Corporations, Consistency, & Expectations: Lessons From Home-Made Stuffing

The dog doesn’t quite care where the stuffing comes from.

Thanksgiving happened, and for the first time in my life I ate home made stuffing. Usually my grandma makes it with the perfectly square packaged croutons, and she adds butter and things, but this time it was just me and my partner in Austin with no grandma. So he made it without any packages, and it was delicious.

But I have to admit, I was worried when we made the choice as a couple to make home made stuffing and not follow Grandma’s recipe.

It didn’t bother me that we had chicken instead of turkey, or that we didn’t have cranberry sauce or banana cream pie. None of these changes mattered. It was the stuffing.

And that got me to thinking about corporations and how they get so integrated into our family routines and our holidays because of the consistency they provide. It also got me thinking about expectations and how they can literally eat us alive. Let me explain.

We Are Suckers for Consistency

Think about how much we love consistency. There is a whiny outrage every time Facebook changes a single thing in its layout. The lack of Twinkies is upsetting people who haven’t had one in years. At least they were always there.

But what is so desirable about consistency? Why do we love it so much?

The Underlying Fear

My theory is that it has to do with grasping for something that is controllable, since our very foundation as humans is not. During puberty, we are overtaken by hormones that change everything we thought we knew about our existence. As we age, laugh lines start to stay and we blink twice before realizing that it’s not just dehydration this time; it’s for real.

We look around us and more people start to get sick. Our friends lose people, we lose people, the circle of friends and family that we had growing up is no longer indestructible. It gets torn apart by diseases of body and mind, and there’s nothing we can do to help most of it.

But at least Wonder Bread will always taste the same. At least Grandma’s stuffing can be made with things from the store that will always be there. At least we can walk by the Twinkies in the grocery store and think to ourselves “I’m better than that.”

In a world where things are so often not in our control, it’s nice to have some things to trust. Corporations, on some level with their consistency and refined products, provide substance to this illusion. They let us have an expectation that can be safely met.

Living in the Moment & Expectation

We’ve discussed this in other posts, but I can never come back to it enough because it’s always true. Maybe if we look at it through a thousand lenses it will be impossible for it to continue its expert shape-shifting:

The more expectations we have, and the more we are attached to them, the less we are living in the moment. This gets in our way of living a life that feels fulfilling.

For example, if I’ve been keeping up with my sitting practice and I make a plan and it falls through, I’m more likely to notice the air on my face, the breath in my body and to think of what to do in that moment when I find out the plan isn’t happening. I’m not as likely to be upset and thrown off and in a state of shock.

But if I’m attached to my expectations, then I can get quite upset about the plan falling through. That bad mood can easily take over, and a lot of time can pass before I remember to feel things genuinely again instead of deciding that each thing is going to suck because my mood is such.

This all comes back also to Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability, which has still been affecting my mental processes and willingness to see things in new ways.

What I’m thinking now is that by noticing expectations and how often they come into play with the little things, like stuffing, the easier it will be to notice it when it comes to big things, like my life.

Can Life Be Like A Farmer’s Market?

Going to a farmer’s market is different than going to the grocery store. You are naturally prevented from having strict culinary routines if you are shopping primarily at local farms because you can’t know too far in advance what will be available. The smallest drought could affect the taste of the strawberries, for example, or the types of greens that make it. You have to work with what is there, and be creative.

Think about your life, and how it’s turned out or how it is turning out each day. Is it what you expected? Is it different than you thought?

Maybe you feel bad that you aren’t doing what you thought you’d be doing at this age.

Maybe you’re happier than you expected to be.

But if you are upset, if you are measuring what is against what was supposed to have been, maybe these thoughts can get some loving attention from a higher place in your mind. A place that can extract the expectations and look around with vulnerable curiosity.

I, for one, am going to make more of an effort to see where the expectations that I have are causing negative judgment to arise, and then I’m going to try to replace it with curiosity and a fresh assessment. I want to spot the habitual ways I approach routines; not just the stuffing, but the way I brush my teeth, the way I put away dishes. Maybe there is room for more present-ness instead of just the pass/fail feeling of expectations.

Without a plan or expectations, the world is vivid and touching because you haven’t already thwarted the feeling of that touch with an expectation for how it “should” be.

How about you?

Do you think that it is easy to live outside of routine and expectation sometimes, or do rely on certain things to keep you focused and grounded?

Do you think you live life like a farmer’s market, with curiosity and adaptability?

Are there routines that you think could use more curiosity and less expectation or automatic reactions?





