“Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears.” – Les Brown
My mom invited my five-year-old daughter over for a sleep over at her apartment this weekend. Her place is air conditioned and she had a ton of fun plans like piano lessons and songs to wake up to. My daughter was so excited. Mostly because Nana’s apartment is a place full of treasures that she hasn’t been able to visit during this pandemic but also because her friend that is just a little bit older at 7-years-old is always talking about sleepovers. What a thrill! But then my mom had to cancel because she lives in a retirement community and they reinforced the message that no children under the age of 16-years-old are allowed, even if they don’t go into any common areas. My daughter was so disappointed! She said to me, “I’m just going to expect that good things get canceled.”
Of all the emotions, disappointment seems the easiest to avoid. As my daughter said, you can just expect good things won’t happen, right? It only means giving up anticipation. The feeling of waking up in the morning, remembering what you are going to do today and feeling, “yay!” because it’s something fun.
But what about love then? Is it tempting to decide not to love because the feeling of heartbreak is too crushing to endure? Or what about hope? Giving up the tug that we can, will and might just be lucky enough make our lives better just in case we fail?
All of my favorite emotions have their shadow side. I’ve struggled with trying not to feel any of those and come away worse for the wear. As the brilliant writer, Ashley C. Ford said in a podcast I heard a couple of months ago, “I tried to live a disappointing life so that I wouldn’t ever be disappointed.”
I’m finally understanding the idea of leaning in towards life instead. When getting a little off tilt, leaning forwards, not backwards. But my daughter’s disappointment this weekend made me realize that while I have been practicing that for myself, I’ve been doing the opposite with my kids. I often don’t tell them about things that might be canceled so that they don’t get disappointed. I hold myself as a back stop for all their possible shadow side feelings. As is so often the case, having kids has given me another level of practice. I can still lean forwards with my kids in my arms, ready for joy and also holding them in disappointment.