I have made a discovery. Life is not easy if one clings on to expectations. It is so much easier to wander around in a cloud of bemused jollity, expecting almost nothing other than to have a jolly time, or a serious time, or a thoughtful time… but a good time.
I learned about the pleasantness of having no expectations when I started to do funerals in quantity. As I got better at it, and focused on the crucial bits that make people feel better and more connected, things happened. Families would send me lovely ‘thank you’ cards, and sometimes even flowers and plants. It came as a massive surprise that families and friends of people that had died were able to find the time to be gracious and say ‘thank you’. It continues to be a surprise, no matter how often it happens.
Other surprises just shouldn’t be surprises. The physical changes that happen as one gets older. I find myself looking in the mirror thinking “Blimey, that person in the mirror looks exactly like my dad… or my granny… hang on a sec… Oh No! It’s me!”
A lack of expectation is so freeing. A week ago I went to my 90-year-old cousin’s birthday party with absolutely no expectation whatsoever. She is a grand old lady, who has got an impressive gong (Member of the British Empire, methinks) for services to bibliographic conservation. She is remarkable – but I had no expectation of how her party would be; in fact, it was wonderful, and it was one of three, because her social circle is so vast that she had to have three celebrations to accommodate us all. It was a brilliant occasion, one of the best parties I have been to in years – so unexpected. And yet when I think of my mother’s 90th, it seemed as if all her contemporaries had just drifted away, and only a tiny handful of friends were left. Clearly one cannot make comparisons, and one cannot have expectations, either.
The most unexpected thing to happen to me of late is that I have been appointed Chaplain to the Mayor of Brighton and Hove. I am still surprised and overwhelmed by what it involves, and what it means, but as soon as I was told, it seemed that the job began. It’s an honorary title, but this is immaterial – with 27 different charities covering everything from food recycling to cycling, from housing to environmental conservation, from bereavement to hearing loss, this task, serving the spiritual needs of the mayor and those he supports is an honour, and also an education of the highest order. And now for something completely different… I am looking at the page that this blogetty blog appears on, and I notice that it is out of date. The Brighton wheel has gone. It was a thing of beauty. We are stuck with a giant and pointless pointed stick instead. Everybody I know does not feel affection towards it… not in the way we loved the wheel. Can the pointed stick (called the I360) win us over? I have few or no expectations.