A wonderful thing happened this week! Eight little ducklings, well hidden under a bush at the base of our house, hatched under the careful care of Momma Mallard. My partner and I had seen Momma around now and then, but until a few days ago, when I accidentally disturbed her from her nest, I had no idea she was making a temporary home in our yard. (Papa disappeared three weeks or a month ago.)
When we realized we were hosting a nest full of beautiful turquoise-green duck eggs, we began tip-toeing around the yard making plans. I read up on mallard behavior, and discovered that it’s actually fairly common for mallards to nest in yards and, if all goes well, it’s likely that Momma will come back year after year to nest in the same place. I also read that she will, after only “a short fledgling period,” take her babies to her usual feeding place (i.e. her pond or lake).
Yesterday, I realized that the eggs had hatched when I spied a broken egg with small, downy feathers sticking to it near the edge of the bush. And this morning, Momma made her appearance, proudly waddling across the patio with all eight babies in tow. Yesterday, we had hosed some water onto the pool cover just for the ducks. They made their way across the yard and onto the pool where they splashed and played and looked very contented—as long as we stayed indoors.
Well, let me tell you, we anticipated days of duckling-watching enjoyment. We talked about buying a kiddie pool and building a little ramp to make it easier for them. We discussed all the reasons Momma may have chosen our yard: water filled with yummy edibles sitting on top of our pool cover, a yard with no dogs or cats, lots of bushes and shrubs to hide behind and, because it had been raining so much, very little activity. I’m sure it seemed like a very private and safe place. And it is!
But … today, we had a family barbecue planned. Complete with grandchildren jumping and splashing into the pool, seven humans wandering around, the smell of cooking meat, footsteps, and absolutely no place for Momma to safely wander with her children. In a huff, she took her babies across the street and disappeared into a neighbor’s side yard.
The disappointment—for I’m sure Momma will not be back—is acute. And it makes me think about the reason for my disappointment: a delicious anticipation of an experience that did not happen as I pictured it would (i.e. Momma and her ducklings spending days playing and wandering around our yard). I enjoyed the feeling of anticipation, and I did not want to give it up.
We’re all like that, aren’t we? We enjoy anticipating holidays and birthdays with family, graduations, celebrations, and continuations of beautiful, unexpected events like Momma Mallard and her babies.
This week’s journaling prompts are all about the emotion of anticipation—when we enjoy it, when we don’t, and what its effects are.
- Think about a time recently when you happily anticipated an upcoming event or experience. Was the anticipation pleasurable, anxiety-producing, or a little bit of both? Describe the feeling before the experience and the event itself. Did anticipation make the actual event seem more or less than you expected?
- Anticipation can have negative connotations as well as positive, depending upon the expectations around the upcoming event. If an event is undesirable, you may experience apprehension, fear, and anxiety; if it’s desirable, you may experience excitement, enthusiasm, and eagerness. Think about a time when you anticipated something you didn’t want. Did anticipation help you respond more quickly to circumstances? Did things work out better or worse than you thought they would? What would you say the overall effect of negative anticipation was?
- Perform a word association exercise using the word “anticipation.” What do you notice about the results? Write a short poem using the words you listed.
- When you’re looking forward to something pleasurable, are you the kind of person who likes to savor the anticipation, or do you want to get through the event as quickly as possible? Write about what factors in your past experience influenced the way you deal with anticipation.
- Do you think anticipating in the positive sense increases or lessens a sense of disappointment? Write about your answer.
- When you were a child, what did you most anticipate (i.e. a particular holiday or vacation)? Write about those events and about what generally happened. Were your expectations fulfilled or let down?
- Freewrite for ten minutes in response to the following statement from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project: “Anticipation is a key stage in happiness; by having something to look forward to, no matter what your circumstances, you bring happiness into your life well before the event actually takes place.”
I invite you to share your stories with us by leaving a comment below What are you anticipating in the near future?