Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Disappointment


We’ve heard it in movies or TV shows: “Get used to disappointment.” It’s usually a humorous quip to a child about something not going their way. But even as adults do we ever really get used to disappointment?

When my kids were young I used to quip that I always kept my expectations low, whether it was out to dinner, going grocery shopping or a family vacation. If my expectations were low I could only be pleasantly surprised. But going through life with low expectations sounds bleak. Eventually hope for something great gets in the way.

I’m lucky to be able to travel a lot. I’m on my way home now from a trip to see Dan in the Netherlands. Unfortunately there was a problem with the captain on my first flight and connections were missed. Delta put everyone up in hotels (although I was only there for 5 hours), rebooked flights and gave useless meal vouchers (due to the limited time). I was fairly disappointed not to be home last night. I really miss my kids and I was hoping to work today. But I’m safe and on my way without any major issues.

Last summer I was stuck in Iceland for a few days as the east coast battled a hurricane. I had a horrible time trying to rebook something home, almost wasn’t able to stay in my hotel (yes-I’m not afraid to cry when needed), missed my kid’s first day of school, and was in a city you could easily cover by foot in less than a day.

So camera in hand I wandered every second I could, finding interesting indoor markets, strange buildings, more “stuff” for my kids, and the ever memorable Viking Experience Museum, complete with miniature replicas and tiny holograms. Yes-you are detecting sarcasm.

On the plane home I could only get first class and ended up sitting next to the ex-manager of Aerosmith. What fantastic stories he had. Now all he has to do is manage his investments and go to his AA meetings. I did feel bad drinking next to him but hell-it’s first class.

So I was disappointed to not be home, to be out money I was not planning on (travel insurance paid back some) and to not have Dan still with me to enjoy more time as his flight left without a hitch. But I was safe, comfortable and making the most of it.

My ex-husband constantly disappoints me in his lack of communication regarding the kid’s schedules and information. It’s not that he’s trying to be spiteful it’s just how he always has been and always will be. It doesn’t seem to stop disappointing me though. 

My dog disappoints me every time she pees on my carpets, my car disappoints me from time to time with a flat tire or check engine light, my kids disappoint me in their actions on occasion. Things have a way of turning around (okay-maybe not with the dog).

Maya Angelou wrote: “We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” If you can face disappointment and find the light-no matter how dim, you will never be defeated. Every time we are disappointed we learn something about the situation, the person, or most importantly ourselves.  What can we handle, digest, process and overcome? We may be able to keep our expectations high after all. As long as our expectations of ourselves, our coping abilities and strength don’t disappoint.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Saying Goodbye


“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
A.A. Milne ~Winnie-the-Pooh~

I’m in Amsterdam again. It’s where Dan lives, the person I’ve been with now for three years.  I try to get here a few times a year, he comes to the U.S., and we meet somewhere else once a year. This past year it was Australia and before that Iceland. We’ve had amazing adventures and exhausting travel time. And more than anything, we’ve had fantastic hellos and tearful goodbyes.

The other night we watched the movie War Horse. I had forgotten how it had affected me the first time I watched it, in the theatre with a group of friends (all who have still not forgive me for picking such a gut-wrenching movie). But it makes me think of my own amazing horse that I retired this year. We have been together for 13 years and like the horse in the movie he would follow me around like a dog, beg for treats, and push his head under my arm in a “horse hug.” Sounds cheesy right? But he has a huge personality as do many animals we surround ourselves with.

So now when I see him I can groom, bathe, pet and spoil but not ride. He’s 23 and his one leg is still mending. I leave with a hollow feeling like we missed something.  

Sad goodbyes are a part of life. When our child gets married, moves away, death of a pet, death of a loved one, end of a career or end of a marriage. Goodbyes can go from the casual to the dramatic. It can be devastating in its finality and heartbreaking in its absence.

I know how sad my mom was to not be there in time to say goodbye when my grandfather died. I know I still beat myself up for listening to the vet and not staying with my dog of 17 years when they finally put her to sleep.  You hear it on the news constantly after a tragedy, “I never got to say goodbye.”

It can be challenging but when I get sad about not riding or being in a freakishly far long distance relationship I need to stop and realize how lucky I am to have such love that it hurts to say goodbye.  

A.A. Milne also wrote: “Promise me you’ll never forget me because if I thought you would, I’d never leave.”  Our memories, experiences and heart are what keeps us unique and writes our story.  Just make it a story worth remembering, even with the goodbyes.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Road Not Taken


The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

 So which road would you have chosen? I look at this poem and see a safe path, well used and possibly even a bit predictable. The other path, however, could be somewhat exciting or challenging in its unknown.

I know I look back on my life and often wonder how different it could have been. I have opportunities I’ve missed and challenges I didn’t face that might have created a completely alternate life. I have regrets….doesn’t everyone?

What do you do with those regrets? Wallow in wonder and visualize how perfect things might have been if only? Or can you take ownership of the outcome, finding the aspects of positive that came from a wrong turn, bad decision or poor choice.

I know when I was going through my divorce my ex-husband would constantly tell me how I was ruining his life. At the time that was the reality for him. Now he is soon to marry, I hope his perfect match. He is, I guarantee, far happier than any point in our time together. It took a while, it wasn’t his choice of path but rather one he was forced to take. But now he can see why it was the best path for everyone.

This past spring I found myself standing in shallow water off an Island in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef surrounded by black tip and lemon sharks. I grew up in generation Jaws. Shark attacks plagued my nightmares. Yet my oldest son went through a huge shark obsession. Shark Week on the Discovery channel was better than Christmas. How could I go home and tell him I had missed this amazing opportunity.

So, snorkel in place, cheap water camera ready, pep talk complete, I chased sharks. 

I swam with them a few more times that trip. Some days the water temperature took my breath away but when was I ever going to be there again?

We choose our paths every day, from doing a job, being responsible parents, choosing our eating habits, activities and relationships. So when you’re standing in front of that path that frightens or intimidates you will you pick the more comfortable choice? Or will you dive in and chase your sharks?