me.  Plus I was going to have to go every day except Saturday and Sunday for six weeks. And that doesn't even address the surgery (which ended up being two surgeries).  The anticipation was agonizing, but in the end it wasn't all that bad.  I got into a routine for the six weeks, the treatment was (seemingly) innocuous and took only minutes once I got settled on the body mold, the staff was pleasant, and the surgeries went well with a minimum of scarring. So this was anticipation in the form of fear of the unknown.  Fear makes you high, but it isn't healthy.

Sometimes when I had done something that I wasn't very proud of, like hiding my smoking from my family, anticipation was my constant companion. It was the anticipation of getting caught, of hurting my family, of being ashamed of myself.  I replay this getting caught scenario often in my dreams; did last night as a matter of fact.  This kind of anticipation is a high too, but not a good one.

When I was getting ready to quit smoking, I tried to anticipate what I would do when I couldn't go outside and blow off steam and smoke, relax and smoke, play cards and smoke.  I began slowly to substitute what I wanted my new behavior to be and in that way eased myself into better habits.  In this case, anticipation was of a preparatory nature like that around losing my father; I was able to make a significant change in my life by looking forward to a time when I didn't smoke.

Anticipation can be useful or detrimental. It can set you up for disappointment and it can cause undue worry.  It can make you high or it can make you physically ill. It can enhance an experience by prolonging the joy it will bring. Whatever role it plays, I believe it elongates time.  Waiting.

I know we're supposed to live in the moment.  A devotion to that way of living would do away with all my anticipation, but I'm just not there yet. In the meantime, I can remind myself of the times my anticipation proved to be nothing, or that anticipation was useful, and cling to my habit of anticipating good things.

What forms has anticipation taken in your life?


Ginny said...

When I was a kid, I looked forward to things like birthdays and Christmas, to getting my driver's license, going off to college, being old enough to drink or vote. "I can't wait!" I exclaimed. Now when I experience that kind of anticipation, it seems like wishing my life away, wishing the days to go faster, and so I don't do that much any more.

My grandmother used to say of such planning or anticipation that she had gotten to the age that she didn't even buy green bananas any more. I find I've become a bit the same way, my anticipations being more short-term now. I look forward to the end of the work day, to getting out on the deck in the sunshine, to dinner with a friend.

mamie said...

The latter anticipation that you talk about is more of the "in the moment" type that I wish I could embrace now.

In thinking about the post after writing it, I found that the synonyms that would be appropriate for the anticipation I described would be "anxiety," "expectation," and "preparation." When looked at using those terms, the contrast between positive and negative anticipation is sharper. Thanks for reading the post and taking time to think about it and comment.