Expect Nothing, Be Happy

– by Cecily Knobler, Hollywood reporter and all-around wise woman –


“Desire is suffering.”

I remember seeing this written on a high school classmate’s notebook and thought it was the deepest shit I’d ever seen. (Note: I went to a performing arts high school, so there were lots of quotes on notebooks. Most of them were Dead Kennedys or The Cure lyrics, but I digress.)

I liked the quote but didn’t get it. When I inquired, my mate told me: “It’s a Buddhist thing. You should read up on it!” He recommended Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, (which it turns out had very little to do with Buddhism) The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet. (Hey man, it was high school.) I read everything I could get my hands on and went through a brief period where I called myself a Jew-Bu, even though I knew nothing about Buddhist beliefs.

Maybe foregoing desire is easier when one is not surrounded by temptation

Maybe foregoing desire is easier when one is not surrounded by temptation

But no matter how many Noble Truths I studied, or how much I tried to understand the Second Noble Truth (about that aforementioned desire/suffering thing), something just didn’t sit right. And I think I’ve just figured out what it is. Maybe when you’re a Buddhist monk sitting atop a beautiful mountain chanting, it’s easier to renounce all needs and desire of possessions. In fact it totally makes sense. If you’re eating rice and meditating all day (which frankly sounds lovely) you have the luxury of no longer craving, oh let’s just say, Jello pudding or The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

But when you’re in the modern world, living day to day, stuck in traffic, with real health scares and financial worries, you’re simply gonna desire stuff. And I don’t just mean Jimmy Choo shoes or the new Adele album or a fancy mansion or a llama. I mean, you’re probably going to desire love and health and comfort and happiness. And I feel like that’s okay because why the hell not? Why not you? Love and health and comfort and joy are the only things that truly matter after all.

Where it becomes problematic is when you EXPECT. Desire? Sure, no problem. But expect nothing. I came to this realization when I finally admitted to myself how bad I am with change. I don’t just mean death or moving or breakups, because of course I’m bad with that stuff. I’m just a person trying to navigate through an often scary and inconsistent world. I mean, I’m really bad with change. Like if some friends and I are supposed to go have margaritas and someone changes it to martinis, I feel sick inside. Or if a guy I like changes our date from Friday to Saturday, I completely panic! I think this is due to my need to control every aspect of life and in doing so, I daydream exactly how events will pan out, (especially those I’m looking forward to.) When even the slightest wrench gets thrown into the plan, my daydream is dashed and the flow is not where I go.

Desire is natural, but beware of expectation

Desire is natural, but beware of expectation

But recently becoming mindful of this, I’ve had an easier time letting go of expectations. I can tell myself, “we were meant to have martinis” and “Saturday is okay too” and “Oh shucks, I have the flu and can’t go to the party.” And on a deeper level, I must contend that some days I will be sad and love is not guaranteed and the DNA in our body can sometimes misinform its cells to attack each other. I simply cannot expect all happy days or healthy cells because control is an illusion. And now I’ve learned that when I’m able to readjust my plans as they twist and turn and shift in this crazy world , I am genuinely happier.

I’m sure I’m not the first to have thought of all this. In fact, I assume a similar sentiment is written on a high school notebook somewhere. And I’m certainly not suggesting I know better than an age old religion. But in the World According to Cecily, I say go ahead and want  love and comfort in your life. Just be okay letting the road you’re on sometimes detour in order to get those things.

(And now back to my pudding and Real Housewives of Atlanta. Hey, I’m working on it!)