February 17, 2023

I have been waiting in anticipation for the beginning of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) for the last two weeks.  Last night I decided rather than filling my feeders I would wait until this morning.  The birds often come for breakfast early and I wanted to make sure I was awake before they arrived.  While that was a good plan, it did not go as expected.  I stayed up later than usual watching a series I follow on one of the streaming services.  Melissa always closes the door and takes Zena with her when she gets up in the morning.  Zena arrives back in about an hour to push the door open with a loud bang and then jumps on the bed to make sure I am awake.  I somehow missed the excitement and slept late.  When I did get up, filled the feeders, grabbed my paper, and sat down to watch the birds arrive.  Apparently I was too late as I sat for an hour without seeing a single bird.

When I looked online, I found anticipation is an emotion involving pleasure or anxiety while considering or waiting for an expected event.  Anticipation is excitement leading to an event as we eagerly wait for what you know is going to happen.  Anticipation can also be described as a nervous expectation.  For most events where we find pleasure, it is not so much the experience as the anticipation that makes the event enjoyable.  Anticipation can be accompanied by other emotions, including fear, anxiety, hope, and trust.  When the event fails to occur, it can result in disappointment (for a positive event) or relief (for a negative event).  Regardless, we wait in anticipation. 

Philosophers have several established schools around the role of anticipation in our psyches.  Robin Skynner (16 August 1922 – 24 September 2000) was a psychiatric pioneer and innovator in treating mental illness.  Skynner considered anticipation as one of “the mature ways of dealing with real stress . . . You reduce the stress of some difficult challenge by anticipating what it will be like and preparing for how you are going to deal with it.”  Anticipation is a mature defense that tends to increase with age.  Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl (8 April 1859 – 27 April 1938) was an Austrian-German philosopher and mathematician who established the school of phenomenology.  For Husserl, anticipation is an essential feature of human action. “In every action we know the goal in advance in the form of an anticipation that is ’empty’, in the sense of vague . . . and [we] seek by our action to bring it step by step to concrete realization.”  It is hard to envision any anticipation in sitting through class with either of these philosophers.

THOUGHTS:  When no birds arrived, I felt disappointment that my anticipation had not resulted in the expected event.  This did not cause me stress suggested by Skynner, but last night’s planning and this morning’s preparation seemed to have been for naught.  Then I realized according to Husserl the step by step groundwork for my personal GBBC had been laid for a concrete realization.  The feeders were full, and I was ready to wait in anticipation for the evening feeding.  Doing the work to prepare for a desired result is critical for it to occur.  That is true for the arrival of my birds, and for building diverse relationships that will last.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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