common threads #12: anticipation

Posted: January 14, 2013 in Observations and Commentary
Tags: , , , , ,

Take a moment and reach back to your childhood. Remember waiting for that special thing to happen, that special thing which you knew was going to happen. Remember how time seemed to crawl like a slug through thick, unforgiving mud. Remember the feeling of waiting waiting waiting for it to arrive, then the unmistakable sensation somersaulting in your tummy like the Flying Wallendas which accompanied the wait. Maybe it was a holiday or birthday. Perhaps it was visiting a fun place, like your favorite cousin’s home or a ballpark. It could have been receiving the perfect goodie you ordered from a magazine through the mail. Sometimes you knew the exact date it would happen, other times it was unknown, circling above the clouds like a hidden eagle. Either way, the wait felt endless and you were consumed with this paradoxically excruciating and delightful fervor called anticipation.

It is tough recapturing that sense of childhood anticipation, isn’t it? Somewhere along the road it slipped into a ditch. Or perhaps we simply adjusted to life. Adulthood brings a radically different version of anticipation. Upcoming joy and is replaced by a harbinger of trouble. Not many of us still get jazzed waiting for a package in the mail, but we certainly endure anticipation’s dark side whenever the phone rings in the middle of the night or we await the results of that medical test. When was it that our perception flipped? Was there a precise moment when anticipation turned from a promise of future pleasure to an expectation of something sinister?

Life is easy, if not for the relentless complications. It rarely follows an orderly path and will throw each of us into the ditch at some point. As kids we don’t think about that kind of stuff. Each new day is an adventure, an exploration into the mysterious and exciting. When you know in advance a mysterious and exciting thing is coming anticipation washes over you like the waters at Lourdes. It is sparked by the certain knowledge happiness sits at the end of anticipation’s ride. You are climbing that first hill on the roller coaster – nervous, eager, thrilled. The iron bar keeps you snuggly safe and when the top is reached you experience that divine, but fleeting instant when anticipation and deliverance occupy the same space. Of course the payoff was never as delicious as imagined, but it was pretty sweet.

Sometimes I wonder if we would all be better served by trying, if only on occasion, to joyfully anticipate the good yet to come. They may not be gifts wrapped in colorful packaging or exotic purchases delivered through the complex workings of the postal service, but they don’t need to be. As you read this think about the people you will be seeing soon and anticipate your mutual warm greetings. Consider that after work trip to the market and anticipate the pleasant reaction of the cashier when you deliver a sincere compliment and a smile. Bask in the anticipation of knowing when you are tired a warm bed is there for you. The glorious power of anticipation does not need to turn dark as the world goes about its dirty business. It simply needs to be nudged towards the light.
Learn more about The Common Threads Project.

  1. Let me join the chorus singing your praises on this post. It made me recall trips to the beach when I was a kid and how long the night before we left always seemed to be.


  2. bronxboy55 says:

    Is it that we get used to the happy things, and they eventually become boring, while the bad things each seem unique and somehow retain their effect? I’ve never thought about it this way, but your excellent writing has suddenly made it all clear. It does get more difficult, as we get older, to appreciate what we have and what may be coming around the corner. Thank you, John, for this great reminder.


  3. rangewriter says:

    This is a wonderful post, John. I love the topic and I love how you worked through it with a sort of brotherly love. That sounds weird. But we are on the same wave length. I’m sure of it. I’ve come to look at each day as another bonus. One more day that I wake up…healthy, roof over my head, kitty snuggled against my tummy, coffee ready to brew, a whole day stretched out before me. It’s a little strange that a pessimist like me can feel so content and joyous. Maybe it’s because that pessimism keeps me prepared for the worst.


  4. This post made me happy. I always look forward to seeing my cats when I get home, no matter how icky my day might have been. I try to find something else to be happy about each day. And lately I’ve been trying to do more to be a nicer person to others too, like the random compliment or smile or whatever. You’re right, it’s nice to have *something* to anticipate, it doesn’t have to be anything big.


  5. I admit I usually go to the dark side when anticipating just about anything though I can’t remember doing it as a child so somewhere along the way I crossed over to the gloomy side of anticipation. It probably happened at 18 which at the time was the age at which one could legally drink. There were no more age-related events to look forward to. And now I’m depressed. Thanks.

    Just kidding. Maybe.

    As you already know, I think you are one of the best unpaid writers ever. So I do eagerly look forward to your posts and this one was a treat! Nicely said and beautifully written, my friend.


  6. Oooh…anticipation. My favorite part of life. This must be why I always seem to opt for going in the ditch when I could have stayed in the center of the road [and I hate going in the ditch.]
    A Gripping Life is correct-you are talented; I love your writing. Beautiful piece-thank you…


    • John says:

      Oh crap, I may blush.


      • Oh, good! It’s good for you!!! And plus-it’s my other favorite thing! This is like a jackpot post.


        • John says:

          A jackpot with no cash prizes!


          • Oh, but you’re rich in…well, you know, all that other good stuff!

            “..circling above the clouds like a hidden eagle..”
            THIS I’m going to think about tonight, all day tomorrow, and everytime I start to worry. Because I know “a mysterious and exciting thing is coming”, and no, I don’t know the exact whens and why-fors yet.

            I’m so glad I came back and read this again! BTW, it’s been widely shared, and I’m not even plugged into bloggy-land. One of those “you’re supposed to read this” things, and then they have someone who’s “supposed to read this”, and so on [like that old shampoo commercial.] I wish everyone could read it. Pretty cool when your blog stuff gets read by people who don’t even know what a blog is…..
            Like spaghetti, this is even better a few days old. [I know that was eloquent.]



  7. sparklebumps says:

    How perfectly timed! My best friend just stated on Facebook how she was anticipating a wonderful hug from her amazing best friend Sparkle…:)


  8. Very beautiful. This may sound sarcastic, but I truly anticipate with delight every evening when Wonderbutt cuddles with me on the armchair, and contentedly begins to snore. The thought of it helps me get through every day.


  9. This is so beautifully written, John. When people hit on universal truths and then are able to write about them with such clarity, I don’t know, I wanna hug them — I guess because they’re putting words to feelings that would go unmentioned if they didn’t write about them. (I don’t know if that makes sense.) When I read John Steinbeck, for instance, I want to hug him because he so accurately describes things that are, to me, indescribable. He uncovers human truth. I think I get a sense of relief when I read beautifully written material. (in part because I know I could never write like this!) So, in closing, I want to say, thank you for this, well done. It’s very satisfying.


  10. whiteladyinthehood says:

    Great post John! I really liked your voice in this one. Since I don’t have kids – I think maybe I’m still a bit of a kid at heart! I’m giddy with anticipation thinking about Christmas break, the weekends coming, it’s Friday (woohoo) and even an unexpected snow day (funny, all these things revolve around getting a day off work…but hey…) 🙂


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