I’ve never been very good at handling disappointment.
Lately, I seem to be having a lot of them. I recently returned from a vacation that cost a lot of money but wasn’t very good. Then I went a concert by an aging musician who wasn’t as enjoyable as a few years ago.
I still remember one of my hardest disappointments from a few years ago. My husband (who is a professor) saw a job listed that seemed like a perfect match for him.
First, there was the application process, then the waiting… but finally he got the phone call that he’d been selected as one of the candidates. Three weeks later, we flew to the college town where he endured two and a half days of grueling interviews, demonstrations of his teaching skills, and reviews of his research.
Everything seemed great and we were almost certain he’d get a job offer. We tried to avoid getting too excited, but I mentally started packing as we waited for the news. But nothing happened. No welcoming phone call or even a kind email.
After two very long weeks, he finally received a letter in the mail, informing him that the job had gone to someone else! I was devastated. Not only did my husband lose the opportunity for a great career move but we also had to give up the dream of living closer to my family.
I’ll be honest with you… for many weeks after that, there were a lot more cookies in my life. My biggest issue was that I couldn’t figure out how to deal with my disappointment.
Don’t let yourself feel…
Although I had a lot of strong feelings, I tried hard to not even think about them. I didn’t want to risk crying in the middle of the supermarket or while talking to my sister on the phone. So I pretended that none of it mattered and that I was fine.
But it didn’t work. Even with my knowledge about emotional eating, I couldn’t escape the temptation of eating cookies. Day after day, they lured me with the promise of being able to skip dealing with my pain. Finally I realized that I had to stop hunting for cookies and look at the emotions I’d pushed below the surface.
There was disappointment, of course. But there was also anger, hurt, sadness and resentment. I also knew that before I could get past my feelings, I was going to have to feel them. Instead of pretending everything was fine, I had to acknowledge the deep level of disappointment I felt.
So I processed the situation in detail with my husband. I talked with my friends and I cried on the phone with my sister. I wrote in my journal and I sat with the disappointment weighing heavy on my chest. Little by little, I began to experience a sense of healing and relief. At the same time, the cookies began losing their power.
I still don’t handle disappointment very well. The struggles I mentioned earlier have certainly drawn me toward cookies again. But I keep reminding myself that cookies are only bandages and when you take them away, the pain is still there.
When I allow myself to feel my emotions, I’m often surprised by the level of comfort that happens as a result. So today, I’m working on holding a belief that life will be fine, in spite of disappointments.