Two days after Christmas we left for a working vacation to create our vision for 2020. We wanted and needed a break from the winter dark and cold that settles over the Pacific Northwest part of the US where we live. Donna was especially excited about our New Year’s retreat and took the initiative to choose a US city known for its sun and warmth. She did the online research and found a unique, highly rated boutique hotel that looked perfect for our week.

We became more and more excited about our warm New Year’s working vacation. All went well as we flew to the southern city and made our way to our retreat destination. As we arrived, we immediately understood this was a very remote hotel and much smaller than we realized. Donna chose the location because of its historical architecture but, in reality it was old, dark, and run down.

As the one staff person showed us to our room, we realized what we expected was nothing like the cold reality we felt. When we say cold, we mean temperature cold. This historical hotel had no heat and, even though sunny during the day, nighttime temperatures dropped near freezing. The only heat was a small electric space heater.

Our “fun in the sun” working vacation had become a nightmare.

Waking up after the first cold night, Donna lamented, “I can’t stay here.” David agreed and wanted to support Donna’s choice because of the work she had put into coordinating the vacation. We were both more than disappointed. We were quite sad and felt victimized. Our expectations for not only a break from the cold and dark, but also basking in an environment that would support quality time together to walk, plan, and create our 2020 vision, was not going to happen in the current environment.

What we expected was not our reality.

Our vacation story ended fine. We negotiated a partial refund from our pre-paid week, grateful that we could move to another hotel the next day—one that provided lots of light and places to walk.

We’ve reflected upon how our attachment to our expectations was a recipe for drama. The first day it was easy for both of us to slip into blame and judgment about what went wrong and see the environment as a Persecutor (though the proprietors were friendly and apologetic).

If expectations don’t go a certain way, we learned we must allow ourselves to feel our emotions, rather than merely react to the anxiety that is aroused when things don’t go as planned. By feeling them, rather than resisting our emotions, it allowed us to pause and eventually ask: “Given the reality, what do we choose?” We could “gut it out” or look for alternatives.

We also learned it is essential to tell the truth about reality. Facing the truth of the situation allowed us to act and go a different route.

We often speak to the difference between attachment, detachment, and non-attachment.

When we feel attached, we must have it “my way” and exactly as we plan. (We were certainly attached to our expectations!) Detachment has the quality of “I don’t care” or the cliché “whatever.”  Non-attachment, on the other hand, allows us to both care about what we want and have, without being attached to it having to be a particular way.

Our New Year retreat was certainly a lesson in the drama of being attached to a certain expectation. We continue to be reminded that learning to be Creators in our lives is an ongoing process with abundant opportunities to keep learning!

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