Monday, February 2, 2015

Disappointment - Handling Not Getting What I Wanted

A number of years ago, we were celebrating my nephew’s birthday.  We all played together (the kids and the kids that were shaped like adults), ate, sang and had birthday cake.  Then came the moment that kids of all ages look forward to their own birthday party – Opening The Presents!  You could easily see the excitement on my nephew’s face as the presents were pushed in front of him, filled with expectations of receiving his birthday wishes.  Minutes later, the frenzied results of the gift-wrapping torn from the presents settled around the room and sitting amidst the piles of paper was my nephew crumpled crying – The happy, excited face was replaced with the face of disappointment.  There were good gifts that were age appropriate, but my nephew did not get what he expected and was too young to hide / mask his disappointment.

Somewhere along the way, we humans have become experts in building up our own expectations.  Let’s face it, given enough time, our imagination can have the potential of becoming like an uncaged creature running wild through a landscape of our own determination, building fantastical images to our every desire.  Sometimes the exaggerations are for something we hope for, and sometimes they are the things that we dread to face.  Most times, they are never as extreme as we build them in our own minds.  Growing up, my father had an office on the far end of the basement.  When we did something wrong, my brothers and I always had this fear when our dad would call one of us down into HIS OFFICE to talk to us.  It did not matter if the conversation was innocuous, we always built up in our minds that we did something bad and were going to get reamed out and some type of punishment would be administered.  Most of the time, we were disappointed in a good way…

As we mature, theoretically, we learn better ways to react to our disappointment:

  • Cry – Extreme disappointment and could be the result of a loss or when there is pain involved. 
  • Laugh like a hyena – Do not know how to react, seems better than crying, but still looks like you are losing it to those around you.  Happens to me when I am caught by my wife annoying my daughters…
  • Aggression – the feeling that inflicting pain on other people (physically, mentally, etc.).  This method does not endear others to you and potentially leads to further disappointment and disappointment in others towards you.
  • Drink – Does not happen only in movies and on TV.  Burying one’s head in the bottle only blots it out for the moment and does not change things.  The next morning, disappointment is still with you alongside the new addition of a hangover and possibly more disappointment in yourself.
  • Blow off some steam / vent / do something as a distraction to cool off – Going for a run, exercise, massive complaining, finger pointing, ranting (hopefully not online, as more disappointment can follow).  For me, Friday night band practice – turning my disappointment into a positive energy.

This past week, we were inundated with weather forecasts depicting a HISTORIC snowstorm.  Panic ensued:

  • Airlines cancelled flights a day early. 
  • Everyone ran to the supermarkets to load up on supplies, as if we would be house bound for days. 
  • In an unprecedented move, the bridges and tunnels between New Jersey and New York closed.  There were curfews. 
  • The subways (which are underground) had their service suspended. 
  • Mass transit shut down.
  • Road curfews were in effect.

I planned on working from home due to no bus service.  The forecast for my area was 18 to 24 inches. We were ready.  All night long, I listened to the snowplows.  I woke up early (later than normal though), bundled up and ventured outside to start shoveling.  I opened the garage door, prepared to do battle expecting to be greeted by a wall of snow, but was greeted by ankle high (4 inches) snow. Huh?!?  They shut down our world for this?  Yes, if this was in the south, this would be an enormous snow, but for New Jersey?

Friends of ours that live in Manhattan ventured out and walked down the middle of Canal Street, usually packed with vehicles and pedestrians.  All he needed was the tumbleweed rolling across the horizon to complete the scene of a ghost town.  Many other people expected a dead day spent shoveling, warming up and shoveling a second round.  A weatherman for the National Weather Service apologized for the error in calculation.  Really?  Our visions of a winter wonderland freezing up the area for up to two days is washed away with an “oops”?  I realize that weather is an inexact science with many variables, but the disappointment was a result of the expectations that were presented.   Even though we are talking in terms of a blizzard, many people were disappointed. How would you have handled your disappointment?