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Taming the Expectation Monster

Image from Sarah Richter Art

Friends, I’m tired. Not just tired, I’m bone-weary exhausted. Yesterday I had a 13-hour day out. I did a site visit for work, which always involves a lot of trekking around, but you will see why this one was especially exhausting. During this day, I drove 212 miles and rode another 150 in a truck after joining a colleague in Seattle. I had to haul myself into the passenger side with my right leg and do a gymnastic twist to swing into my seat, but there was no way I was showing up to a client’s office in my dirty 13-year-old hoopdee when a shiny white company truck was available. (I hoped the sight of said hoopdee would offend the construction company where I left it so badly that they might wash it, but no such luck.)

The site I visited was a children’s camp. Only about 100 miles away as the crow flies, but given the many channels and passages of the inland sea that cross the land I live on like veins, and the fact that I had to pick up the construction manager in Seattle, there was no good way to get there.

If you read my post last week, you know I’m in a physical downturn (which I dearly hope is the beginning of a new recovery phase, but it doesn’t feel that way now). Sitting in a car with an injured knee that needs frequent motion was not a good premise for the day. I left the house at 7:00 AM, stopping at my local Co-op on the way to stuff my purse with Protein Pucks in case rural Washington was still as vegan-hostile as it was last time I visited (it is, though if you go for Mexican, being conversant in Spanish will score you something off-menu).

The camp is described by its director as a “vertical camp,” built on a steep hillside overlooking a lagoon. Campers climb an elaborate network of stairs to get between the cabins, the main lodge, and the dock, where they spend much of the day boating and swimming in the lagoon. There is an ADA cabin and the lodge is fully accessible, but there isn’t as yet a lift down to the water. Now, normally I’d be enchanted by this place. I’d have shinnied up and down the steps like a Fijian teenager in a coconut tree. I’d have proudly displayed my rehabbed body and shown off how I could do better than my uninjured colleagues. Not now.

This persistent knee issue has turned me into a frail old lady. When we were down at the dock and the 4 of us stood around talking, I sank to the deck and dangled my legs onto a float that sat lower in the water. My hosts offered to row me across the lagoon rather than make me go back up the tower of steps and walk back down a steeply pitched road to the seashore. They even brought a rowboat right to where I was sitting.

This is not the image I wanted to show to my hosts. As their permitting contractor, I wanted to look like I belonged there. They may respect my legal expertise all the same, but for me it’s a whole-package presentation. To make an old-fashioned analogy, I was Superman hundreds of miles from the nearest telephone booth, forced to sit out a heroic moment as Clark Kent. “Go ahead, rob the bank, what am I going to do about it?”

I still managed to make an honorable showing and get back home alive, thanks to several breaks along the way, including a cold saltwater knee soak in Edmonds. A round trip that should have taken me 7 hours morphed into 11, plus the 2 hours I spent at the camp. I usually take a short nap during a normal work day at home. Today I’m barely sensate; I feel like I’m underwater. I got up and started making bean-and-vegetable soup, soaking my beans and boiling down vegetable trimmings for broth. I put my sheets in the wash and settled down to my computer to see what project work I fell behind on while I was out yesterday.

Then I realized how ridiculous it is to expect all this of myself today. The soup is started, there’s no undoing that. I’ll finish it and have a delicious, wholesome dinner. But I’m off work for the rest of the day. I have a chiropractic appointment at 2:30, after which I’ll let the adjustment settle in by treading water in the deep tank at the pool. It’s kind of a deep-water dance where my bones creak and snap into the right places for hours after I get out of the water. I’ll cut up my vegetables now so I can take a nap when I get home. The evening will be devoted to catching up on The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu.

It’s okay to take a “down day.” Even my down days are pretty packed. I like to tell the cats, “It’s a lot of work being human; it’s not just about the thumbs.” My other clients are tugging my sleeve, but today is for recovery. Remember that; sometimes you have to stop pushing yourself so hard and just be.

Taming the Expectation Monster

Kristin Noreen

Kristin Noreen lives in Bellingham, Washington with two cats and her vintage touring bicycle, Silver. Her triple passions are animal rescue, long-distance bike touring, and writing. Her book, On Silver Wings: A Life Reconstructed, is about reinventing her life following a catastrophic injury.

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APA Reference
, . (2018). Taming the Expectation Monster. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 24, 2020, from


Last updated: 14 Jun 2018
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