Disappointment is a part of life. Maybe I’ve had more than my share. Who’s to say. There’s no disappointment meter over my head so I’m not sure if I’m winning. And this isn’t something you want to win. Most of our disappointments may seem embarrassing or a pang to our pride, like when I failed the driving test the first time. So we don’t talk about them. We tuck them away, hoping they will stay in the dark crevices of our mind (They don’t. Disappointment isn’t some shy feeling. It’s loud and destructive.).
The feeling of disappointment is a lonely one. I can recall that my mom saying she was disappointed in me was worse than anything she could ever say. I did things all the time as an adolescent that would be considered disappointing, I was just good at hiding them from her view. I probably hid less from her than I think. My mom certainly wasn’t naive. But she believed in me and believed that I’d make good choices even if she didn’t know about them. I can only say that sometimes I did, and sometimes I did not. I was reckless with my worth for so long. Not understanding that so many forces, both inside and outside of me, would just have to run their course, do their damage and leave a trail of disappointment.
I don’t recall my first disappointment. I’m going to guess it was food related, as I am and always have been picky. My memory isn’t great so memories are often cloudy or distant. But I do remember one of the biggest disappointments of my young life. When I was four years old on a Sunday morning, my mom told me my dad was gone. I didn’t think dead, but I knew by the way she said it that he didn’t live in our house anymore. I think her disappointment was more in the way he left, which I believe was via a note, not in losing him. I have no real memories of my parents together. But I remember that day, sitting on that grass green carpet in a church dress. And so began a lifelong series of disappointments in reference to my father. But the disappointment doesn’t persist. Because how can you be disappointed by a stranger? And that’s what he is now.
The disappointments kept coming, whether it was wishing to be thin or for some ridiculous boy’s attention. It’s good to be disappointed though, if for no other reason than it reminds you that you will rarely get what you want or deserve. There will always be obstacles and limits. And most of the time, you’ll have no control over disappointments.
I can still imagine my mom’s face on the rare occasions that she thought it necessary to pronounce her disappointment. Her eyes would have a hint of gray. Her face with no smile or frown, something in between. But I also remember in some of her last months how she would hold my hand and look me in the eye and tell me that I was the best thing she had ever done, how being my mom was her greatest pleasure. Those are words and moments I have tucked away whenever a new disappointment arises. Which happened just hours ago. It doesn’t matter what it was. It was something I wanted and worked hard for but instead just received disappointment.
But we do not have to be bound by disappointment. We don’t have to let it chip away at our worth. Even though it does. And it’s basically impossible to not take it personally. So I’m disappointed fairly regularly in life – disappointed in people, in myself, situations. And yes I still wonder if my mom is disappointed in me for the path my life has taken. That eats at me a lot. I can take comfort in knowing I was rarely a disappointment to her in our time together. And that may be all the approval I need in this life.