It is only disappointment. Alas, it dessicates the life in your spirit. If you let it, that is.
Thankfully, like many frustrating things, disappointment comes 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.
So, wouldn’t you say that disappointment needs to be culled when it’s letting you cull it? If not, well, then you end up either being susceptible to the smallest of discomforts, or become prone to an 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 myself. Let disappointment be my 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. The pride I felt when I lasted through the entire poem without fumbling, and didn’t have to leave the stage defeated is something that stays with me after all these years. I might have won an award. I do not remember whether I did, because the award I really wanted is permanent 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 — a collection of diary entries that 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 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. And hence make for a good example of how people allow small failures to become big boulders in their paths.
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.
I do know, however, 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?
This post was one of the last ones in my previous blog. While some read it there and commented, I think many of you couldn’t. So, I am republishing it.