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Thy fate is the common fate of all; into every life a little rain must fall. Some days must be dark and dreary. —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
For weeks I built it up. It’s going to be great, I told her, and you’ll have SO much fun! Ms. Dawn is the nicest teacher ever and you’ll make so many friends. You get to do crafts and have circle time and play on the playground. You are going to love school so much!
And off she went, excited as any little girl could be, to her first day of preschool. She literally couldn’t wait to go, and why not? In my attempt to generate enthusiasm I had raised her expectations sky high.
Is it any surprise, then, that the reality of preschool for an active four-year-old, of having to follow rules and sit quietly and share wasn’t everything she had imagined it would be? Is it any surprise that she was disappointed?
It’s not just our children that we create unrealistic expectations for; we do it to ourselves as well. We build up our anticipation for events or holidays or career promotions or other people, and then are inevitably disappointed when something doesn’t happen the way we thought it would.
While my daughter’s first week of preschool didn’t quite live up to the hype I had created, she did keep going back each day. She began to accept it, and then even look forward to it, and after the first month all initial disappointment had been completely forgotten.
The reality is that life is full of disappointment, and that there will always be discouraging dark spots threatening to steal our joy. People don’t come through when they should, big events are a let-down, and life doesn’t always turned out as planned. Our best friend reneged on a promise. Our carefully planned party was a bust. That promotion we were hoping for went to someone else. Our husband completely forgot our anniversary. Our child didn’t make the team.
While it might seem like pessimism is the answer, it’s not. Becoming pessimistic about life only gives us permission not to try, which means we are defeated before we even begin. No, the secret is not to lower our expectations, but instead refuse to be deterred by the moments that let us down. When we are willing to accept the fact that disappointment is sometimes inevitable, we give ourselves permission to quit wallowing, to learn from the experience, and move on. And it is in the moving on that we find all the joy and wonder that life has to offer.
Be sure to read Edie’s corresponding post, More Wonder.
Think of a recent disappointment you’ve experienced. Maybe someone let you down or something you really wanted to happen didn’t. How did you respond to the disappointment? Did it make you want to give up or work harder? How could you turn that disappointment into an opportunity for growth?
Next, think of the last time you did something as simple as sit down with your child to read a favorite fairy tale or watch the sunset or even stargaze with your favorite person. Take some time today to enjoy the miracles of everyday life. When you open your eyes to see them, they are everywhere.
Finally, be sure to check out Crystal’s great insight on Less Judgement/More Acceptance from yesterday’s post.
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Have you been disappointed lately? Did it make you want to give up or work harder? On the flip side, are you allowing yourself to see the everyday miracles all around you?