Who Is Mistral Dawn?

Mistral Dawn is a thirty-something gal who has lived on both coasts of the US but somehow never in the middle. She currently resides in the Southeast US with her kitty cats (please spay or neuter! :-)) where she works as a hospital drudge and attends graduate school. Taken By The Huntsman is her first effort at writing fiction and if it is well received she has ideas for several more novels and short-stories in this series. Please feel free to visit her on FaceBook or drop her a line at mistralkdawn@gmail.com

Monday, August 17, 2015

#Musings: What Do You #Expect?

Hey Everyone!! :-)

I hope you're all having a fantabulous Monday! :-)  I just wanted to share a quick thought with you this morning.  Have you ever noticed how many expectations we walk around with every day?  Expectations about what we're going to do that day.  Expectations about what other people will do.  Expectations about how we should act and how others should act.  Expectations about how the world around us will work.

This may not be true for everyone, but I think many people in the United States today expect that when they flip the switch on the wall the lights will come on.  When we turn the knob on the faucet, we expect the water to flow.  We expect that when these things don't happen, the agencies responsible for overseeing utilities will take immediate action to fix the problem.  We expect that if we call for the police, an ambulance, or the fire department, they will come with all alacrity and render us the aid we need.  We expect that the telephone system will work so we can make that call.  We expect that the roads will be clear for travel, that government offices will be open, and that the bureaucracy will work...albeit slowly at times.  We expect to be able to go to a hospital and find medical professionals ready, willing, and able to assist us with any medical emergency we may be experiencing.  Wow! We have a lot of expectations!

We also have expectations regarding less formal interactions.  If you smile at a stranger as you pass them in a store isle, don't you expect them to smile back?  If they don't, do you consider them rude?  We expect people to engage in at least surface pleasantries in public.  At least a veneer of respectful and polite behavior is expected.  Don't we tend to think badly of those who fail to meet these expectations?  We expect that if we offer help to someone, they will express gratitude.  We expect that if someone asks something of us, they will make the request politely.  Social interaction is full of formulas that everyone is expected to adhere to.  Please -- Thank You -- You're Welcome.  Pardon Me -- Not At All.  If You Wouldn't Mind -- Certainly.  How Are You Today? -- Well, Thank You, How Are You?  Have A Nice Day! -- Thank You, You Too! The specific words may vary somewhat, but the sentiment is the same.  Yes, using these phrases when appropriate is considered good manners.  But aren't manners an expectation in themselves?

We expect that people will express themselves in ways to which we have become accustomed, and we make assumptions about those people based on those expressions.  If someone expresses themselves in a certain way, and then acts in a way that does not match our expectations, don't we tend to find it jarring and off-putting?   If we've put that person in a certain mental "box" based on how they express themselves, and then they do something that doesn't fit in that "box", doesn't it force us to reexamine our assumptions.  Has this ever happened to you?  Do you find that reexamination process uncomfortable?  Do you then associate that feeling of discomfort with the person instead of its real source: your expectations?

As an author, I find that I use people's expectations quite often when I write.  I can describe a character's appearance and my readers instantly form ideas about who that character is and how they will behave.  This can get me in trouble if my readers' expectations of certain expressions don't match my own, or if I deliberately do not match a character's behavior with the expectations people might form based on their expressions.  I've even had people write to me and complain when a character didn't act in a way they thought that character should have acted based on the way I described that character's appearance.  Wondering what kind of descriptions I'm talking about?  Here are a couple examples:

A young person is walking down the street behind you wearing white face paint, black lipstick and eyeliner, with their hair dyed black and spiked to stand up from their head in points.  Their attire consists of a leather jacket with chains attached to it, a ripped black t-shirt, black jeans, and combat boots.  What do you think about that person?  What do you expect?  Now imagine that same young person in a business suit, carrying a small attache case, with their hair cut short and laying close to their head, and wearing little or no makeup.  Have your expectations changed?  

Two people are walking down the street.  They space themselves a little apart from each other, but still close enough that they can converse.  Their arms swing wide as they walk, and their gestures are quick and animated.  They smile often, and even laugh.  Would you expect that these two people are friends?  Based on that, do you have any expectations about how they might behave?   What if those same two people walked a little closer together and held hands.  What if they occasionally exchanged a quick kiss and a giggle?  Have your expectations about those two people changed?  Are they the same gender as they were in the first scenario?

It's funny when you think about how many expectations we view the world through, and I can't help but wonder how those expectations color everyone's (including my own) perceptions about the people who surround us.  Are these expectations a useful shorthand?  A way to process data efficiently in a world that moves so quickly, and throws so much information at us all the time.  Or do they keep us from truly connecting with each other?  Can we really form a meaningful understanding of and with those around us if we are constantly measuring them against our expectations?  Do our expectations interfere with our ability to have compassion for others?  I don't have the answers, but I think the questions are worth considering.

Anyway, those are my thoughts for today.  Have a wonderful rest of the day, and please stay tuned for more of Mistral Dawn's Musings!! :-)

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