Delighting in Disappointment

My life has been filled with disappointment. I’m sure that you have experienced a lot of disappointment as well. We all experience times when things don’t work out quite the way we expect or would like them to happen, like relationships that end unexpectedly, project proposals that are unfunded, job opportunities that are offered to another candidate, and betrayals of our trust. There are many, many more things that can potentially cause us disappointment in any given day.

Disappointment usually occurs when we give our power away to other people and plan our lives around an outcome over which we have little to no control. This is something we do because it makes intuitive sense to expect the best, or at least for things to continue as they always have. Disappointment is a part of life. If we fail to experience disappointment, we have probably also failed to push ourselves hard enough to explore new opportunities that could potentially infuse our lives with more meaning and joy.

Disappointment is an opportunity for learning and growth in disguise. But too often we react to disappointment with self-indulgent reeling rather than radical self-healing. Dismissal by others can be interpreted as rejection of our ideas, our projects, our work, or even the core of who we are. It hurts our feelings, and makes us question our value. Maybe we think that we are all that when we really just plain old suck.

But maybe other people are not yet ready to cross the boundaries that we find beautifully exhilarating. Maybe the world needs what we have to offer, but not the whole entire world and everyone in it. Maybe there are better opportunities waiting for us. Maybe there are people counting on us to continue on and come forward with whatever it is that we have to offer that could dramatically improve their lives. Disappointment reminds us that we have the freedom to organize our lives around those things that are most closely aligned with our hearts’ desire. One no means one million possible yeses.

Carpe Diem

People have been seizing the day since Horace offered this delicious phrase to the world in 23 BCE. Yet over time, we intuitively fall into a flow of anticipating the cycles of seasons and days. Habits are established. Life loses its pristine novelty, too often without capturing our notice.

I sometimes wonder, worry really, if I have fallen into an intermittent willful resignation. My life sometimes feels pre-scripted. Other times, it feels like a play I have repeatedly seen. Sure, I uncover additional nuance with each performance, every viewing, but there are empty seats awaiting me in the theatre down the street — not to mention across the country and around the world.

About eight years ago, a psychologist told me that I was bored because I had adopted a conventional life, one that contrasted greatly with that of my past. Being able to manage my emotions and behavior to achieve my life goals, even to maintain stability in my life, has been useful. But sometimes it just isn’t enough. It doesn’t fulfill and excite me. I feel dull, numb, and nearly half dead at times.

For me, there is a constant tension between carefully controlling my life so that I am able to function and fully living in, and appreciating, the moment as it occurs. Perhaps everyone experiences this phenomenon, but my loss of control could potentially be destructive, devastating, and disastrous. I suppose this is true for most people, to one degree or another.

Learning to reconcile this tension in a healthy way, and to live a naturally integrated, complete life is an ongoing process. With time, I continually discover my own cycles and rhythms to complement the harmony I wish to create in my life. There are no shortcuts to realizing authentic wholeness, and with both patience and practice the moments I feel that level of connection — with myself and the planet — will surely grow in both frequency and duration.