This past Halloween my 6 year old ended up sick the day before Halloween with an ear infection. We, I mean he, missed a party at his karate studio, trick or treating and a friend’s birthday party. I say “we” because I was going to get adult time during these events. Time where I could get to know other parents better and have some fun of my own.
Honestly, my son dealt with the disappointment better than me. He always seems to get sick for big events. As I let myself feel my own disappointment, I recognized that this feeling was very familiar. I have a sense that when I was younger I was sick for big events as well. I became curious if we are similar in the way we get overwhelmed when something big is happening or coming. We appear easy going but internally it knocks us off center.
Once I recognized my emotional reaction seemed bigger than his, I decided to take a deeper look at this. What is this disappointment really about for me? This is where I have learned to take deep slow breaths, as I know I am entering into what often feels like threatening territory. I knew that this profound feeling of disappointment had to be about more than missing the events of the weekend. The fact is, Halloween, a holiday I was never truly fond of if I’m being honest, comes every year. So why couldn’t I recover from my disappointment? What I realized as I breathed, and let my body sink into the feeling of disappointment, is that I have always been disappointed. I have always felt like I was missing out in some way or wasn’t quite where I wanted to be.
What am I really talking about here? DESIRE. I was always afraid to let myself truly desire something out of fear that I would want it so much, and somehow or in someway it would get “messed up,” and I would be left with that awful feeling of disappointment. So the choice was to desire and risk being let down and disappointed, or to just stop desiring. The problem with either of these is I was always operating from a place of defense and protection, making it very difficult to feel alive and present.
For some reason this Halloween that wasn’t, brought disappointment all back up for me. I felt the choice I had in that moment. I could let myself collapse into the disappointment vowing to never desire again, or I could choose differently than I have in the past. The first thing I did was reach out for support from a good friend. I have been taught that the only thing to really do with disappointment is to acknowledge it and to let someone be with you while you are in it. As my friend reflected to me, I needed to be able to bring voice to it. And once I allowed myself to do that in a supportive way, I didn’t have to hold onto my disappointment so tightly. It still lives in me, but I created more space for both the disappointment and for something new to emerge.
What came is the decision to bring myself forward in as many ways as I can. To say yes to opportunities, to open myself up more, to know there is another Halloween and that this one disappointment doesn’t have to define everything moving forward. I could feel the relief of that, the newness and uncertainty, as well as the excitement and possibility. What I allowed myself to do is to desire.
I also saw clearly that as I became more conscious about what was happening for me, I didn’t need to project my disappointment or my history of disappointment onto my son. He could have his experience and I could have mine. And while it was a total bummer about what we missed out on, what I could now appreciate is what we had. We had quality time together cuddling, watching our favorite shows, just being together in a way that we rarely get to in our fast paced lives. There is no costume or piece of candy that can ever compete with that.
Where have you known disappointment in big and small ways in your life? How have you dealt with it? Do you go into denial, shut down, feel despair or perhaps get angry? Where have you stopped desiring and when did you stop…when you were little, a young adult, an adult full of endless responsibilities, or have you never really felt desire thus far in your life? As you let these questions live in you, remember to breathe and perhaps reach out for support.
The size of your success is measured by the strength of your desire; the size of your dream; and how you handle disappointment along the way.