Recently I was playing a game with disappointment and disappointment won. I think we were on the teeter-totter together and I went down to the ground with a ka-thunk, my feet digging into the playground wood chips, while disappointment lifted high into the air.
Have you ever been on the teeter-totter with disappointment? I truly wanted to beat disappointment; I wanted to prove that I could resist those feelings of dissatisfaction and despair. I wanted to be the lighter one (the enlightened one) who could face the sunshine above me and say, “It’s okay. It’s not meant to be now. You’ll be alright,” but instead I allowed the weight of my heart and psyche pull me to the earth in a crash.
What do we do with disappointment? It exists. It’s there. It might even be at the playground with us. It’s natural to feel it. What do we do so that we don’t drag ourselves down even further? How do we let go and move on, move forward, move up?
One thing I’ve learned in this recent bout of disappointment is to release resistance, as I gleaned from this “Language of Letting Go” card. The card’s message is as follows: “Today I will simply accept. I will relinquish the need to be in resistance to myself and my environment in any way. I will move forward in joy by accepting where I am right now.”
Yes, the present moment. What is. No judgment. Just breathe. Acceptance. As Thich Nhat Hanh wrote, “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” For an afternoon I allowed myself to watch the wind move the leaves in the tree next door, making each leaf look like a flickering candle. I noticed that I could just be with my environment and allow the disappointment to just be, too. And I spent a couple hours with my environment and not stewing in my own gooey disappointing mess.
It has also occurred to me that we only get truly disappointed when there is something at stake, when something that we love doesn’t come to fruition. And then Martin Luther King Jr.’s words find their way to me: “There can be no deep disappointment where there is no deep love.” I must honor what I love. Of course I am sad. Of course I feel let down. Of course! Yes.
Another spark of insight during this process: feelings of disappointment show us what is important to us as well as gives us a direction. We get to reassess where we are and determine whether this is where we actually want to be! What we wanted to happen didn’t happen. Did we truly want that thing? Perhaps we did. What else do we want for ourselves? Are there other wishes, wants, and desires that can now come out and play because we’re freed up from that thing that didn’t happen?
Try this: A Letting Go Ritual
When something doesn’t happen or manifest in the way you were hoping it would, try this letting go ritual as a way of honoring your unactualized desire: write your desire on a piece of paper and write your feelings associated with your disappointment. Burn that piece of paper, and then take the ashes and mix them with the soil you will use to plant something. Allow what you desired and your disappointment about it to feed and nourish the next growth — because there will be new growth. You will keep moving forward and you will find peace.