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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Anticipation: Hopefulness vs. Worry

We can never know about the days to come. But we think about them anyway. This is the opening line of Carly Simon’s iconic 1971 song, Anticipation. These words have been especially poignant for me during these past few months. In 2020, my daughter and I had scheduled a vacation in Denmark, but it was canceled due to COVID. We now plan to take that trip in a few weeks. I’m looking forward to the joy of vacationing and seeing the sights I’ve been hoping to visit for so long. Even so, I have some trepidation about the war in Eastern Europe and the potential for another COVID spike.

Thinking about these polar opposite feelings has led me to consider, just what is anticipation?   One of Merriam Webster Online’s definitions is: visualization of a future event or state. This is something we can all relate to—anticipation of Christmas morning, or a blind date, or even waiting for ketchup to emerge from its bottle. These visualizations can be either hopeful or worrisome, or a combination of both.

Okay, so can I characterize anticipation as an emotion? Yes, according to Wikipedia, “Anticipation is an emotion involving pleasure or anxiety in considering or awaiting an expected event.” But Brene Brown’s Atlas of the Heart did not include Anticipation as one of the 87 emotions she listed, although both hopefulness and worry are included. Maybe this categorization doesn’t really matter. What does matter to me, both personally and as a writer, is the impact of anticipation on life.


In The Legacy, Anna looks forward with hopefulness–-pleasurable anticipation—to being reunited with the love of her life, Jorn Stryker. In her diary she writes:

…we have our wedding to plan, and I hope he will show me his vast farm, which he described so proudly when he told me of his life in Iowa. Many times, I have imagined what his house looks like, since I am soon to become its mistress. I wonder how many servants we shall have. Probably quite a few, since he has helped so many people emigrate from Denmark.     

   Oh Jorn. Your Special Girl is here and ready to begin our life together.

If her expectations are met, the story goes one way. If not, it takes a far different turn.


In The Claim, Katie’s fiancé has arranged passage for her to join him in the Klondike. When she reaches her destination, it’s not at all what she expected, leading her to worry about her future:

     Katie stood on the deck of the steamer and studied the deserted town through the drizzling rain. Haphazard drab, log-cabin buildings. Sloppy streets of mud. Nothing that looked like a theatre. She swallowed against the sour taste rising in her throat.

    Only a few scruffy residents met the boat, and Charles was not one of them. She pulled her cloak tighter around her.

     “Are you sure this is Forty Mile?” she asked the captain again.

     “Yes ma’am,” he replied in his annoyingly patient tone. “But these folks say that most of the town moved upriver to Dawson when gold was discovered in that area last year. I’m sure your Mr. Gasnier has probably gone there, too.”

     The captain was probably right. There would be no point in operating a theatre in a town with too few people to attend the plays.

     A woman with a face painted bright with scandalous amounts of rouge and lipstick moved along the rail, closer to Katie. “You mean Frenchy Gasnier?”

     Katie frowned in distaste. “His name is Charles. He is my fiancé.”

     The gaudy female stared openly at Katie. “Then I guess it can’t be the same guy.” A garish red grin broke across her face. “Frenchy’s going to marry me.”

     Katie forced a smile. “Maybe they’re brothers.”

     The woman’s rosy mouth formed a pout. “Maybe. But Frenchy didn’t mention having a brother.”

     Neither had Charles. Still, how common could a name like Gasnier be up here in this God-forsaken country?

     “I think we should go on to Dawson,” the woman said, more to the captain than to Katie. “Our men most likely moved down there with everyone else.”

     The captain’s gaze flitted from her to Katie. “There will be a slight charge for the extra passage.”

     “I’m sure Charles will pay you the difference when we arrive in Dawson.” Katie had little money left in her handbag. “He bought my passage to Forty Mile.”

     “If he doesn’t, you’ll be responsible for it.”

     “Yes, sir.”

Katie’s arrival in the north is not what she had anticipated, and trepidation begins to set in. Will Charles meet her in Dawson? If so, will she realize the life he’d promised her? If not, what happened to him?

Anticipation can lead to realizing joyful expectations, to disappointment, to disorientation, to preparing—physically and/or emotionally—for negative outcomes and a myriad of positive or negative emotions. This mechanism allows me as a writer to show the reader a deeper understanding of a character.

And personally, anticipating both positive and negative potential outcomes provides me at least a modicum of mental preparation for however an event plays out. Perhaps, in a way, it’s a self-preservation mechanism. At any rate, Carly Simon’s observation of anticipation captures a universal human behavior we can all relate to. And I’m looking forward to vacationing in Denmark despite the mix of hope and worry thinking about it engenders. 

  Ann Markim

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4 comments:

  1. Excellent excerpts! You paint the emotions, hopes and fears of your characters very vividly and their anticipation draws the readers into the stories. In both the reader is wondering how the young women will fare.
    I hope your holiday in Denmark goes really well, Ann.

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    1. Thank you, Lindsay, for your kind words. I had a wonderful holiday in Denmark, although when I spoke what little Danish I know it must have been with an obvious American accent, because people often replied in English:)

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  2. Really vivid excerpts, painting scenes as well as delivering evocative moods. Hope really is a way of building obstacles for characters to overcome. I really hope your anticipated trip works out for you. Denmark is beautiful.

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