Tuesday, September 18, 2012


The quality that creates excitement and makes us eager about an event is the anticipation of what might occur. Even more than the event itself, the expectation of what lies ahead can be exhilarating.

Anticipation begins in childhood. We discover that when we have a birthday, something magical will happen. We get a lot of undivided attention. A cake may be baked with candles to show our age, perhaps even with our name on it. There may be a party and friends will bring us gifts. A birthday sets us apart from the rest of the family, even for one day a year, and nothing is expected of us in return.

Christmas is a special holiday. Christmas! Things occur then that do not happen at other times. We have tree inside our house decorated with lights and glass ornaments. The outside of the house may be aglow with lights. Family members gather to visit and celebrate. Santa appears while we are asleep and leaves wrapped packages. He even remembered what I asked for!

Each new school year brings anticipation. When my big sister was in Mrs. Jones' class, she was a nice teacher.   I'm going to be in Mrs. Jones' class this year. Will she still be nice? Will she remember my sister? Will math be too hard? Will I sit near Jean? We are excited by what we will learn in the coming school year.

In each case of prolonged anticipation, as soon as the event occurs, our mood returns to normal in a few hours or days. The daily routine resumes until the next out-of-the-ordinary occurrence.

The pivotal event in the lives of many people is finding a spouse and preparing to get married. Some people will never experience any event more important than their wedding. Many couples devote hours agonizing over plans for the big event which, incidentally, will cost them thousands of dollars. Only later do they realize that the big wedding has been a waste of money and effort, far more consuming than it is worth. And since 50% of all marriages end in divorce, perhaps they will re-think the marriage prep for the second (or third) marriage. It may be the biggest event they have yet anticipated and perhaps the first time they will be seriously disappointed with the result.

As we grow older, anticipation is a lot less exciting. Events begin to happen routinely that we don't like and, knowing from experience that we don't like them, we can dread them. (I forgot to mention that anticipation has an ugly relative named dread.) These include matters like job interviews and evaluations, spousal confrontations, preparing taxes, financial setbacks and dental check-ups. The dread list is, unfortunately, longer than the anticipation list.

We may occasionally schedule an exotic vacation that we can't afford to spice up our lives. Perhaps we are longing to experience the thrill of "anticipation" once again. For that brief escape, we spend too much, eat too much and fear that it will end too soon. When the vacation is over, we return only to feel depleted and miserable as a result.

What most of us need to counteract the vanishing enthusiasm in our lives is -- more anticipation. Perhaps that is why people divorce after decades of marriage and immediately seek a new spouse. This condition is sometimes referred to as the "middle-aged crazies." Look at nearly any classic auto or sports car on the road today and you will usually see a gray-haired man proudly indulging his fantasies and enjoying the trip.

Everyone should try to bring back the delight of anticipation. If you haven't experienced it lately, you need to ignite the fuse again. Enroll in a class. Join a gym. Take up a hobby. Get off the sofa and see what is going on around you.

Retirement is not a scary thing to be dreaded. It is an event to be anticipated and embraced. Many folks say proudly that they will never retire because they love their jobs. That's all well and good, but eventually everyone wants to be free of having someone else control most of their waking hours. You will be free to do as you please.

It doesn't require a lot of practice to return to anticipation mode. Anticipation is where you find it.

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