Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Anatomy of My Disappointment by Susan

When I was four years old, my father told us that we would be going to a new place on the Caspian coast.  Not the same straw huts with no running water or bathrooms, but somewhere more like a hotel with beds.  In my mind I had pictured that place to be right on the beach, where I could be playing in the sand as my parents sat on a veranda and sipped tea.  When after the four hour drive up one side and down the other of the Alborz mountains we arrived at the new complex, I saw that the place was a three story villa with multiple rooms set in a citrus orchard in the middle of the city.  To get to the beach we would have to get into our cars and drive and still use the straw huts with no running water or bathrooms!  I can still remember the sensation at that moment when I realized that what I had expected was not what I was getting.  My eardrums felt like bursting, my fists and my jaws clenched tight and I cried inconsolably for hours.  That is my earliest recollection of the taste of disappointment.  The last time I remember feeling that exact same sensation, I was an adult woman with a small child.  We were supposed to fly to a wedding where my husband had a business meeting.  I had my heart set on seeing lots of friends and spending a weekend away from our routine.  At the last minute the business meeting and with it, the airline tickets, were cancelled.  I was so mad I wanted to break the phone that brought me such disappointing news.

It's been a while since I have felt such strong emotions.  I am not saying that I don't ever feel disappointed; that I don't cry or feel like breaking things when things don't turn out the way I expected them to.  But the time it takes now to go from disappointment to acceptance and resignation has diminished considerably.  It is one of those perks of getting older.  It is also about giving up control. When we get disappointed it is because we feel dissed that we did not get what we thought we were appointed to get.  We want a certain job, the attention of certain people, the prospect of spending our time a certain way.  And when we don't get it, we get mad.  Even feeling disappointed in people comes from wanting to have some control over how others act and behave, or even who they are.

Another word for resignation and acceptance is acquiescence.  It is not a word you see or hear often.  It comes from a Latin root meaning to find rest in.  Whereas resignation brings up images of a deflated ballon, acquiescence makes me think of floating freely in an inner tube down a calm and cool river, letting the flow take me.   I like that image of finding rest after being agitated and wound up over a disappointing situation.  It would be a lie to think that I will never experience strong emotions when I don't get what I want, but I would like to think that I can get to that quiet restful place a little quicker each time.  And like anything, change happens little by little and with practice.  One day I get that dress I ordered online that arrived late but just in time for the big event.  I put it on and realize that somewhere in this world people who use a size small are really small.  My eardrums begin to feel like bursting, I clench my fists and jaws but . . . quicker than I expected, I get to that quiet restful place which allows my brain to think of a solution.  I let out the seams in the back, buy the proper undergarment and the dress fits!



  1. Love this! Our reactions or the anatomy of our disappointments may be different, but it something every one of us feels at times. This writing gave me a reason to pause and reflect on how my body responds to emotions of disappointment but, more importantly, how to think about it with maturity and grace. Thanks for sharing and I'm sooo glad the dress fit!

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  4. A new word for me to focus on "acquiescence". Perhaps only known or learnt when studying for the SAT. The meaning is so appropriate for 'resting in' especially when faced with disappointments. I know that when disappointed I can get so 'stuck' in my disappointed feelings. I love the strength in the word to feel but to move on toward a solution. Thanks for sharing,