I think it was because she was a farmer’s daughter. Or it may have been that she just didn’t care for surprises.
By the time I came along the year she turned 30 my mother had developed the mantra she’d pass down to me oft-used and well-worn.
“Expect the worst, hope for the best.”
That was the philosophy that was designed to see you through drought and flooding and broken tractors; it also worked nicely for waiting for boys to call and for pizza to be served at lunch. Somewhere along the way, though, I started to realise that this particular way of looking at the world was turning me into a decidedly grim and fretful woman. Every time I have an annual exam I expect the phone call telling me the cells were abnormal. Every time I plan for a vacation I expect that some turn of events will force me to cancel and fly instead to northern Michigan. Every time my husband leaves on a business trip I expect a phone call with news of disaster.
Of course I always HOPE for the best, as I was taught. Granted, when you’re expecting the worst, the bar for the “best” is set pretty low. When you’re expecting that the mail will bring news of an IRS audit the “best” becomes “Oh good, I didn’t get audited.” I don’t ever hope for nice notes from my mother-in-law or coupons to Bellacino’s.
This applies also to my work. I expect that I won’t get published, so I’ll be pleasantly surprised if I ever do. But there’s the sticky wicket of not being motivated at all to write anything since I’m expecting that it’ll never see the light of another person’s eyes. Expecting the worst has gradually evolved into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
In thinking through all of this I’ve gotten to the place where I’m actively working on revising my life mantra. I’ve stopped expecting the worst. Well, halfway stopped. I’m still working through it and occasionally catch myself expecting police with a warrant instead of UPS with a package from Bath & Body Works.**
I’m redesigning my philosophy. The new phrase is
“Live with Joy, Harbour Hope, Accept the Worst With Grace and Resolve.”
*Although my mother did tell me I should expect to be martyred for my faith by the Communists. I think this falls under “expect the worst”.
** I haven’t, to my knowledge, done anything that, well, warrants a warrant. But these days I wonder if that even matters. Actually I wonder if they have warrants any more or if they just do that thing they do on the television where they show up and whine about how hard the paperwork is so since you’re a good person and all you’ll let them search your house without going all the way back downtown for one of those pesky warrant things.