I have this theory that every family has different “thing values,” that is the things that the family is willing to spend more money on. This is not about how much money is spent on this or that, but rather that more funds are given to this area in comparison to others. Families can have “thing values” on everything from kitchenware to vacations to clothes. You realize your families’ “thing values” when you leave home and you think its nonsense that your roommate has upgraded to the newest phone but refuses to buy new boots (which clearly have holes in them). It is just a difference in things values.
Well, I can tell you one thing that my family does not “thing value”…cars. Growing up I learned quickly that cars are not for aesthetics or even comfort, but rather from getting from point A to point B. We gladly accepted hand-me-down cars from grandparents, which we have all grown to love and cherish. Our theory is to drive them till they die, and then revive them for another 100,000 miles. I understand now that a lot of this was driven for financial reasons; cars are pretty pricey. But looking back, I realize that if we had worked hard at it and cut back on a few things we probably could have purchased a new car eventually. But, my family doesn’t “thing value” it, so it didn’t happened. And I have to say that I have been more than fine with that.
The drawback from not “thing valuing” cars is that though they get from point A to B, you start doing from point A to M to B (M standing for mechanic shop) when the cold months hit. In last twenty-four hours, I have managed to break a starter and almost back into a minivan because my transmission wouldn’t turn over. For the most part, I am pretty laid back when it comes to things breaking down or getting lost. But when the transmission problem involved almost hitting a parked minivan with a dad inside, I was sent over the edge. I drove home fuming about the injustices of cars breaking down on their owners.
My aggravation reminded me of a theory I learned in my social psychology class, “frustration-aggression theory.” The basics of the theory are that we get frustrated when our expectations are not met. The theory goes onto explain how we are more likely to become aggressive when we are more expectant or close to achieving our expectation/goal. So, football fans are more likely to be aggressive when their football team starts to lose. If they were being slaughtered the whole time, they did not have a high expectation that their team would win.
I realized that I had a high expectation for my car. I should not have to worry about it turning on or not coming out of reverse. It should glide with a touch of the gas and come to a halt when I push the brake. I was frustrated because my 1994 Ford Explorer was not doing the trick.
I was becoming frustrated with my frustration (an interesting paradox to be in) and concluded that I should have no expectations. I realized I could avoid all frustration if I had no expectations for anything. Great idea, right?
Well, the whoa-Kate-extremes-are-not-healthy warning light came on for that “no expectation” statement, so I reconsidered. Expectations are healthy because they help set up normalcy. They give us room for improvement and hope. We could never challenge each other to grow if we did not have some expectations of others.
So, how do we have expectations but not be in continual state of frustration? (Because more often than not, our expectations are not met.)
My suggestion is perspective.
My expectation that cars should run well is a healthy one. It’s their main function! But, it is also true that cars do break down and that’s its more likely to happen when it’s freezing outside. Perspective lets my expectations and frustration both be legitimate without making either the ultimate reality. Because the ultimate reality is that I was driving back from my sister’s dance competition which came as a last minute blessing due to canceled class. The reality is that words will not describe how my heart welled up with pride when I saw her give all her heart into the performance with incredible courage and grace. That is something I really value, which “thing vaules” could never fill.
This probably has application to other parts of my life, huh?