This I Believe

Denise - Ithaca, New York
Entered on November 27, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: humility
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This I Believe

I believe in living life with low expectations. Lest you think I am a depressive, downtrodden sort, let me explain how having low expectations has allowed me to enjoy

the pleasures life has to offer.

I am not an ascetic. I, like most people, have hopes and wishes. I hope for safety and good health, sufficient resources, good friends, a close family, interesting work. However, I have learned not to expect that these are mine for the taking – even if I try my level best to be a careful, hardworking, kind person. If the things that make life sweet come to pass I am lucky – very lucky. I don’t believe the makings of a good life are givens.

It’s hard to have low expectations – living in our land of unprecedented plenty. It would be easy to assume the good things in life ought to come my way; that they provide the stage on which life will play out. After all, aren’t I supposed to be safe – in my home, on the road, in my travels? Don’t I deserve to have good health if I live a healthy lifestyle? Since I work hard, shouldn’t I have a nice house and good car? Good friends, an attractive mate, healthy children, and rewarding work are things our culture would lead me to expect.

However, to my way of thinking, expecting these things is a sure-fire recipe for unhappiness and disillusionment. It has been my experience that life is often terribly difficult and unfair. Just by living everyday I have learned the unexpected can come and snatch away what was felt to be permanent: A dear friend, the picture of health, dies prematurely in a fall. A hard working, terrific colleague is axed by top management. A fire destroys the home of a wonderful family. A parent’s dream of a healthy, happy child disappears in a flash when an accident strikes. The litany can go on.

I don’t dwell on the tough realities of life, but they are with me every day. They make me constantly aware of the fact that when things go well, I am blessed. I am acutely aware that it did not have to be so. The knowledge that life is often hard allows me to marvel at the simple beauties of an ordinary day, the vigor of a healthy child, the goodness and generosity that I’ve experienced from loved ones and strangers alike. I am always pleased – and a little surprised – to see that the glass has something in it, rather expecting it to be filled to the brim. Living life with low expectations is the secret to happiness. This I believe.