My dad is famous for a gesture that is a hand waving back and forth in a horizontal way that is meant to indicate a spectrum of color ranging from black to white. "Noooo gray area..." he would say. Whatever the conversation, what he meant with that wave of the hand was, "Lets make sure that there are no missed expectations.... no gaps in understanding. Stick to the black and white of things."
Gaps can be rather harmful, and the London subway system goes to great lengths to advertise a gap between the concrete ledge and the train. But even greater dangers seem to be those gaps in understanding between spouses, children and people we love. "I thought YOU were bringing the paper plates!" "Nooo, I was already bringing the silverware, so of course I thought YOU were bringing paper plates." It is this "gray area" of misunderstanding that leaves things implied, not spelled out, that my father strives to eliminate. The same sentiment is expressed by Henry David Thoreau when he said,
"In human intercourse the tragedy begins, not when there is misunderstanding about words, but when silence is not understood."
I am trying to eliminate this area of missed expectations in my life. As I turn the ripe old age of 39, I see the gaps between what my younger self had planned, and what life has planned for me instead. Without an accounting and clarification of what dreams I traded in for what I got, there is ample room for disappointment. And in some cases when I review the crossroads in my life, I must just repeat to myself another one of my dad's pithy statements, "Well THAT was an expensive mistake!"
For the others, however, I just have to take a good hard look at the gap. According to the Buddha, we suffer because we crave. What about the gray area is a misery of my own making? Can it be bridged? Can it be fixed? Should it be bridged? Did I miss a train somewhere and fall into a gap of missed expectations? I'd hate to admit here how horrifyingly dumb I've been in my life, but there it is. And I'm not alone. Some missed expectations have come from my dealing with others. The desire to change the core personality of others that... will never change - no matter how much reasoning and common sense is presented to them, has brought about a newfound wisdom: You can't change people. I include myself in all this; hardly going from grace to grace myself, I feel like I've tripped face down from one mud puddle into another. I really saw a lot of things going differently in my head....
But I did not miss the boat on a spouse. He is the envy of all I know. I did not miss the train when I got each of my kids that make my life interesting. Whether on a diploma'd piece of paper, or ability I have gained, I have learned a LOT in the past 39 years. I just have to figure out how to mind the gap between what I expected, and what has been presented. Am I wise? OH heaven's no. I can't fix all the gaps and gray area's in my life. I'm just smart enough to recognize a gray area, a gap, or a missed expectation when I see one.