Dealing with Disappointment
After almost two and a half years of dodging Covid like a ninja, I finally got sick with the dreaded virus. And this virus did what viruses do, it took the carefully laid plans I’ve been looking forward to for months and threw them right out the window. Seeing my cousin, her kids and friends I haven’t seen in years? Nope. How about that adorable rental cottage on the beach? Cancelled. What about my good friends’ wedding? Skipped. Needless to say, I was disappointed. Disappointment seems to be a popular theme of late, whether it’s personal disappointment due to Covid crushed plans or disappointment in our government or even the whole state of the world. Is there a way to avoid that sinking feeling? Yes-ish.
I won’t fully commit to a yes because it is so natural to have expectations. In fact, it’s impossible to avoid, it’s how our mind works. And they say, "In order to be disappointed, you have to make an appointment."
But really, it’s not the expectations themselves that cause the disappointment. It’s the rigid attachment to our expectations that leads to that bummed out feeling when those expectations aren’t met. So, we can have expectations and even have some attachment to those expectations so long as when things go a different way, we can immediately let go of our expectations and shift into getting curious about how things are actually going. The quicker the speed this shift is made, the less suffering we experience.
One of the many great things about meditation is it helps in seeing things as they are from a more objective place, so we have more accurate expectations, which is half the battle when avoiding disappointment. I see it over and over again, in families especially, someone goes to a family event and their uncle or their brother acts in a way that is entirely consistent with previous encounters and yet there is profound discouragement. With meditation, things are what they are and people are at where they’re at and we just take their behavior as information on their state of consciousness.
Not being dependent on outside outcomes is the other half of the battle. When we meditate and find fulfillment within at its source, we aren’t dependent on things going “our way” for our sense of well-being. A sense of equanimity takes over, and something really interesting happens. We start to long to be surprised. When things go according to our expectations, it can get kind of boring, but when things go differently, it shakes things up and we can lean into that fascination.
I would have liked to have spent a lovely time on the beach with my friends, but that was never the way the story of those weeks was going to go. Instead, the events of the past few weeks have set a whole new group of trajectories in motion. I got through almost half of the Mahabharata (it’s a big book), spent a lot of time resting, and ate a whole lot of kitchari. I am already making plans to see my friends and family at another time, and I’m looking forward to it, even though it may or may not end up happening. But even if it doesn’t, then something will.