Setting Expectations

I arrived on the panhandle of Florida and the white sandy beaches of the Emerald Coast one week and one day ago. In this time, I have seen two sunsets and one sunrise – significantly fewer than I thought I would by this time. I thought I’d come down here and, like last year, be instantly harmonized by the view, strengthened by the exercise of walking in the soft sand and soothed by the sound of the gentle green-blue waves rolling onto the shore.

Instead I have picked up 6 bags of trash left behind by the vacationers, discovered this part of the “Emerald Coast” is more of a muddy blue that smells like sewage; likely because of the two huge street sewer water culverts running from the road above, under the white sands and emptying directly into the Gulf. Rather than a deserted or even sparsely visited beach due to the ongoing pandemic, the shoreline is packed with people splashing around in the sewage-y water and throwing their beer cans (and bottles, straws, diapers, cigarettes…) into the sand. In the hundreds of people I’ve encountered so far, only one was wearing a mask. My Airbnb host, who insisted on being in the condo and giving me a personal tour of her property when I arrived scoffed (literally) at my mask as she explained to me how to use the toaster and told me not to move the leak-catching bucket under the kitchen sink. An oh yeah…let’s not forget that the first evening I was on the beach, someone stole my shoes and I had to walk home barefoot. Fucking BAREFOOT.

I’ve never dealt with disappointment well. I think this is mainly because I try hard to set my expectations really low in the hopes I’ll be pleasantly surprised by what life brings my way. So when reality fails to meet even my lowest hopes, it feels especially deflating and tastes especially bitter. Like my last stay in Kansas, that was supposed to be a nice small town retreat allowing me to reconnect to my midwest roots but ended up being a mostly disappointing reminder of why I left my small rural hometown behind. The ugly place where I can’t find gratitude, where I start to become a whiny woman who, in the middle of a pandemic when people are dying, thinks life is unfair and then vents online about how bad it is, how sad she is and how she deserves so much more…because her beachside condo isn’t all that she thought it would be. That woman? Who in their mind would want to be THAT woman?

So today, after spending three full days in bed sleeping and binge watching OTNB for the first time (for real though – can we talk about Crazy Eyes? I fucking love Crazy Eyes), I’m awake, I’m showered, I’m perpendicular and I’m washing my sheets. I’m looking out the sliding glass door to my private balcony and I’m feeling the cool air conditioning on my skin while enjoying the warmth of the sunshine through the glass. I’m not feeling my Spiritual (and peaceful) side too close by but that’s usually the case when I’ve wallowed in my self-pity and depression for days at a time. I know the way out of this rabbit hole is mindfulness and the intentional pursuit of thankfulness. Sometimes I just have to start by breathing and being thankful for my working lungs or sitting quietly and feeling my pulse and being thankful for my working heart. And other times, I just have to pick up my laptop and start writing in order to “hear” myself being “that woman.” And, like today, upon hearing what I have to say, I usually start to feel the stirring within me that reminds me that it’s all going to be okay…that it already is, that it’s okay to still hope and set my expectations higher, that this life is worthy of being lived…that I’m not that woman.

So this evening I’ll put on my other shoes that give me blisters and my silly mask and I’ll go walk on the littered beach next to the polluted waters. I’ll look for, and honor, the soul in all the other people I encounter despite how they act and what they do. I’m going to be grateful for my vinyl exam glove as I pick up what they leave behind. I’m going to be thankful to my failing meat coated skeleton for taking me for a walk on the beach. I’ll watch the pelicans, the seagulls and the sandpipers work so hard for their food and be grateful for the salad and salmon filet I’ll have for dinner tonight. And just as the sun meets the horizon, I’ll find a place to sit and to watch the glory unfold before me in the sky. Because no matter what is happening or where I am, the sunset will always be that one place in life where I can set my expectations high and never be disappointed.

And thank God for that.