Great Expectations

When my sons were very little, both of them had an allergy to cow’s milk. We were assured that they would outgrow it, and they eventually did, but for a while we lived in solidarity, milk free. I frequently told my husband that the first thing I wanted to eat when we could have milk again was a pizza, dripping with cheese.

The night we finally ordered it, I was almost salivating when it arrived. Biting into it, I have never been more disappointed in my life. It wasn’t bad, but not anywhere near as good as I remembered. I recall questioning why people even ate pizza.

A few years earlier, when my husband and I were still living in Arizona, we were invited to my in-laws’ for dinner one evening. All that my mother-in-law, Arlene, wanted to talk about was an upcoming Barry Manilow concert. It was basically going to be a dry run for his soon-to-premiere Las Vegas show, and she didn’t want to miss it.

Coincidentally, that afternoon I had heard about a radio contest for tickets to that very show. Only half-joking, I said that I would win her a pair. The next day, when the D.J. announced the contest, I picked up the phone and started dialing. Miraculously, I did win the tickets and excitedly called Arlene to tell her what a wonderful daughter-in-law I was.

Much to my chagrin, she had already gone out and purchased a pair. Not only that, but her tickets were directly opposite mine, in exactly the same row; I couldn’t even offer her better seats. To make matters worse, she became enamored of the idea that my husband and I would be able to join them.

I’ve never had anything against Barry Manilow, but this was not my idea of a good time. My mother-in-law tends to be rather pushy tenacious, though, and I knew that we were doomed. On the evening of the concert, I put a book in my purse to keep from getting bored, and we got into the backseat of my father-in-law’s Crown Victoria. My husband assumed a philosophical stance, but I was seriously dreading two straight hours of Muzak.

At the Convention Center, we took our respective seats and my mother-in-law waved at us from the other side of the auditorium. I pulled out my book, concerned that the lighting wouldn’t be adequate after the show started.

It wasn’t. But after about ten seconds, I didn’t care. The concert was GREAT!!! From the moment that Barry took the stage until the confetti cannons exploded during the finale, I had the best time I’ve ever had at a concert, and I’ve seen The Rolling Stones. That man can put on a show!

With that in mind, before I sent out my first query letter, I decided that instead of hoping for a spot on the New York Times Bestseller List, I would be happy to net $10,000. Then I learned a few things about the publishing world, realized even that was overly optimistic, and adjusted my hopes to $2,000. Since then, I’ve gone from assuming I’d be published to just hoping for responses to my queries. 

It all boils down to expectations. Mine were way too high for the pizza, and unwittingly low for Barry Manilow. I have eaten plenty of pizzas since, and have realized that I enjoy them much more when I am not anticipating unattainable greatness. It just depends on how you look at things.


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