Sometimes we carry the emotional expectations of others without even realizing it. Sometimes we think a certain behavior is expected and so we try to fulfill a norm that may not truly exist. From the point of view of the narrator of this poem, there is nothing unconscious or unspoken in the expectation put upon them. The point of view is strongly stated and vividly searing.
The Obligation to Be Happy Linda Pastan
It is more onerous
than the rites of beauty
or housework, harder than love.
But you expect it of me casually,
the way you expect the sun
to come up, not in spite of rain
or clouds but because of them.
And so I smile, as if my own fidelity
to sadness were a hidden vice—
that downward tug on my mouth,
my old suspicion that health
and love are brief irrelevancies,
no more than laughter in the warm dark
strangled at dawn.
Happiness. I try to hoist it
on my narrow shoulders again—
a knapsack heavy with gold coins.
I stumble around the house,
bump into things.
Only Midas himself