A couple of weeks ago, we had a guest speaker at church. He told a story of visiting a park one day, and on a bench all by herself sat a little girl somewhere between two and three years old.
She was sobbing, broken-hearted.
As a father, this guest speaker was concerned that the child was lost or hurt, so he carefully approached her and asked, "Why are you crying?"
She looked up at him and sobbed, "Because my expectations are not being fulfilled."
We all laughed at this precocious statement. (The girl's father was nearby, and he was watching over her, having placed her there as a form of discipline.)
Last week, I had myself a good cry. Now, I'm not an easy crier. I don't like to cry, I avoid it as long as I can. But things had accumulated inside to the point that they needed an outlet. And as I sat on the side of the bed sobbing into my hands, I started thinking. (This happens to me a lot. I'm wallowing in self-pity and the wheels start turning, trying to figure out why, and when I think I might stop, and if this crying is really justified. I think it is the reason I rarely cry. I end up talking myself out of it most of the time. And while I'm crying, I'm analyzing, which takes all the enjoyment out of a good cry. But I digress.)
I realized that just as the toddler in the sermon illustration, I was crying because my expectations were not being fulfilled. A doctor's appointment didn't go the way I had wanted it to. My husband didn't act the way I had expected him to act. The scale didn't say what I wanted it to say (quite the reverse, actually!). I had expectations, and they were not fulfilled.
Fast forward a week. I'm working on some interview questions for the Romantic Notions Newsletter that goes out with each month's shipment of books. One of the questions asked was:
What is the most important message that you want your readers to gain by reading your book(s)?
After a lot of thought, I came up with this:
I want my readers to know that our most teachable moments tend to come when our expectations are not being fulfilled.
I don't know about you, but I'm not at my most teachable when things are going great. I tend to float on the surface, doing the good things, and not facing any conflict or life lessons. It is not until something unexpected comes along, some conflict, some catastrophe occurs, that my heart is contrite, broken, weak, a mess. THEN I am teachable. Then I can learn a lesson that changes my outlook and my behavior. And that's what happens to my characters too. I throw a conflict at them, and they are forced to evaluate their thinking, beliefs, and actions and make changes.
So, have you had a teachable moment recently?
Was it due to an expectation not being fulfilled?
What is it that you want your readers to gain by reading your stories?