My heart sinks.
I had hoped. I had made tentative steps. And then the door slams in my face. The path gives way before me.
Was I a fool to try it? Was I fool to believe? Was I a fool to get out of my cave of knowing and safety? No.
Disappointment can be hard. Of course, it can be magnified by the weight of meanings we can give it. “I can’t do it! It’ll never work out. Life doesn’t work out. They think I’m useless. I’m disappointing them.” But even these are better than the meaning that might be really weighing us down. The thing we perhaps only suspect or whisper. “Maybe I’m the disappointment.” But failure is part of living. Disappointment is part of trying. If I risk doing something, anything, making any sort of difference, then I make myself vulnerable.
I make myself vulnerable to life. I will never know if it will succeed. I can never know. It’s new. It’s different. I’s a path I haven’t trod and so how could I know where it will end? Of course I will need to learn how to do things. Of course I will be able to do things better. Of course I will fail. Of course I will take the wrong turn.
But I also make myself vulnerable to others. You see, the status quo is safe. The relationships I’m in, the family dynamics I’m in, perhaps the friendships or workplace, all like its equilibrium. If you do what keeps the equilibrium, you will keep doing the same thing again and again. You’re probably quite good at it by now. And the system supports you in it. But if you do something different, well those around you might support you at the conscious level, but there’s likely to be some sort of negative feedback. You can't do that! You're not good enough! How dare you! Or, as my nan would say, 'What are you doing that for?' Some pressure, or undermining, or disappointment is applied designed, perhaps unintentionally, to regain the equilibrium.
And I will make myself vulnerable to myself. In all of these consequences of trying, the wounds of not being enough, of being the disappointment, of should being this or that, are uncovered. And the parts of me that want to stay being disappointing, that have learnt to be in this world like this, get exposed. This is our shame. I have to face it, feel it, hold it. There isn’t another way to go through it. There isn't another way to stop it driving my life.
It takes courage to do something new. It takes courage to hope and make those first steps. It takes even more courage to feel the door slamming in your face, perhaps from every direction, and keep on going. This is the hard work of change. There just isn't a magical moment where this is made easy.
So, here’s what I tell myself. Disappointment is part of living. Disappointment means you’re succeeding at trying something new. You’re not responsible for how others react, or for their fear. You’re not to blame if things don’t work out. You can only do what you know you need to with the information you have. And notice when that part of you that wants to stay disappointing is drawing you away from the things you really need to do.
And If you’re feeling the shame and pain at the centre of your being, then you’re probably on the right path to change. That's the only path to something new.
So, when you can, as much as you are able, forge on. Hold that pain with kindness. Hold that part with compassion. And hold the path with courage. Keep opening up your wings, vulnerably trying to fly, trying to catch the current.