I didn’t expect last week’s sharp edges to have a silver lining. Didn’t want them to. I wanted to pound my fists without any pressure to spiritualize or look strong.
Three days. That’s how long I bled. I thought life would ebb right out of me.
Disappointment is the chink in my armor. It’s how I’m wrecked and derailed. It’s my casket, and I fall into it full body, pull the lid shut. In the past, disappointments have buried me alive.
But not this time. It could’ve been, should’ve been considering the overwhelming sense of failure.
Three days. Then I lifted the lid and started to crawl out. A surprisingly short amount of time for someone who wailed “I quit!” enough times to accumulate quite a word count.
As for the disappointment, I’m not all the way out. I still feel the sting when I think about it. Still feel a twinge of failure when I contemplate what’s next.
But I’m not camping out there. I won’t.
We can’t ignore these things that break us in two. But we don’t need to move in and set up house, either. When facing a significant disappointment (in writing or parenting or a person, marriage or ministry), we honor the experience by being fully present in it. All of it.
But we also honor the disappointment by refusing to die there.
I’m still trying to understand what I can do differently, what I can learn from this. I don’t have it all figured out, and I’m not yet ready to pour myself back into my work. But I’ll let you in on what I know right here, right now.
Disappointment can become a grave, and I’m the only one who can crawl out. I put a lot of pressure on other people to make me feel better, to say just the right thing to make the sting go away. This is unfair. It’s not their job to pull me out of my grief, nor do they know how. I must take responsibility for my life and my emotions. Including the disappointment. Only I can choose to live beyond it.
Disappointment, though painful, softens when shared with others. I almost deleted last week’s post, bolted out of bed at 5:50 am and ran pajama-clad to my office to take it offline. Vulnerability is unsafe, and I didn’t feel strong enough to bleed in public. But then you showed up. Although you couldn’t fix it, you could sit with me in it. So you did. You placed your vulnerability side-by-side with mine. It was beautiful.
Disappointment doesn’t get the last word unless I stop talking. Here are the facts. One, I’ve been working my tail off and I’m tired. Two, it would be easier to walk away, be done with it. Three, one and two tick me off. So now, instead of “I quit,” I’m talking smack. Who gets to decide when enough is enough? I do. And I say I’m not done yet. There’s life beyond this and I want to see it through.
How about you? Disappointment is excruciating. I know. And you’re allowed to crawl in a hole for a few days or weeks. Whatever it takes. But it’s only a dead end if you decide to shut the lid.
I’d love to know: How do you dig out from disappointment?
P.S. I read your comments on last week’s post, a couple hundred of them. Here, on Twitter, Facebook, email, text, and elsewhere. Every single one. Thank you for not trying to fix me while I sat in sackcloth and ashes. And thank you for sharing your stories, your sharp edges, too. Your presence was my shining silver lining.