When you’re expecting by Kelly Grieve [Catechize #5]

I try to distribute the weight across the mattress because my side of the bed has formed a dent. It could be because the bed is cheap and shitty but it could also be because I’ve been suffering from an anxious depression for the past three years and have literally made an impression of the rut that I am stuck in.
I hate writing about it because I have talked it to death and it’s not the solution. My partner and some of my friends attempt to spoonful me doses of positivity til I’m sick to my stomach of the sappy sweet forced sugaring.

Honestly, it is a futile effort as I have been raised by a woman who was permanently upgraded by a figurative rose colored lasik and she has tried to blow happy smoke up my ass since I was born. It’s not fair of me to scoff. My mother is a grateful person and I aspire to be as such but I guess I’ll just have to admit that at this moment, I am an ingrate. For all I have been given as a lower-middle-class white kid of the mid 80’s, I have never deserved it. That’s what society and my parents think. What do I think? I think that expectations have set me off on a treacherous journey for far too long.

I was in my seventh month of massage school in my early twenties, I had two more months to go when my world suddenly shattered. My boyfriend, whom I lived with for five years got on an airplane and left September 5th, 2001. I was speechless. I tried to continue on normally with my life, I went to school for the next 6 days and had an interview at a chiropractic office on September 11th. I was so broke, I would not have made it alone until my first paycheck. I sat, defeated and heartbroken on the floor of the classroom, begging the universe for a sign of which way to turn next. I sulked and waited for class to begin. It was a slow start that came to an abrupt halt. There was a knock on the door and we were told there was “an explosion or something” at the World Trade Center. I stood hand in hand with my instructor as we watched a tower fall on TV. No one could get cell phone service and I watched like a hawk this girl whose boyfriend was in the military as on the phone with him in the corner. I decided whatever her lead was, I would follow. She bailed. The opportune moment came and I would head to the bathroom, then leave. I put the last five dollars I could squeeze out of the atm into my car and I drove the back way home to my parent’s house. The first hour I listened to Howard Stern report the events live from New York until I lost reception, then listened to classic rock until I made it home. That day was so quiet. The skies had a dead silence that would have been welcome had the air traffic noise not been there in the first place.

I was home indefinitely. My parents helped me return to the city and pack up my shit. Sometimes several weeks later I called my school. I was friends with the staff and discussed returning to complete courses. They found a way to bring me back in the summer. It just so happened there was a lone straggler student that would be in the same place that I was in the coursework at that point and he and I were situated to be in class together then. Through fall, winter and spring I found myself in a wonderful place full of Appalachian style modern hippies. One of the warmest and most welcome times of my entire life. It was the perfect healing sanctuary and as the spring days caved into the summer heat, I set off with two friends to a festival. We danced and consumed and swam and were merry tucked away in the valley near Scranton they called “Almost Heaven”. It almost was. We set off, I was horribly sunburnt and spent the next day before class in a tepid tub soaked in aloe. I drove back to Pittsburgh still exhausted but ready to finish what I had begun.
I walked into class, this 55 yr old man named Darryl was my sole classmate.

He was certainly not what I expected. His face curled up in a joyous smile, he had salt and pepper hair but he was a vibrant spirit who took care of himself. As the day wrapped up and we packed our things up to leave, he told me “You’re not what I expected. The way this one girl described you, I thought you’d be a lazy bitch.” I was stunned and somewhat mortified, wondering who felt that way about me. Darryl reassured me, “But there’s something about you, you came in on my left and that’s the side of receptive spiritual energy. What a delightful surprise!” Despite what he was told, Darryl was officially “sold” on my character and began to lavish me in a way I’d never known a man wanted to before. He took me to the fancy restaurant he worked at, fed me amazing bisque and bread and would in the weeks that followed and spoil me rotten. We’d stay after classes and, as near therapeutic graduates, would massage each other for hours and eat chocolate torte and wine. He often took me to lunch, drove me home and got me high. He used to tell me, “Kelly, you would have loved ludes” I told him he was mistaken as I had been, up until that past traumatic autumn, completely straight edge and sober. This also tickled him. He was both a loving and compassionate soul yet also a bit of a sinister and lecherous, dirty old man. But there was something else, he was guided by an alternative spiritual discipline that kept me protected from harm. I felt so oddly safe in his presence. Everything just seemed to go our way when we were together. We were each other’s four-leaf clovers or lucky horseshoes. Something unbelievably fortuitous would happen in class or in life and sure enough, I would look to my left and he would be grinning like a kid who just stole all the cookies from the jar and fully intended on sharing with me.

