Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Undiminished Expectations

with 4 comments

So, I’ve been sitting around thinking about the whole diminished expectations thing, and this is what I’ve come up with.

I think the reason it doesn’t resonate for me is that I don’t really have any use for it.

I started out with a set of things I wanted to accomplish, and I have by and large accomplished them.

Some of those things were worthwhile goals and some of them were trivial, but if I’d written a list out when I was twelve, I would by now have pretty much crossed off the whole thing.

I was about three when I saw a picture of girls parking bikes outside of the library at Vassar and decided I wanted to go there–and I did.

I wouldn’t mind being on the NYT best seller list one of these days, but that was never the point.

I wanted to be able to write what I wanted to write the way I wanted to write it and have it published by a major house, and I’ve done that now for years.  Thank you–on the write what I wanted to write the way I wanted to write it front–St. Martin’s.

I had one book I plotted from the time I was in junior high and finally managed to write with Somebody Else’s Music, and I think I did it right and I think it’s probably the best I’ve ever done.

I even seem to have turned into something of a “name.”  I wouldn’t have said that a year ago, but I’ve been asked to speak at various places half a dozen times this year, and every one of them made the approach by starting, “we ask one name writer a year, and this year we thought we’d ask you.”

I find this very odd, but rather a kick. 

I wanted to live in Europe and I have.  I wanted to marry and have children and I have. 

I wanted to jump out of an airplane and I’ve done that, too.   LONG story.

But I guess what I’m trying to say is that, in spite of the fact that we’ve been hit by some doozies here over the years, on balance I don’t think I have much to complain about. 

I got  lucky in more ways than I can count–lucky in Bill, lucky in my father, lucky in actually having the ability to do what I fell in love with when I was six. 

I’d change one thing if I had the chance–I’d have Bill live longer.  A lot longer.  Maybe longer than me.

But I’m not looking at a situation where I have to scale back my dreams because there’s no time left.

What I look at instead is the possibility that there might be quite a bit of time left.  My father died at eighty-six.  My mother is ninety-two.  The genetics are there that, if I’m careful, could take me a long way.

Of course, my brother died young.  So there are other genetics.

On the other hand, I don’t smoke.


I do think I’m trying to get a sense of what it looks like in a territory that hasn’t really been explored yet. 

But I like Miss Marple in more ways than one.

Written by janeh

August 23rd, 2010 at 9:49 am

Posted in Uncategorized

4 Responses to 'Undiminished Expectations'

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  1. I might have a fair bit of time left – my genetics aren’t great, but aren’t bad either.

    I don’t think I understand what you mean by ‘hasn’t really been explored yet’, because old age is really just life. Life with an increasing possibility of health and physical ability problems, and increasing certainty of the suffering and loss of people you love, of course, but both of those have already happened – or begun happening – at least for me, and I expect for most people in their mid-fifties. So there’s not much new to wonder about there – just the identity of the health problems and the people who die before you do. I don’t see much point in wondering about things like that!

    And you don’t write as though you mean your own death, which of course is the last unexplored event.

    I can’t say that I’ve achieved most or perhaps even much of what I hoped to when I was a child. I still think I’ve had a pretty good life, on balance, and cherish the memories of the things I did achieve and enjoy most of my present life. I don’t see the future as unexplored, just as more of the same, more life – doing what I need to and should, enjoying what I can. There’s nothing terribly special about the future, just because I haven’t been there yet.

    I don’t want to change things much, either. I don’t see the point in wanting to change the past. Well, I can see wanting desperately that someone who died had had a longer life, but not that my own past would change. For such a change to make any difference, I would have to have been a different person and reacted differently to whatever bad decision or desire I wanted, in hindsight, to change.


    23 Aug 10 at 10:09 am

  2. Sounds as though you need a role model less than you need afresh “to do” list.


    23 Aug 10 at 4:01 pm

  3. One of the most futile exercises when one reaches what most people might consider to be auld pharthood is to indulge in thinking about what might have been if only….

    I much prefer to count my blessings. Like Jane, despite my list of achievements being very far short of hers, I can’t think of much if anything that I would change if I had my time over again. I consider myself to be very fortunate to have survived as long as I have (against considerable odds, what with one thing or another), to still be happily married to the love of my life, to have raised and educated two solid citizens who seem to be reasonably successful in their own lives, and both happily married with their own healthy children who are the delight of our old age.

    If only most people could be so fortunate the world would be a much better and happier place.


    23 Aug 10 at 8:00 pm

  4. “I think the reason it doesn’t resonate for me is that I don’t really have any use for it.”

    Okay, but it’s not the kind of thing one ASPIRES to, it’s a condition that’s imposed upon someone from outside by circumstances not of their choosing or making. At first anyway.

    You mention seeing a picture of girls parking bikes outside the library at Vassar. Even though my father had taken advantage of the GI bill after his tour in the Army and gotten a bachelors degree (in agriculture) he never did anything with that degree and most particularly it wasn’t until I was almost in Jr. High school that I ever understood he had gone to a college.

    More directly to the point, in our house I would never have had an opportunity at three years of age to see a picture of students at Vassar or anywhere else. The only books I can remember being in our house were a World Book Encyclopedia and a Britannica Encyclopedia – and some Zane Grey westerns my dad would read. Oh, and I remember we must have had a subscription to Readers Digest condensed books for awhile, I can recall some of those being around.

    We lived 5 miles outside of town so we did not even get a newspaper.

    My maternal grandparents lived about a half mile away across the fields and when we went over my parents and grand parents would play pitch. There were no books at all at my grandparents house.

    Such snippets of conversations as I can recall were about local farmers that my grandfather and father would work for from time to time.

    I don’t recall any discussions of politics, or world affairs, or science, or philosophy or much of anything at all for that matter.

    I was the odd one out because I did read. Not that, as an asthmatic with hay-fever I had a lot of options.

    I DO recall my father griping about me always having my nose in a book and being way too “dreamy” and being destined to be a ditch digger when I grew up because I didn’t “do” anything but read.

    There was certainly no discussion of higher education until I was at least a sophomore in high school, and even then it was more of the “get a job or go to school” variety. No discussion of the various merits of different schools or courses of studies or majors.

    I’m not even sure if I’d heard of places such as Vassar or Yale or Harvard. If I did know anything about them it would have been because I stumbled across them in my reading.

    And yes I read a lot — but there was no direction, no mentoring going on with *what* I read or should read. I read what interested me or what entertained me.

    So perhaps its no great surprise that when I DID get to college, I pretty well bombed it.

    In short, I can well understand the directionlessness of many young people.

    Almost paradoxically, if I had been healthier when I was younger, I might well have accomplished a lot less with my life than I have managed.


    25 Aug 10 at 12:09 am

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