Dealing with Disappointments

Life is full of disappointments. If that sounds cynical, it isn’t meant to be. We face a myriad of disappointments throughout our lives. Many of them are small. I poured chocolate almond milk into my coffee the other day and was disappointed when I discovered it had gone bad. I was also disappointed that I made the decision not to test the milk first… and that I had to dump my coffee down the drain.

We experience disappointment when something isn’t available at the store, or when we learn that a favourite show is going to be cancelled. The disappointments that we face range from the minor to the more intense. Most disappointments fade quickly, and have a low impact on our lives. In a couple weeks, I’ll no longer remember the disappointment of the coffee, for instance.

But some disappointments are bigger, and have more of an impact on our lives.

Sometimes we experience a disappointment that might seem like it should be a minor. Maybe it would be minor for someone else, or even for ourselves in other circumstances. Sometimes we experience what can seem like a disproportionate level of disappointment to a situation or event. Sometimes it all depends on context.

Woman sitting, holding knees
Image by Anemone123 from Pixabay

The Cancellation

A couple weeks ago I was faced with an event cancellation that caused me what could be considered a disproportionate level of disappointment. My experience is not uncommon to our current situation. I would hazard a guess that everyone has faced some level of disappointment over the last few months. Not being able to go about our “normal” daily lives is disappointing all by itself, without adding missed events or experiences.

This particular event cancellation was inevitable, since it was a concert that I was supposed to attend mid-July. Regardless of what all has opened back up by that point, it is highly likely that concerts of this type, along with other events filled with high numbers of people, will not be happening any time soon.

But knowing that it was going to be cancelled didn’t make it any easier getting the email that officially said “cancelled.” Seeing it there, in black and white, still made me want to cry. And to make it worse, I felt bad for being so disappointed. So many people have had much bigger events cancelled, and have faced much bigger disappointments over the last couple months.

I have more than one friend that will not, or did not, get the wedding they had dreamed of due to social distancing. People aren’t getting to see the newborn babies of those close to them. People aren’t getting to give their loved ones funerals that include all the people that are important to them. There are so many disappointments going around right now that are much bigger than a cancelled concert.

But does that mean that we don’t let ourselves feel the “smaller” disappointments? How are we supposed to feel about the cancelled get togethers? The cancelled birthday parties? The cancelled trips? The disappointments that you face might feel small or insignificant beside the bigger disappointments around us, but does that mean that we push them aside and don’t let ourselves feel them?

The Disappointment behind the Cancellation

The thing about this disappointment, is that I have been looking forward to this particular concert more than I look forward to most concerts. The reason? I was finally going to get to see one of my favourite artists. I have loved his music since the first song of his I heard about 3 years ago. I listen to pretty much every one of his songs regularly. Aside from a couple exceptions because they make me cry every time… and that just doesn’t work for an average Tuesday in the office.

I have been waiting, impatiently, for the day when he would come to this area. For months I checked his tour schedule every few weeks hoping I would see a date scheduled for somewhere in Southwestern Ontario. I looked even more frequently when the summer dates started appearing. Is this a ridiculous level of interest in a concert schedule? Maybe. But that is how much I wanted to see this artist live in concert.

And then a summer date was announced. He was joining another artist in a summer tour, and they were coming to Toronto. I was beyond excited. When the pre-sale tickets went on sale, and they were within an acceptable price range, I bought them as fast as my fingers could manage. I was thrilled. The concert was a week after my birthday, it was perfect.

And then the world Changed

I purchased the tickets on March 12th. By the end of the day March 13th I was told not to come into the office on Monday. It soon became clear that, not only would I be working from home for the foreseeable future, but a lot of things were going to be different for quite some time. And then, the Friday of my 8th week working from home, almost exactly 2 months after purchasing the tickets, I received the email that officially cancelled the concert.

And I am really disappointed.

And this isn’t going to be the last disappointment this year. I already know that my summer trip plans are almost certainly being postponed until next summer. I haven’t started the process of cancelling my summer travel arrangements yet, so I’m still distanced from that disappointment. But I know that it’s coming. There are days coming when I will be emailing accommodations and car rental companies to cancel. I’m going to be disappointed. And I’m going to be upset about it.

Because, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you think the closures and cancellations are a good decision or not. And it doesn’t matter if it’s a big disappointment or a small one. It’s okay to be upset about cancellations and changed plans. Life is crazy right now, and it’s okay to be upset about however you’re being affected by it. Even if your disappointment doesn’t seem like it’s as important as those of others around you.

How do we Deal?

But how do we deal with these disappointments?

I don’t think there’s an easy answer to this question. So much of the answer depends on the disappointment and the person facing it. Not to mention any previous disappointments that we’ve faced. Sometimes we handle everything fine right up until the time when some small disappointment sets us over the edge. And we find ourselves crying over some the small, insignificant thing.

Personally, for this particular disappointment, I turned to music. Actually, that’s not entirely true. First I ignored the disappointment for a few hours. But after that I turned to music. Because I knew that ignoring it wasn’t going to make it go away. So I grabbed my headphones, and I put on some music. I listened to a mixture of things, and avoided the artist that I was going to see. At least at first. I figured I’d work up to him.

I listened to other artists that I’ve seen in concert. And ones that I would like to see in concert some day. And I let myself be sad. One particular song hit me hard – “Six Feet Apart” by Luke Combs – because he talks about missing the road and the crowds. So I listened to it twice. I didn’t want to avoid songs that made me sad. I was looking to use them to release the emotions that I was feeling. I let myself cry.

And then I moved on to listening to the artist whose concert I was now not going to see. And I cried some more. But then, as it often does, the music started to make me feel better.

Music is something that I have used for comfort for as long as I can remember. I’m still disappointed about the cancelled concert, but the music helped me feel a bit better, and made me a bit more able to look forward to a time when concerts will be on again. And maybe… hopefully… this artist will come back to this area. And this time, I’d like him to be headlining the concert, please.

What disappointments, big or small, have you faced in the last few weeks? What helps you deal with disappointments in your life?

Until next time,

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