“If we shall be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.”---Henry Thoreau.
I’ve been thinking a lot about disappointments lately.
One definition of disappointment is, “the experience you feel when you consider what might have been, in contrast to what exists in the present.”
In my own life, it seems that most of my adulthood has been spent learning this lesson. The most profound lesson without a doubt was in coming to terms with the end of my marriage. Letting go of the hopes and accepting what was. Looking back I can see that it took me the better part of five years to let go of my hopes of who I wanted my husband to be.
While I was eventually able to accept his limitations as husband (that is truly the gift of divorce to accept and move on) it took another five years or so to accept his limitations of whom he was able to be as a father.
He passed away a few months ago from alcoholism. So now there is a finality I’m coming to terms with. The recognition that my hopes for the father I wanted my boys to have will never be met.
There is a raw pain there, in the gap between what we hope for and what actually occurs. When our disappointment concerns someone that we love the pain can feel almost primal.
In my experience whether we are willing to transform our pain into something constructive and receive the “compensation” that Thoreau refers to is the difference between living a life of scarcity or abundance.
For better or for worse I’m hard wired to be both extremely sensitive and a pragmatist. A soulful pragmatist, not unlike Thoreau.
It is why I believe in Second Chances so strongly, the idea that we can heal ourselves by learning from our past pain.
Second Chances are our compensation for the Disappointment we receive in life.
Willingness requires both the courage to remain open and vulnerable to feeling the pain again as well as the patience to wait. Waiting to see if things align differently or if the results change.
Ultimately, it’s a choice we make whether are going to stay open and curious or closed and shut down. It’s the difference between responding with hope or fear.
If we can sit with our pain, and stay in a place of hope long enough, then curiosity has a chance of taking root within us.
Curiosity is a game changer because it that enables us to shift our perspective on some of the most painful experiences we go through in life.
The reward is that as we learn, the cycle of disappointment becomes shorter and the lessons it “compensates” us with more transformative.
And if we are lucky, we wake up one day and realize that our view of life, of our situation is changing and the pain is lessening.
Ultimately it is about becoming a Spiritual Warrior.
A Spiritual Warrior is someone who is willing to shift his or her perspective into one of understanding that everything happens for a reason. This is only something we can learn through direct experience. In the abstract it sounds very Pollyannaish.
Shifting our perspective is everything in life.
This is something I continue to learn over time. Frustrating detours and painful experiences that seem to last forever or far longer than I desired have always been accompanied by periods of tremendous growth.
I can see now these were periods of time where God was giving me experiences as a way of helping me to shift my perspective, so that I could become open to the next thing in front of me. It’s not dissimilar to the way a parent needs to let a child fumble and flail until they learn to become upright while learning to walk.
Are you ready to turn your pain into gain?
Here are three questions I encourage you to get curious about the next time you’re faced with disappointment:
· Where in your life have you suffered disappointment repeatedly? Is there a pattern in terms of how it arises?
· Are you open to understanding the pattern and the events in a different way?
· What is the lesson it’s trying to teach you?