Sometimes life goes the way we want it. In that space it is easy to be content, even filled with joy. We smile and laugh easily. The world around us tends to take on rich, extremely pleasing hues. I love that space! Reality is we aren’t in that space all the time every day. How do we find contentment when life isn’t going our way?
I’m finding myself in this very place right now. My daughter and I have been away from home for seven weeks and she is still waiting for her lung transplant. I had an expectation I would be home by Christmas. As the days slip by, my expectation becomes less and less a possibility.
Some days I find joy and peace. I sit comfortably in the place of waiting and examine the positives in my experience. I understand at a deeper level the disappointment of circumstances not cooperating with my expectations. I know what it feels like to want, to wait, to be let down. Without these experiences I cannot truly empathize with the rest of humanity. I would become isolated from reality. The disappointment and waiting parts of me are getting a workout right now.
Some moments I am angry, discontent or sad. These are not negative states. I see them as the eruptions of toxins inside of me. Volcanic eruptions, boils, whatever analogy you’d like to visualize. The icky stuff inside of me which is a natural byproduct of disappointment must come out before it turns into something more sinister and destructive. When I feel it surfacing, I let it out. Sometimes the release is in writing, sometimes pouring it out in a conversation with a friend or my daughter who is the best at really understanding because she feels it, too.
We have dump-fests now and then. The verbal purging of our frustrations or sadness. We don’t respond to the other with a positive, “it’s all going to work out” because we have learned those types of phrases really don’t help. We know deep down that whatever happens is part of God’s plan. But in a purging moment, we’re getting out the stuff that gets in the way of accepting that. The well-meaning words are like dams to our purge.
After a release of the ick, I feel better. I experience a balancing within, an acceptance of reality, a surrendering. I’m ok with being here however long it takes. I let go of my attachment to expectations and I find myself settling into the sweet spot of being at peace with my circumstances. I don’t stay here all the time. There’s a cycle:
1) Peace and contentment
2) Disappointment sets in as a result of wishing my life was different or my daughter gets a call there might be lungs for her which later turns out to be a “no” or I hear of a friend getting his transplant (excitement for him, sadness for us) or…
3) Anger or sadness begin to surface I think about it, churning the situation in my mind, creating stories of how long we’ll be here, seeing the worsts, getting madder or sadder or simply just feeling the reality which is sad and frustrating
4) Talking to my daughter, a friend or writing down what I’m experiencing, allowing a free flow of thought and emotion (usually tears) to pour out of me uncensored
5) Receiving a hug, words of understanding, essentially sitting in the pit with me without condemnation
6) A renewed sense of being able to get up, get out of the pit and journey on, at least for this moment
7) Peace and contentment
There’s no magic or short cut. I think this is the way we deal with disappointment, get stronger and simultaneously more compassionate.