I’m pinning a lot on my career break. I’m hoping it will unveil the direction my life should take – illuminating the path, everything all of a sudden becoming crystal clear. But, it dawned on me the other day, what if it doesn’t? What if the whole thing is a huge let down and instead of an enlightening experience, I end up spending my time watching Jeremy Kyle in my PJ’s, eating ice cream on the sofa, no closer to “the answer”.
It got me thinking about what it means to be disappointed. We all know what it feels like and I’ve had a few notable moments myself;
My first marriage
I used to believe I put everything into my first marriage. It was a given that we would be together until the end of time, but I guess thats where the problems started. Neither of us were actually invested in giving it our all. I was a mediocre wife, he was a mediocre husband and at some point we stopped caring. Our marriage landed in a place between complacency, monotony and comfort.
When he left, the pain was the realest thing I’d ever felt in my life. I naively had no idea that heartbreak could manifest in physical pain, so raw at times it took my breath away. My life collapsed into free fall as I tried to cling to something, anything on the way down, but found nothing more than thin air, lost hope and maybe worst of all, a complete lack of control as to where I would eventually land. I was a spectacular failure as a wife and more importantly a mum. Trying my best to save my kids from my own perception of a broken family, with little more to do than support them in adjusting to their new lives.
Of course it wasn’t the tragedy I imagined, it was simply a new direction – one that surprised us all and just took time to get used to. Even though they were both so young, the girls amazed me with how readily they took it in their stride and how quickly they were able to adapt. They were what restored my faith in humanity.
It was only when the bitter disappointment ebbed away and our new normal was established, that I started to understand the positives. The amazing thing was he set me free – releasing me to a whole new world of possibilities. It was only through his rejection that after 30 long years, I finally managed to pull on my big girl pants and stand on my own two feet.
It would have been easy to blame him, and I did for a long time. The simple truth of the matter was that we weren’t meant to be.
Running a marathon
Two things disappointed me about my marathon experience. The first was 5 seconds. Six months of training, running MILES in the blistering heat, rain, blizzards, hail, on Mothers Day, on holiday and knowing I could do it in 4 1/2 hours, all culminated in me making it round in 5hrs 4 seconds. I’d bottled it. My time started with a ‘5’, I may as well have taken 7 hours. Even the knowledge that only 1% of the human race ever complete a marathon and that I was awesome for even making it to the start line, could make me feel better about those 5 seconds.
The second thing was the lack of euphoria I felt crossing the finishing line. I’d spent weeks preparing myself, even crying in the shower thinking of how emotional the moment would be. I’d built it up to epic proportions – the epitome of elation, ecstasy and pride, but actually I felt nothing of the sort. The only thoughts I had were those of relief, pain and wanting to go home.
The Red Hot Chilli Peppers
I’ve dubious taste in music, but was expecting big things from the Chilli Peppers (a ‘real’ band!) when I went to see them on a balmy Summer’s night in Coventry.
Maybe they were p*ssed off about being in Coventry, potentially understandable. Maybe they were thinking about what they wanted for tea, how busy the M1 would be on the way home…. but whatever they were, they were sh*te. Whoever invented the phrase ‘can’t be ar*ed’, invented it for that evening.
I’m often accused of being a dreamer, a naive optimist with unrealistic expectations of life, which leaves me exposed to the harsh reality of being let down easily and frequently. I don’t deny any of this is true, but I also have less publicised moments of almost suffocating self doubt. Moments where I question myself, my sanity, my integrity, my judgement, my reason for being. As I’ve got older they’ve got less frequent, but they still have the ability to de-rail me on my worst days.
The best part of being an optimist for 95% of the time is that it gifts me with the freedom to take risks. The bright side is normally so fixedly in my sight, that even when I’m disappointed I move on quickly, knowing there will be more great stuff just around the corner. There always is, however long it takes to appear. I used to be scared of failure and disappointment, but not now. How can I be? They’re exactly what have made me who I am today.
So I could (and have) sat here wondering about whether I’m doing the right thing, letting those creeping doubts take hold, becoming afraid of the very thing that could be the best decision I’ve ever made. But that’s where I turn to the optimist in me, who only ever allows me to wallow in those feelings for as long as they take to pass. Because, even if this turns out to be the biggest disappointment of my life, the one thing I know with absolute certainty is that I’ll never regret taking the chance to find out.
We all have our inner demons who despite all the logic and common sense in the world, can be known to shout so loud they become difficult to ignore. But, this time I choose not to listen. This time I say thanks for your concern, but screw you self-doubt and insecurity. I’ve spent too much of my life listening to you, but I’m old enough now to look after myself. I’ll take my chances with this one thanks – either way I know I’m going to be just fine.