It’s inevitable: people will disappoint you.
Your spouse will forget an anniversary. Your child will choose a bad friend. Your parent will ignore you. You will get cut off in the church parking lot. Your college roommate will ignore you at your class reunion. You will catch your best friend gossiping about you in your own kitchen. The grocery store cashier will forget to scan your coupons.
Don’t forget: you will disappoint others.
You will blow off a birthday brunch. You will make a snarky comment about your best friend to a mutual acquaintance. You will “grr” at an employee in a department store for no good reason. You will fail to apologize for showing up to a meeting ten minutes late. You will inadvertently compare your spouse to a former flame. You will reject your child’s attempt at helping with a chore because you can do it better. You will lose your patience with your kids and yell louder than you intended.
A constant challenge for me is to channel disappointment into positivity. The Pollyanna “GLAD” game gets old. How can I really say, “I’m GLAD my friends came to my home, ate my food, drank my wine, and made me cry with their cruel jabs about my personality”? Is it even sane to consider morphing being excluded from a family gathering into, “I’m GLAD that my brother and his wife are confident in their choices and excluded me so hurtfully from the baby’s birthday party”? No, Pollyanna, I’m not GLAD these things happen. In fact, I struggle with disappointment constantly.
I don’t know what the answer is. I’ve tried talking- LAWD have I tried talking. I’ve tried subtweets and vague-booking. No thanks. What’s been most effective for me, but might not gain accolades far and wide, is taking disappointment and making a very selfish, concerted effort at change. Consider:
*I walked in on one friend whispering about me to another friend when I had confided in them an emotional crisis. I felt betrayed that these two pals were now rolling their eyes about a situation they’d been validating for several weeks. I was embarrassed. I was frustrated. I was still in crisis. I wanted to drink too much Merlot and call them out. I took to my journal instead. When I felt the urge to “talk about it,” I put my thoughts on paper and closed the book- literally. I get to spend time with my biggest fan (me), I get to work on my writing, and I can choose to ignore the sentiments jotted down or relive them over and over again.
*Our house is the go-to for our circle of friends in terms of hanging out. I happily and willingly create a giant spread of food, make sure the fridge is stocked with everyone’s favorite potables, and never lament the work/cost/time/mess. At our last “happy hour” a snarky, “You don’t have kids, you don’t get it,” reminded me of the great divide- those with children versus the childless. It also illuminated that this woman genuinely has zero respect for the role I play in many children’s lives nor does she have respect for what my life is overall. Last week when discussion of a “happy hour” gathering came up, I declined the conversation. I may have said that I’m too busy, but instead I curled up with a novel I’d been aching to read. I don’t have to spend my most precious commodity preparing to entertain someone who diminishes me so easily. I’m spending that time reading instead.
*I didn’t smile at a little girl in CVS. I was walking in to buy allergy medicine and was annoyed to be doing so. I entered the automatic doors, staying to the right, while an obnoxious creature on a cellphone was barreling towards me, oblivious to my presence or basic rules of civility. Trailing behind the offending party was a little girl, probably three years old. She had a new toy in her hand, still in the package. She looked right at me and smiled, so excited to share the acquisition with someone. My annoyance with the little girl’s mother consumed me. I looked at the child and kept walking. When my own decorum returned, I felt so guilty to have denied this child a smile, the most basic convention of friendliness. I’ve been sure to smile at each person I pass when I’m out in the world, regardless of age. It’s amazing how much a smile can do for someone, particularly when coming from a stranger.
*My boss made a bad decision. He made a call in the heat of the moment that the team didn’t believe in, that had a negative impact on the project, and ultimately fractured morale. I was disappointed in his weakness, in his lack of dialogue. Instead of harping on this incident, I’ve spent more time praising my colleagues for their strengths. I’ve spent more time connecting team members’ strengths to tasks. While it’s still a new scenario, we all seem to be happy to seemingly ignore the snafu of last month and focus on the future when in fact we’re channeling a disappointment into creating positive growth.
Maybe this seems dumb to you. For me, finding a way out of disappointment is essential. In the past I allowed an isolated disappointment to consume me- to become a negative outlook or complete bitterness. Too often I pull up Facebook and see someone going on a non-specific rant about an injustice they’ve suffered. They garner “likes” and “HUGS” and “Feel better, sweetie, you’re better than them” types of comments. But they are perennially unhappy. They seem to thrive on negative interactions and expect disappointment. The longer I employ the technique of negative energy conversion, the less disappointed I am. Truly. It has become automatic to experience joy by choosing positivity. And maybe that Pollyanna outlook isn’t so “old” after all:
I’m GLAD to endure a disappointment so I can find a different path later. I’m GLAD that I’m able to work through disappointments. I’m GLAD that I will not allow disappointments to define me or even the moment.