Learning From Dissapointments

October 6, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog

The details are irrelevant, so I won’t waste your time going into them. Suffice it to say that I recently suffered a not really unexpected disappointment.

What I will say, to put it in perspective, is that it wasn’t a devastating loss or tragedy, but it was something I clearly cared about and was involved in quite publicly for many years.

As is my style, I got ahead of the story and announced the circumstances of my disappointment to everyone who would listen. I find that lessens the impact on me emotionally by making it more mundane and I also prevent forcing people I speak to, who already know from other sources about my outcome, from making the choice of acting as if they don’t know or figuring out how to approach the subject with me.

My father-in-law, a very bright, goal oriented man in his 90′s felt it necessary to say the polite equivalent of “I told you so.” My sister-in-law, a woman in her 80′s who had been working her way through a personal tragedy with inner strength and courage she didn’t even suspect she had, said without hesitation, “I’m so sorry. Are you OK?”

These were knee-jerk reactions, unplanned, unrehearsed, simple popping out fromĀ  somewhere inside.

I have been fond of both of these people and have respected them both for what they have accomplished in their life, and I was disappointed in one, and pleased by the other.

But it is what I felt afterwards that was the thing that lasts. My father-in-law was clearly the more needy one. He had to find some kind of vindication for him in my misfortune. I felt no sympathy for him, but he had probably lived a very unsatisfying life if he could never enjoy his own accomplishments and needed the comparison with what he perceived as the failure of others to validate himself. My sister-in-law had obviously found herself in a place where she could see beyond her own travails and live in a world where love and caring prevails. Her chances for moments of happiness had been mirrored by her unflagging optimism and joy in the good things in her life.

It is ironic how much one can learn from disappointment.

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