26 thoughts on “Corporations, Consistency, & Expectations: Lessons From Home-Made Stuffing

  1. Talk about hitting the nail on the head. The world depends on routines and expectations. Spontaneous behavior is the anti-christ of what is. This is why I am miserable…lol

    • It’s funny because spontaneous behavior is also how creativity happens, and how things are built and created, like iPhones and computers. So it’s like we rely on that state of spontaneity and also get mad when it’s not channeled in socially acceptable ways, or something. It’s a strange world, but at least it’s always fun to think about!

      • I know what you are saying, but we are talking about different things. The computer and the Iphone are not in my opinion spontaneous — they were creative concepts used in a given framework. The Iphone, the Ipad, Apple products…are terrific and creative I agree, but I wouldn’t classify them by any means as spontaneous.

  2. Definitely written for me, Peaches. πŸ™‚ I can’t even TELL you how perfectly timed this was…. Thanks, Jen! (Also, too, the part about passing the Twinkies and thinking, “I’m better than that” made me laugh out loud.

  3. I loved that you threw twinkies into the mix! I so GET the stuffing thing… I added apples, pecans and cranraisins to mine this year but ya better believe that I had to make the other recipe too! Not even a question… but I had 20 and you had 2 so you had flexibility!
    Love your writing! Great post!

    • I’m so glad you liked it πŸ™‚ When my mom would try new recipes, she always did that too- transitioned, in a way. Before we knew it our gravy wasn’t straight butter and it had mushrooms..but we had tried it in little bits each year so we knew it was coming πŸ™‚

  4. really good post. I kind of pride myself in my adaptability. But then I’ve had enough years to get to this point. I like change, I like mixing things up. I always want to see how something turns out if I do it different. Makes some people crazy I know, but I am who I am and I don’t make excuses. πŸ™‚

    • That is an awesome attitude to have! It seems like maybe the more we practice adaptability, the better we get at it, cuz then we get used to that feeling of “change” or something. I’m not sure, but it’s good to know that people are out there living that way! πŸ™‚

  5. I think it is all about your comfort zone. It is so easy to get stuck, because change can be scary. A perfect example would be when I stopped purchasing paper towels. My family is still going crazy about that change and I did that over 3 years ago. I embrace the farmers market way of thinking. πŸ™‚ Change is good.

    • πŸ™‚ Thanks for coming by! Ha, it’s funny how attached many people are to paper towels. I want to get me and my boyfriend off of them. I’m going to make some rags one of these days and begin the transition!

  6. Hi Jen – please accept the ‘Doesn’t really exist’ – Panda award for ‘Best Thanksgiving because it wasn’t really about thanksgiving POST’.
    I wrote obliquely about attachment today, which for me is the flip-side of expectation (what else is expectation than being attached to certain chains of cause and effect?).
    My two thoughts were: Nice post πŸ™‚
    And – Is our need for sameness more primal. As hunters we needed a clam background to help spot a moving prey?
    It went deeper than that, but I’m leaving it there because my brains beginning to fry (long day!) – So expand that thought if you fancy πŸ˜‰
    RoS x

    • Aw you are so sweet! I’ll be sure to check it out. I’m not really doing awards yet, I am so behind with them, but at some point I’ll incorporate them in some way. Thank you so much, I’m honored πŸ™‚

  7. I most sinceredly have to thank you. The past 2 weeks I have been in the worst blah/doldrums/aimless state than I have ever been previously. Felt it, but never really had the energy to wonder why.
    It’s the “sameness” of my life lately. I haven’t done much of note other than the same old same old for over 2 weeks.
    I am so glad I read this, it may have just given me the kick in the pants I need to get up and … Do.


  8. This reminds me of a great Buddhist book which said we should often say the words “impermanence” to ourselves every time we observe it throughout our day (which is more often than people realize). Whether it’s a flower that’s bloomed or died, a newborn, the sun setting, a sweater that’s seen too many seasons and so on. I started putting this into practice and it helps ground you in the moment and takes you away from the illusion that the “stability” or “security” we think we have in our life is real. Keep up the great posts!

    Another similar train of thought is Abe Lincoln’s “This too shall pass” because no matter how bad or great a day is – one thing is for certain – it will always change.

    • Very, very true! I think that thinking about impermanence really is one of the biggest things that helps me to have gratitude and a sense of perspective. It all passes, everything, even the things we love most or take the most for granted. Thank you so much for stopping by and for the reminders πŸ™‚

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