There are so many books and blogs written about how to be happy, how to get what you want, how thinking positive thoughts will cure you of all your ills. In some ways this is yet another one of those blogs—written in the hopes of helping people live fuller, richer, happier lives.
And for that very reason I’m compelled to write about disappointment—because disappointment happens to all of us, because it is part of the experience of being human and to leave this or any of the other states of being out on the sidewalk would be to miss being present for the whole of it. I suppose, now that I consider it, this blog really isn’t about how to be happy, it’s about how to be real. It is intended to be company for those of us living our confusing, vulnerable, beautiful, tender, disappointing lives.
Most of us, most of the time, strive against disappointment. We’d rather be frustrated than disappointed because then we are still holding out for the possibility that if we just try a little more or kick a little harder we might get what we want. Disappointment is that state in which we recognize what isn’t possible. This sounds more depressing than it is. Still, I probably won’t sell millions of copies of my new book: Face Reality: Life is a Disappointment.
What you may not hear so often is that recognizing disappointment, accepting (different from resigning oneself which is just suppressed frustration) and acknowledging that life isn’t going your way takes you a great leap toward discovering what is possible. It’s not that then suddenly on the heels of acceptance all things fall perfectly into place. Disappointment brings understanding, not necessarily the understanding that you think you want, but the understanding of where you are and what is possible even if it isn’t what you originally thought you wanted. Leonard Cohen sings, “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
I know two kinds of disappointment, they each seem to have there own flavor and at times come mixed one with the other. The first is the disappointment that we aren’t who we thought we were, or who we want to be—the reality that our identity is full of holes. Our fiction is falling apart. It wreaks havoc not only on how we view ourselves, but tends to turn all our beliefs upside down as well. The second disappointment is when our real human needs aren’t met. This is so, so sad and hard.
In the past handful of years I’ve predominantly experienced disappointment with my body not being able to be energetic and productive and strong (I thought I was a healthy, fit, busy person—disappointment #1) and a part of me, a cellular part of me wants to run, hike, work a full time job, dance all day (disappointment #2), and doesn’t like napping and resting so often (and then of course I am also listening to what my whole body needs which is often to rest and slow down). So what is one to do with this tender state of humanness besides eat a bucket of ice cream?
What would it be for any one of us to take disappointment on our lap and speak sweetly and lovingly to it, to notice the sensations that arise with disappointment, to find our feet and feel the weight of them, to hold our hearts and feel the openness of them?
Here we are breathing in and out, flowers on the table or growing up in the cracks of the sidewalk. At the same time that we explore and acknowledge what we want and need in the big vision of our lives, can we also come to rest in this moment and explore what is possible now (and what is not), what we can do to take care now, letting go of what we think this is supposed to look like?