I remember being a kid and lying on the living room floor pouring over the Christmas catalogues dreaming about what I might get for Christmas that year. The possibilities were delicious to consider and the anticipation was great fun. The catalogues would start to arrive just after Thanksgiving (now they come before I can get that last piece of Halloween candy that didn’t make it into a child’s pumpkin eaten!) and they made for hours of consideration; maybe this….no, that….oh, how about both! The list would begin to grow.
For a child, what would Christmas (or other holiday celebrations) be without all of the anticipation? Anticipation can heighten the experience of many things.
Anticipation lends itself to many emotions: fear, worry, joy, excitement, dread, sadness, relief, pleasure and much more. And those emotions are within us; two people can anticipate the same event with two totally different emotions. Think about the teenager about to get his driver’s license. Most teens are pretty pumped about this milestone while many parents suffer from the mixed emotions of dread (I won’t always know where my kid is….), relief (They can finally haul themselves to activities…..), and anxiety (Accidents do happen…..).
“I’ve learned that I get a lump in my throat every time I think of the day when my daughter will marry.” This can be a bittersweet thought for a parent. I know that when my daughter married there was just a little place inside of me that mourned the passing of time turning my little girl into this beautiful bride…… But mostly, it was just happiness for her and my son-in-law.
As summer has just come to an end and students and teachers alike have returned to the classroom, I’m sure there was also a mixture of anticipatory emotion. My son was excited to return to the classroom and continue his work toward his engineering degree. This is the same son that, while growing up, always seemed to resent the end of summer. I always said that, in his mind, school interrupted his playtime!
When I was a teacher, there were also mixed feelings about the return to school; excited to get working on another year but a smidge of sadness that the long days of summer were coming to an end.
I love to travel with my husband and anticipation for our trips is always part of the pleasure of our adventures. We often know for a year or more where it is that we will head next and we get to spend that time anticipating all that the trip involves. Some parts of the trip we anticipate with a bit of dread (a long flight in cramped seating) but mostly we look forward to the fun and excitement of the places we will see, the relaxation that we will have, the time together without the day-to-day worries and tasks of work and home-life and the amazing people that we will meet. Anticipation extends the trip for much longer than the few weeks that we will be away.
While anticipation can heighten a great experience, I think that we also have to be careful not to miss out on what we have before us today in anticipating the future. “Expecting is the greatest impediment to living. In anticipation of tomorrow, it loses today.” (Lucius Annaeus Seneca) If we spend too much time anticipating how much ‘better’ things will be in the future, we risk not living and being present in the moment that we are in; a moment that may actually be pretty good. Why would we want to spend our lives biding our time until (fill in the blank) happens rather than enjoying what we have in our lives today? I’m not suggesting that we cannot look forward to things in the future (I do look forward to retirement after all!), but I am suggesting that we don’t ‘live’ for those things in the future; that we find joy and meaning in what we have before us today so that we don’t waste our lives in waiting for something that may never even happen!
So, absolutely make those travel plans and Christmas wish lists, but don’t forget along the way to enjoy the Thanksgiving turkey or passing out candy to the neighborhood children on Halloween. Anticipate the marriage of your daughter but don’t miss out on the pleasure of her company while you have her. Plan for back-to-school, but don’t waste the beautiful months of summer dreading that first day back (or for Moms, the can’t-wait-for-school-to-start countdown).
As the long-ago Heinz ketchup commercial captured, “Anticipation…..It’s making me wait.” (If you are not old enough to remember this campaign, check it out) Enjoy the wait as well as the much-anticipated event!
On the journey with you…….Kathy
(Quote: Age 44- The Complete Live and Learn and Pass It On, by H. Jackson Brown, Jr.)