Gina Murdock: Expectations are the thief of joy

Gina Murdock
Lead with Love
Gina Murdock

I woke up early on this snowy, marvelous Christmas morning so dang excited to share the day with my new babies. I had waited for this moment for a long, long time.

I always loved Christmas because my parents made it a magical thing for us and I wanted to pass on the magic to my kids. They are still too young to know what’s going on, but that didn’t really matter to me. I was in the Christmas mood, brimming with excitement as I spied my babies sleeping on the baby cam. I couldn’t wait to go wake them up!

My socks are wet. Why are my socks wet? My rosy warm excitement started to turn chilly blue. Water was dripping, no gushing from under the kitchen sink.

“No,” I thought. “No. No. No! I don’t have time for this. The babies are going to wake up soon AND I MUST BE THERE! It’s their first Christmas (remember, they don’t know what’s going on today, but I do. We all have matching pajamas! And now my matching socks are wet!) Towels, towels, lots of towels. WTF? What? Why?”

After soaking up all the water, discovering where the leak was coming from and determining who to blame and becoming excessively angry and upset I then relaxed and declared: “This will NOT ruin babies’ first Christmas!”

Down the stairs I dance like a sugarplum high on Sparkling Christmas Magic once again and sing out, “Gooooood Morning girls! Do you know what day it is??” (No mom, we have no idea. Seems like any other day to us.) “It’s Christmas!”

I plop down happily on the couch, baby bottle in hand to feed one of the girls, feeling so proud of myself for letting go of the upset I felt just moments ago and my determination not to let this water leak ruin Christmas.

My butt is wet. I receive this message from my brain. I jump up. My butt is wet and there is water dripping on my head. “NOOOOOOO!!” Kitchen sink water leak had saturated the floor and was dripping through the ceiling into my babies’ bedroom.

And still, it did not ruin Christmas. But, it could have and it was a battle to let go of my expectation of how I wanted that morning to go and how it actually went.

Later in this same week I noticed time and time again how expectations of how I wanted things to be or how I wanted people to act stole my joy. I know better and yet there is something so seductive in wanting things to be a certain way, in trying to control it, in believing I have control. HA! The best answer when you catch yourself in this trap is to say, “HA!”

I suffer when I argue with reality. When I want the weather to be a certain way so I can fly, but it isn’t, I suffer. When I want my husband to act a certain way and he doesn’t, I suffer. When I want Christmas morning to be picture perfect and it isn’t, I suffer.

When I accept what is, and even learn to love what is (this is the work of the magnificent Byron Katie, among others) life is a joy. It is a curiosity and it is a mystery. The truth is, we are not in charge and we have no idea what’s going to happen.

“The issue isn’t the issue,” my teachers Doctors Ron and Mary Hulnick would say. “It’s how you react or respond that is the issue.”

No matter what happens we have a choice how we respond.

How we respond to situations or people becomes who we are. Are you aggressive, reactive, judgmental, upset, angry, victimized? Are you passive, aimless, cowardly, indecisive? Are you thoughtful, compassionate, warm, nurturing, funny and resourceful? Can you laugh at the water in your socks even on Christmas morning to make sure you don’t miss the magic of the day?

If COVID has taught us anything it has taught us to let go of our expectations. Let go of what you want to be doing or think you “should” be doing or what you feel entitled to be doing. For me, 2022 is a year that I hope the world does not end. Zero expectations is the best way to be pleasantly surprised, don’t you think?

Gina Murdock is the founder of Lead with Love, an Aspen-based nonprofit dedicated to shifting culture from fear to love. For more information about Lead with Love, go to