Not so Great Expectations: Living Life with a Low Bar

This is a story of low expectations.

For two weeks I have had drippy itchy eyes. Staying physically on the verge of tears has changed my mood. Scientists as far back as Darwin have suggested that “(e)ven the simulation of an emotion tends to arouse it in our minds.” So for two weeks I have felt sad.

Earlier this week in the midst of my pervasive sadness allergies I drove two delightful friends visiting Vermont on a tour of Denver hot spots. During our journey I exposed them to unavoidable pot holes and parking spots too tight to pull into. I demonstrated how difficult merging is in Denver, and how crossing Boulevards can take up to 15 minutes. For years I have had a schtick about being a bad driver. Now I live my schtick, driving over many curbs which don’t actually stick into the streets. I was never an excellent driver but I wasn’t terrible either…until I talked it into truth.

Oliver is better behind the wheel than I am. Or at least cuter.
Oliver is better behind the wheel than I am. Or at least cuter.

As I bumped and braked my way through our tree lined streets I started a list of other quirks that I have brought to life simply by embracing them. As much as I have figuratively embraced my oddities I have eschewed literal embraces and taught the world not to hug me. I have completely stopped writing thank you notes. I no longer answer my phone. I refuse to park in parking garages. The truth is in many cases hugs feel good, thank you notes are thoughtful, phone calls can be efficient, and garages are the most convenient place to park. In each case my avoidance of every day things started as a small preference which I focused on until it grew to phobic proportions. I have turned the tiny pimple into a huge abscess by leaning in close to the magnifying mirror of life. Obsessing over an abscess does not help it heal.

Amongst all of the things I have begun to avoid the one that started with the least truth is the story I tell about hating to cook. I have carefully crafted the cooking in our family. In our early days Steve and I shared the meal prep. After a particularly tasty roast chicken I began to sing the praises of Steve’s cooking. A capable cook he was no chef, yet I made him out to be amongst family and friends. I bought him cook books and demoted myself to sous chef. As his knife skills grew I receded further into the background. Finally I was down to four dishes in my repertoire that I made (maybe) one night a week. But it turns out there was further to fall. These days I sit at the counter (or on the couch) as he chats and chops pulling nameless herbs from our CSA and brandishing his knowledge over the difference between braising and roasting.

Leo started cooking at age two.
Leo started cooking at age two.

When he travels for work the boys expect to scrounge their own dinner of mac and cheese or a giant cutting board filled with salami and cheese and peppers. They never knew me as a cook as capable as Steve, because as I was encouraging his culinary skills I was downplaying my own. Until they shriveled and died. I can still carefully cut a pepper into thin seedless slices (good for the dinner board) and I can toast. I can even melt cheese on toast. At least the first time. Because after the dripping cheese of the first serving I am toasting over the open flames of the second go round. Pro tip: Burning dripped cheese is really smoky. Smoky enough to set off alarms.

I have learned my own helplessness in the kitchen. At least in this case it has resulted in Steve’s love of cooking.  So I set low expectations for myself and high expectations for Steve. We both lived them.

screen-shot-2016-09-28-at-10-50-30-amSo the take away…I am going to stop pretending that hugs are horrible. Look at Leo no one could loathe that loving embrace.



What about you? Have you created a story and then lived it into life? Are there some expectations you could make great-er?

Here is a link to Steve’s absolute go to cook book. It was the genesis of the magical roast chicken.


Published by

Anna Palmer

Anna Rosenblum Palmer is a freelance writer based in Denver, CO. She writes about sex, parenting, cat pee, bi-polar disorder and the NFL; all things inextricably intertwined with her mental health. In her free time she teaches her boys creative swear words, seeks the last missing puzzle piece and thinks deeply about how she is not exercising. Her writing can be found on Babble,, Great Moments in Parenting, Ravishly, Good Men Project, Sammiches and Psych Meds, Playpen, Crazy Good Parent, and YourTango. She also does a fair amount of navel gazing on her own blog at

7 thoughts on “Not so Great Expectations: Living Life with a Low Bar”

  1. Oh yes! That same one. I. Do. Not. Cook. No one expects me too bcause I have been saying it for so long. My husband cooks his own meals and is more than happy to do so. Life is too short to spend it in the kitchen.

  2. Yep, I’m all for low bars too. Like you, I’ve stopped answering my phone. If anybody really needs me, they can just text me. I’m also a champion cheese burner. That’s about all I have for culinary expertise.

  3. I didn’t need to create a story to elevate my husband to chef. He already was one and my fridge only contained frozen meals, condiments, milk and beer when he met me.

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