Stick around long enough and I will disappoint you.
I will not live up to an expectation that you have of me – a persona perhaps formulated in your mind after listening to me speak or from taking a class with me or from shaking my hand on a Sunday on the front steps of the Center in Atlanta or a book-signing at a convention.
I will perhaps let you down by not acknowledging you in the way you deserve, by not remembering your name or from catching me in a moment when my human nature is far more visible than my spiritual one.
I offer a sincere and deeply rooted apology to you if you have experienced these indiscretions.
And as Henry David Thoreau encouraged, “If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.”
As a boy, I remember my constant hunger for my mother’s attention. For the majority of my formative years she was simply unavailable. Today, I understand the enormous pressure of her day-to-day existence. Widowed, fearful, unskilled, it was a terrifying journey for her to be on with so many depending upon her. The burden, many times, broke her sense of composure and shriveled her hope.
I deeply internalized her seeming neglect and angrily engaged in withdrawal and judgment for what I termed as poor and abusive mothering skills.
But something happened along the way. I found the Science of Mind philosophy and began to revisit the years of my life from a lens of cause and effect rather than from a system of fate and unlucky genealogy. My cause (or choice) was an expectation for my mother to fill a void within me. My result (or effect) was compounding disappointment.
I read Ernest Holmes words, “It is a solace to the mind when we come to understand that all human limitation, from the standpoint of the Divinity within us, is unnecessary.”
My long held limiting view of life was unnecessary. I could begin a deliberate claiming of my good. I could claim that I was seen and heard, validated and successful. Others did not determine my happiness or worth. I, and I alone, most uphold that responsibility in order to create a different experience. I had to see me first. I had to validate me first. The world would reflect that back to me in kind.
I did that, faithfully, and over time began to see my mother’s life approach as a catalyst for profound growth rather than a repressive obstacle. She was a gift and my masterful teacher.
The trick for me was to stick it out, to take ownership of my disappointment. She lived long enough that I got to practice non-expectation in the months prior to her death. I held in there till I began to reap the compensation that Thoreau referred to and I would invite you to ‘stick it out’ as well.
If you are feeling disappointed, consider these steps.
Feel your feelings – Without trying to bypass or speed up the process, feel what it is you need to feel. Let yourself have a good cry. Write a therapeutic letter as an exercise to purge and empty out whatever is necessary to help restore you back to a place of calm.
Seek to understand – I would venture a guess that most of the people you feel disappointment around are not even aware they did something that upset you. Like many, we can get so lost in our own head, our own stress, our own issues, that neglect and oversight happen without malice.
Practice acceptance – Undoubtedly, the process of disappointment will perpetuate. I will be disappointed. I will disappoint. You will be disappointed. You will disappoint. The part that becomes masterful is how we will use this for our growth rather than our diminishment.
Communicate – After practicing the above steps, be willing to speak directly to the person with whom you felt/feel the issue. Stay open to resolve and take blame off the table. Simply share your expectation and how it felt and what you learned from it. Do not mask your words with passive/aggressive tones but aim to be genuine, open and solution-driven.
Imagine the power restored within us by owning our expectations, seeking first to understand and returning back to cause and the changing of thought.
It’s here. It’s possible and I join you in the practice.