Since the launch of my first book, Yesterday Mourning, I’ve been asked one question repeatedly – ‘What is it about?’ It’s a relevant question that deserves a heartfelt and persuasive answer. Initially, I’d recite the back cover blurb because I wanted to ensure a clear, descriptive, and eloquent response. This is my big chance to make the perfect first impression for my book right? However, as I talked to readers and pondered real life experiences which inspired the novel, I quickly started to see the proverbial, ‘big picture.’
Yesterday Mourning is about life and what happens to individuals and families when expectations are present, however unspoken and therefore, not met. All relationships revolve around expectations. Ironically, expectations primarily come with concrete titles. Parents and children, husbands and wives, and friends all have expectations of one another due in large part to how clearly the relationship is defined. A simple example is when you’re casually dating someone. There are no titles and therefore, no expectations. However, as soon as you become a couple, rules and expectations magically appear out of thin air. Or consider the example of someone feeding a hungry child. In our culture, this person is hailed as a humanitarian or good Samaritan however, parents that feed their children daily are just meeting the expectations set by their role.
In my life, I definitely put expectations on people, both those with and without titles. I expect people to treat me with respect, fairness, and consideration. I don’t expect them to be perfect, but I do expect their actions to match their words. In Yesterday Mourning, Yvette assumed her father knew what she wanted and needed from him. Because he didn’t respond as she expected, she felt abandoned and disappointed. The rift caused by such powerful emotions resulted in a near twenty-year separation of a daughter and her father. On the opposite side of that pain was a father yearning to have his daughter in his life. He too felt abandoned and discarded. Neither of these characters expressed what they wanted or needed from the other instead relying on pre-determined unknown expectations.
How do you tell someone something they should inherently know given their role? Are we destined to always be disappointed with others if our expectations are never discussed? What happens when you articulate your expectations and the person chooses not to meet them?
Although the novel is fiction, it was inspired by my reality including separation from my father and the emotional hurdles I faced while trying to simply keep some semblance of self. I set out to write a story about a young woman mourning the loss of her mother but ended up on a journey of self-discovery and forgiveness. I learned through the words on Yesterday Mourning’s pages that expectations should always be expressed and addressed. People should be given a chance to rise to your expectations, which only happens if they’ve been communicated. When we don’t express ourselves but expectations remain, we set others and ourselves up for failure. I’ve also learned that people don’t always grant you the outcome you desire. It doesn’t make them malicious, it just gives you an opportunity to decide what new role they can play in your life, if they play a role at all. Or it helps reset expectations to be more agreeable for everyone involved.
What examples do you have of causing disappointment or being disappointed due to not meeting unknown expectations? Leave your thoughts/comments below!
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(originally published September 9, 2013)