Last week I was writing from the moon. I’d just had a big disappointment, the kind that turns your world upside down and inside out. I’m not going to lie, it was rough. I questioned everything I thought I knew about myself, my place in a suddenly strange world, and what my future would bring. I was ashamed and, what made the terrible even worse was that I felt that I had somehow ruined everything and had no one else to blame but myself.
And that’s exactly why I chose to write about it. Everyone has disappointments and we all have a tendency to be our own worst critic and to kick ourselves when we’re already down, whether we deserve it or not. I firmly believe this is a universal experience, and that makes it all the more important to learn how to deal with disappointment. The thing to remember is that we can’t change the disappointment, but we can decide how we respond to it.
If disappointment is universal, that means that everyone has experienced it. That’s important to remember because we can often feel alone when disappointment strikes. I like to think of it this way: all the best, most interesting people have experienced a major disappointment in some way. Part of what makes these people extraordinary is that they found a way to overcome it. They could have given up, but somehow, they found a way to keep going and, eventually, become better for it. This is what we call resilience, and resilience has to be earned.
Perception also plays an important role in dealing with disappointment. After all, our perception is our reality: we believe the world to be the way we see it. So, the way we look at our problems can either help or hurt the ways we deal with them. For me, I felt like my world had ended. Everything was over and done. Except that wasn’t true. I still went to work, I still volunteered with Hagerstown Hopes, and I still wrote for this paper. Life was moving forward, and I could decide to be a part of it or drown in the past.
Eventually I was able to see that my perception was mistaken. Yes, things didn’t go the way I wanted, and that was terrible. It also wasn’t the end, just a change in plans. My destination is the same, only the path has changed. And that small clarification makes a world of difference. It means I have options, that I have the power to choose what I do and what comes next. This is important because it changes the problem from impossible to something manageable.
I’ve faced many disappointments before and somewhere along the line I learned a useful trick for putting things in perspective. When things seem to be at their worst, I imagine I am writing the movie of my life. I have full creative control, which means I need to figure out what to do with the current problem in the context of the larger story. Is this the turning point that makes the whole story a tragedy? The event that inspires greatness? Or, is this something that will end up on the cutting room floor? If you try this approach, you may be surprised by how many times the third option applies to what at first seem like impossible problems. I suppose it’s true that the difference between tragedy and comedy is time. Remember this, because dealing with disappointment is a process and every process requires time. I’ve been working on this for over two weeks now and, though it still hurts, it hurts much less now than when it first happened. I’m not on the moon anymore, but I’m not quite back on Earth yet. Don’t worry, I will be soon. My movie isn’t over yet and I’ve got some editing to do.
- Brian George Hose has been an advocate for LGBTQ persons and issues all his adult life. He holds a Bachelor of Social Work from Shepherd University and looks forward to pursuing a Master's of Social Work with a focus in mental health. A former musician, Brian served as minister of music for New Light MCC for several years and incorporates music into social work practice. He lives in rural Western Maryland where he has amassed a sinful number of books, yarn, and books about yarn. He has been writing for Baltimore Out Loud since February 2016.