From Monday through Thursday, I stayed on the floor of my friend’s apartment in Bloomfield, then I would go home to my hippies on the weekend. We’d potluck, listen to music, I’d massage my friends and just chill until Monday morning. Upon our last few days of class, Darryl would take me to a spot somewhere in Highland Park, just a few steps over a set of live train tracks. He showed me, on the Allegheny this place where the mud was so thick, it could suck you in up to the thighs. Brazenly, I shed every piece of clothing I possessed in the moonlight and dove into the mud. I rolled like a swine and threw mud at him, smearing it everywhere, covering every inch of me with this likely toxic steel city sludge. But there were never any negative after effects. I started to understand the allure of the once popular Monongahela mud bar in my fave cafe, coffee tree roasters. That night, I was the mud bar! Darryl could not stop smiling. The darling man never took advantage of my freedom and vulnerability. He had seen me break down sobbing from him doing some deep work on my neck. I told him the story of how my ex had choked me in a rage. He was genuinely sad for me and furious toward my former partner. His only aim seemed to be making me wistful and euphoric. He relished in my rapturous experiences. I was unbelievably grateful for him. We graduated in mid-July, sat next to each other and took the Hippocratic path together and received our diplomas as comprehensive massage therapists.

I took him to my hometown, I wanted to show him the place we called Brown Springs, a cold little swimming hole just big enough to dip and tread in on a hot day. On the banks of the water, he just watched me swim. It was late and we were unclad again. There was no shame or reservation in our world but I had to confess to him, “I feel guilty accepting gifts from you. Of course, I love them but I’m concerned about you to want something in return. Do you expect something of me?” I anticipated that he would respond in typical sugar daddy fashion: “Well now that you mention it..” But again he threw me saying, “I would never want to steal your energy from you.” I asked him to elaborate and he did. Of course, it sounded hokey and sort of crazy but his motives were true. He told me about shamans and he drew his energetic philosophies from a series of books by Castenada, that told tales of energetic warriors that could morph into the opposite gender and other forms as well when necessary.

This new information made him seem fanatic and unstable, but I honestly had no reason to fear him. Up until then, I had put my trust in him and he had not betrayed it. He wished me no harm and always seemed to want to repair the damage done to me. That night, we sat up talking until we fell asleep in the same bed. No seductive maneuvers, clothes stayed on. It was just the mutual comfort of friends. My eyes falling, I asked him if it hurt him that I had not intended to ever physically engage him intimately. He whispered to me a phrase he had spouted often and liberally at every opportunity he could: “No expectations.”

The wisdom of that time with him has been a white noise in my soul ever since. I find myself now in a vacuum of vacant collaborative creativity, desperately seeking the sort of companionship I once had with the most enlightened counterpart I have ever known. If only time hadn’t distanced us three decades apart. A distance too great to reconcile a lifelong journey together. I’ve never felt more received as the person I purely was. Nothing compares. It was I who severed the connection as my love for him was timeless, though knew our bodies were not ageless and I selfishly cut ties from him that next winter to pursue another relationship that, predictably, did not last long after a bond like this.

No expectation is an ideal place to be unless you’ve grown up learning to expect nothing. No expectation can translate to mean no hope, no goal, no promise, no execution and no outcome. If he would have said no obligation, that would have made more sense to me. I now live the closest I ever have a life of “no expectation” and it’s the most arduous hand life has ever dealt me. It’s like trying to climb a mountain with no hand or footholds, you just sort of stand scrambled at the base of its majesty, knowing you’ll never make it up there.

He would never admit it yet Darryl’s expectation was stronger than anyone’s I had ever met. It was a positive expectation that was so strong, the truth is he became magic. He had the perfect recipe for manifesting reality and his belief was contagious. It affected everyone within our vicinity. He had me convinced that the universe had our back and so it did. Whatever we needed became nearly effortlessly obtainable.

In the midst of closing this piece, my family unexpectedly lost a feline member, Smidgen. She was only four years old. There goes that word again: “expect” hiding out in a seemingly innocuous word embodying inexplicable volumes of shock and trauma. Such a light word for such a heavy experience. To expect is a long-term memory dilemma in human life. I watch our remaining animals in their dance between fleeting bouts of confusion where something is amiss and basic survival instinct serving the autopilot id. I envy that lack of conscious reflection but likely out of selfishness. Human’s seem biologically burdened with too much thought. It’s the reason our species has an obsession with intoxication and why there are so many pervasive addiction issues in our culture. It’s the curse of our sentience.

So should we embrace expectation? As an apprentice of passive manifestation I would love to believe that my vulnerability and letting go was the way to the physical sowing of mental seeds, yet letting go and allowing reality to just have its way with you becomes what it sounds like: victimization. Enabling alone brings suffering. As much as Darryl touted no expectation he also preached intent, which seemed a contradiction the way he presented it. Over time, I’ve come to reach a vantage point where I can see that intent IS the seed, the idea to be planted. Manifestation is the harvest. Between the two is the attention of a conscious, focused soul. In meditation, if you will. Where expectation may or may not deliver just like any work of art may or may not bring the desired result, the active engagement of connecting to the moment is what the precious seconds of our lives are made of.

I’m still fascinated by the path of the shaman as the liaison between spirit and body. I fully intend on seeking that direction. The trick is to not fixate, not expect a result my soul isn’t in cue for. It could all be a bunch of hooey anyhow, but even the most basic machines have a primary function. It stands to reason that the act of our being is meant to yield some result. Being bound to the present moment in simultaneous concert with timeless progression is perhaps the greatest challenge there is. I’m up for it. I don’t expect it to be easy but then again I need to remember that what I expect makes all the difference in the world.

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