Only disappointment

It is only disappointment. Alas, it dessicates the life in your spirit. If you let it, that is.

Thankfully, like many frustrating things, disappointments come with a choice. You either let it devour you, or force it to lift you up on its shoulder and let you climb on to the other side of the seemingly insurmountable wall. Easy? Hardly. 

Some studies show that optimists are less prepared for the emotional plummeting a disappointment causes. An optimist is so busy looking at the bright side that when it becomes clear that clouds are persistent and there isn’t a light in sight, they pale. It’s called the ‘disappointment effect’, apparently. And it is said to compromise the victim’s immune system. How very disheartening. Especially for an optimist.

What about a pessimist, then? I haven’t heard of any related studies, but I’ll wager the disappointment effect in this case just might turn out to be the last ever effect on the poor soul.

Makes it very easy to see that disappointment needs to be culled when it’s letting you cull it, doesn’t it? Otherwise, you end up either being susceptible to the smallest of discomforts, or become prone to untimely withering of heart over and over again. 

Disappointments will happen. Big ones, small ones. What I’d like to do with them is to manage one kind of disappointment at a time in way that the same thing doesn’t wind me again. Sometimes I manage it, sometimes I don’t. The trick, I am learning, is to keep at it.

War against it, I think. Fight with yourself. Let disappointment be your launchpad. Sometimes, the toughest wars are against oneself. And one of the most challenging of the lot is that which is against frustration or anger stemming from stymied expectations. It is the most challenging, I’ve realised, because the anger and frustration either make you completely inert, or guide you towards a path you don’t really want to take.

I attended school with girls and boys who were naturally comfortable on stage. While they were friends, they were also cruel reminders of what I couldn’t do. Though I could easily wet my palms and other things with various nervous secretions, I didn’t. That was one saving grace, thankfully. But I did manage to make a fool of myself every time I went on stage. And came back with a disappointed ego every single time. Except once.

I’d practiced for weeks for a poetry recitation competition. The poem I’d chosen was Nancy Hanks by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét. I still remember the poem, I still remember the pride I felt when I lasted through the entire poem without fumbling, and didn’t have to leave the stage defeated. I might have won an award. I do not remember whether I did, because the award I wanted stays in my heart.

Years later, when I became a teacher and was required to speak to children on some school assembly days, I went back to becoming the jittery, helpless fool with one thing to prop me up — Nancy Hanks The Poem. Its memory was enough to help me stand on stage, alone. My first assembly talk was an excerpt from Anne Frank’s diary. This collection of her diary entries has and continues to touch me deep down. Perhaps that is why I got all watery throated that day? It was more than a decade ago, I don’t really remember why it happened. But what I do remember was that I got down from the dais all disappointed.

But, amazingly, the memory of Nancy Hanks was more persistent, and it helped me get on the stage again, and again. Until I reached a day when I began enjoying being there — and having a voice.

Letting disappointment get the better of you is like permitting the wind to blind you with your hair slapping your own face when all you want to do is see that road ahead. While disappointing stage performances might not count as the best example of frustrating disappointments for most of us, they are an effective means to make a person feel lesser, somehow. There are, however, more life-altering disappointments. Like the knowledge that your loved one is letting you down. Or that you have been letting your loved one down instead, or worse — in return. Or that the only blockade in your path to your dreams is your own self. What about those? How do you battle against yourself to shoo those away? I do not know. Yet.

And yet, I do know that the last thing I’d want is to allow the wind to throw my own hair against my face without my permission. Would you?

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14 thoughts on “Only disappointment”

  1. I marveled at what a wonderful job a colleague was doing with her students. On one occasion her students were performing for a major audience. As I was sitting with my principal, I asked out loud, “Why isn’t she nervous?” How does she do it?” My wise principal simply answered, “she prepares every day.” If the young teacher was nervous or not, I do not know, but I do know it was evident to my principal that she prepared every day in order to meet the extraordinary day.

    1. “prepare(d) every day in order to meet the extraordinary day” is what I believe in, too, Georgette. Sometimes, my efforts seem to go unnoticed even by myself, and I feel frustrated. But, the slow learner that I am, I have to give months, maybe years to get to a point where I can say, “Yeah, I got it right.”

      Sadly, stage performances don’t give that leeway, which is why I have great respect for those who manage to do it right and get it done right in a short time. Such patience! Such commitment! Thank you for telling me about this teacher.

  2. Yes, we optimists can be blindsided, blown away and buffaloed. Priya, it’s good to know someone in the world understands that some disappointments shove us into hell!

    The length of time we stay in our hell is up to us!

    May I learn to meet disappointment with much more grace than I display at times!

    1. Amen to that, Amy. And I wish the same for myself.

      I wonder, though, the length of time we stay in hell — however long or short — can be more decisive of our discomfort than the intensity of our resignation when we’re there.

  3. Hi,
    I find talking in front of a lot of people is very nerve racking, thank goodness I have only had to do this twice, once at work, and once at a birthday party, both times I was a nervous wreck. 🙂

    1. Oh Mags, the agony of it! But you survived it well, I am sure. It is amazing to see that the fear of stage and the fear of spiders lead the world’s phobias. I wonder if there’s a connection…

  4. Oh it feels nice to read this. 🙂 I think, it’s about balancing our thoughts whenever it is required. But yes, knowing how to do that would need experience, which too requires us to be aware. The awareness to see what the positive or negative situations speak out to us.

    1. It takes a really wise person to know the importance of such an awareness, Nandini. I must congratulate you! I confess that if the situation is extremely positive or negative, I lose my sense of balance.

  5. It felt like I have read this one from you before. But seeing as I haven’t commented, I will now.
    For me, it is not only disappointment (I mean the big ones here). It is the biggest demon, akin to the dementors in Harry Potter. Thankfully, HP along with giving me an analogy also gave me a charm to shoo it away. *Think of a happy memory. Not just any (for we have many of those), it has to be a strong happy memory. Strong enough to hold its own shape in the face of dementors. Think of it and you will have your Patronus to fight it.* And here, I would like to quote you “Sometimes I manage it, sometimes I don’t. The trick, I am learning, is to keep at it.” 🙂

    “And it is said to compromise the victim’s immune system” – The mind-body connection (not the physical one) you speak of here is astonishing. Maybe call it a spiritual connection, for lack of a better word? All of us have it, of course, but how many of us are aware of it? The past few years I have begun to be aware of this connection and it is astonishing & scary at the same time.

    “Sometimes, the toughest wars are against oneself.” Couldn’t agree more and you have given an excellent winning example here. Let us all work on our Patronus’s or as you say, block out the inessential 🙂

    1. I like this response of yours. It makes me feel like I’ve succeeded in saying what I wanted to say, and I really need that these days.

      I like the idea of Patronus’ but must confess that I do not see them being effective in real life. A happy thought might help you shoo away a sad thought, a fearful thought, an insecure or an angry one, too. But a thwarted disappointment or expectation isn’t that easily herded out. In fact, I find that a happy memory makes it worse. But, I am working on it!

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