Expectations and Back-Up Plans

Learning to expect the unexpected. This is a lesson that, despite my decades of experience, remains a struggle.

I’m not great with surprises. Knowing what is going to happen, and having a backup plan in case all else fails, are ways that I try to mitigate disaster, even within my own family. Today is the first day of school for my youngest. She was super excited this morning, bounding from her room without a single ounce of prodding from me. (highly unusual!) As she prepared herself a water bottle for the day, I asked her if she wanted to pack a snack, “just in case”. She looked at me strangely, and asked what “just in case” meant.

I suggested the scenario that maybe she’d get up to the front of the line in the cafeteria and the ID number she painstakingly memorized yesterday didn’t work. What would she do? Would she be hungry if she didn’t pack a little something? She looked at me with all the deadpan seriousness she could muster and said, “I’d tell my mom to stop worrying about every possible thing that could go wrong.”

This worry has gone on all summer. On separate occasions, I’ve told her about my own junior high experiences (spoiler alert: they weren’t great). I mused out loud regarding the first bad grades I ever received. They were in math, from a male teacher. (This was mentioned well before I learned that she too, has a male math and science teacher this year.) We talked about being girls, about make-up, hair, fashion…. Well, actually she pretended to listen. She thinks I don’t notice when she starts to tune me out. I did. I droned on and on anyway…about subjects that, at her age, I didn’t care about either. Go figure.

She’s eleven. I’m not sure she’ll make it to twelve. Her carefree attitude about life, school and even friends both happily surprise, and frustrate me. Worrying is not her forte. Preparing for the unexpected isn’t really something she does naturally, even with my suggestions. The youngest prefers to handle things as they come, no extra anxiety or energies needed. She doesn’t seem to care if she fits in, or if she does well in school. It may be a long year.

Me, on the other hand—I like to be fully prepared. Perhaps even overly so. I like knowing exactly what is about to happen, and how it will all go down. My biggest issue with this band – yes, Duran Duran – is that I never know what the new music will sound like from one album to the next. Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m not losing sleep over it. If that were happening, I’d qualify for therapy. It’s nothing like that. I was just sitting here, scrolling though Twitter and Facebook, thinking about where I was four years ago. Paper Gods hadn’t yet come out, although I believe by now I had heard some of the new music. I can remember being very concerned. Overly so, even.

At the time, my biggest worry was the guitar. I suppose I was concerned that the album would be more along the lines of Red Carpet Massacre, with more of a muted guitar than the upfront sound I tend to prefer. The project seemed to take forever as a whole, and the closer it came to the release date, the more I questioned what was about to happen. Would the band be the same? Could this album really be as good as the one before?

Granted, I did some of this worrying online, and in public. After all – we were blogging back then – and anything we write, people see and read. It isn’t the same as just vocalizing an off-the-cuff comment to a friend when you blog and publish. Whatever bad mood, negativity, or even well-meaning concern written on any given day, is immediately out there, for all to see, for eternity. Even so, I think back on that time, and occasionally I wonder what in the heck I was so worried about. It all turned out fine.

Even if it hadn’t turned out “fine”, I would have survived. Sure, it’s just music…but it’s also just the way it goes with a band like Duran Duran, sometimes. In the past there have been albums that I haven’t exactly jived with. Shock from the use of a beatbox, lyrics that just didn’t feel like they stood up as in the past, a change in personnel, or even an abundance of production, didn’t drive me away. Going from a mainstream, “pop” record to something decidedly more funky didn’t kill me, or my fandom. Years in between albums didn’t make me forget them. I’ve wondered if they could do anything that would cross the line in the sand for me….and then I’ve daydreamed over where that line in the sand might actually sit, or if it even existed at all.

I suppose that for me, those boundaries are always being tested and moved. Maybe that’s the point. New music requires a little growth out of the listener. Sometimes, I just can’t prepare in advance. Letting myself experience ripping off the shrink wrap, reading the gatefold, and setting the needle in the grooves of the vinyl, all the while wondering what I might hear next, is an important part of the process. There’s no back-up plan for managing the emotion that is about to fill my senses—good, bad, or indifferent.

That truth is sometimes tough for someone like me. I love hearing the news of where they are in the album process. Knowing they’ve already got a single in mind is exciting! Reminding myself that they’re not creating another All You Need is Now, Paper Gods…or even Liberty, is an exercise in managing expectations. I have no idea what the next album may sound like, only that if I allow myself to have no expectations and listen with an open heart and mind, I will ultimately grow as a music aficionados.


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