Everyone knows a thing or two about disappointment. From the infant who doesn’t get his bottle as quickly as he wants it, to the business owner filing for bankruptcy due to a lack of cash flow, everyone has experienced disappointment and will experience it again and again.
I have noticed that the more emotionally invested I am in something, the deeper it hurts when I experience a disappointment related to it.
Years ago, a young man we will call Kade unexpectedly impressed me at a time when most young men I knew seemed immature. He was a cut above the rest in thought, speech, manners and ambition. He sought me out, we enjoyed each others’ company, and became significantly close in just a few months.
I was out of town on a two-week trip when I realized that our relationship was getting pretty serious, and that we probably needed to talk about being officially together. When I got back to find that he was dating a girl he’d just met, I was utterly shocked and devastated.
How do you handle disappointment so that it doesn’t destroy you? Here are some of the things I have learned to do.
- I allow myself to mourn the loss, acknowledging that whatever I lost mattered. I make myself walk through the pain, instead of avoiding it (quite difficult to do sometimes), because I have found that it is the only way to get over pain.
- I call my best friend for a long talk. She is one of the best things that ever happened to me. She loves me unconditionally. She listens without interrupting. She doesn’t blame me for stupid decisions (which we all make sometimes). She gives me perspective, and assures me that even this will someday be behind me. Everyone needs at least one such friend.
- I take one day at a time. I keep putting one foot in front of the other. I keep taking the next breath. I remember listening to Michael Bolton’s “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You?” all those years ago, while walking through that mess with Kade, and answering, “By breathing in and out, in and out.”
- I learn from the situation. When I can handle it, I sift through the ashes to figure out what I could do differently next time I’m in a similar situation.
- I break out my “Happy List,” a written list I keep of things that I know make me happy. Things like being by the ocean, reading a fantastic novel, the sound of rain on a roof, live jazz or classical music. Despair comes easy in times of disappointment, but I have found that I can dispel it by making myself do the things on my happy list. I have them written down because sometimes I can’t remember them offhand in times of sadness and grief.
- I recognize that there is a Bigger Picture, and I dream a new dream. One of my friends likes to say that “everything happens for a reason.” I think this is true, even when the reason is beyond my understanding. Since I am a person of faith, I believe that God is always steps ahead of me, guiding me by closing some doors and opening others. I like to say, “Puzzle pieces fall into place where they are supposed to.”
Clearly, my puzzle piece didn’t fit with Kade’s those many years ago, and we went our separate ways. In the months after that fiasco, I picked up and moved away, and have since pursued many wonderful opportunities that I would have passed up if I had ended up with Kade.
I hope the next time disappointment comes knocking, you won’t let it knock you out. Make it work for you, so that you come back even stronger.