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The Depths of Disappointment

Disappointment visits us in so many forms.  Disappointment that we didn’t get that job promotion.  Disappointment that we gained five more pounds.  Disappointment that our children didn’t perform as well as we would have liked.  Disappointment that we have been left behind by something or someone.

Disappointment plagues my patients, keeps my children up at night, and lingers like an ache in my chest that just won’t let go.

The rational part of my mind realizes that disappointment perhaps comes from willing something to happen that wasn’t intended for me.  Wanting too much, too hard, too fast, too soon.  Disappointment arises from attaching myself to the outcome of my process, rather than living the process for its own sake and reward.  Disappointment arises from the cycle of desire and aversion, wishing for more of what feels good, and less of what feels bad.

The emotional part of me feels the pain of disappointment, my own pain and the pain of others whose paths I cross.  “Trust the universe,” I whisper, knowing all the while that speaking the words are much easier than the required leap of faith.  “Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be,” I whisper a little louder, knowing all the while that speaking the words are much easier than the required depth of belief.

When I am able, there is a way to acknowledge that, in my current, most human form, disappointment is inevitable.  And like all difficult emotions, sometimes, all we can do is sit with the uncomfortable feeling.  As I sit with my disappointment, or sit alongside my children or patients or friends, I try to find a way to hold the feeling, rather than push it away.  I try to be curious about what my disappointments are all about, what they smell like and look like and taste like.

I try to observe the waves of disappointment coming and going, like the systole and diastole of the beating heart.  I try to accept that this, all of it, is part of being human, and feeling things deeply.  That the darker, more painful emotions, by necessity, exist hand in hand with great love and joy.

And when I can’t do any of that, I try to breathe and bring myself to this present moment as best as I can.  Disappointment is inevitably about wanting something that isn’t going to happen, or coping with what is already lost.  The future and the past.

Right now, this very second, I can bring myself to the moment that is unfolding.  I can feel myself breathing, typing these words, listening to the sound of my dishwasher and my snoring dogs, and gently disengage from my head.

So today, and in the week ahead, I invite you to be gentle with yourself, when disappointment manifests in your life.  Is there a way to sit with that which feels uncomfortable, and be present with the entire spectrum of emotion within?

With gratitude,



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