Disappointment. It lurks, disguised as many other issues, around every corner of my life.
Recently, I was to spend two days and two nights at my sister’s house babysitting for her two young children. It’s something I do every year when she and her husband fly to Cancun with the company he works for. It all started with my telling her that I would do it so that the boys could be in their familiar environment, in their own beds, and so she could relax knowing that I was there with them. With my own children grown, I had the freedom and the extra love just sitting there waiting to be used.
The boys are now 6 and 8, and I discussed with my sister that next year, she would not need me, as their paternal grandmother lives close by and she would just take care of them the entire time, instead of splitting it up with me. The boys would be in school all day, which would make the time fly by and their needs much less. I have always used this as a mini getaway for myself. Staying in my sister’s house, I feel at home, yet without the cares and responsibilities of my own home. It is a paid vacation, so to speak. And I am sure, it is somewhat of a trip back in time. I miss my young children.
This year, an ice storm was threatening, so the boys’ grandmother came early, and I headed home after only a day and a night there. I explained to the boys what was going to happen, and I told them I had to leave early, so I wouldn’t be stranded there. Nick, the youngest, didn’t seem to care. He was more concerned with the fact that I told them they could lose electricity, and was running around using the computer and the Wii in an effort to get his fill before he couldn’t do his favorite things. Luke, on the other hand, is a lot like me. Change is something he has to warm up to. Set it in front of him, and let him come to it slowly. No swift movements. His face grew concerned, his eyes distant, and I felt my heart lurching. My own childhood pain was coming back to me, but I didn’t know what it was attached to.
“Luke,” I asked, “What’s wrong, honey?”
Quickly, his far off gaze came back to the room. Like someone who’d been hypnotized, it was as if I had snapped my fingers bringing him back to the present.
“Are you upset, Luke?”
His eyebrows furrowed, and he shook his head in denial. Then softening, he stated, “I just wish you could stay one more day.”
I wanted to gather him in my arms, but knew his eight-year-old grown-up self would not allow that. So I sighed, and then, with my hand on his head, gently ruffled his hair, and agreed. “I know, buddy, I wish I could, too.”
The rest of the evening went too quickly. We read books and laughed when Nick asked me what happens if I get mad, and I told him I grow teeth like sharks, then chased him growling. The boys tussled on the floor, as I pulled Luke’s feet from Nick’s belly, while we all giggled. We fed Nick’s social fish and Luke’s aptly shy fish. The next day, I walked Luke to the bus stop, and we said good-bye. I felt like I had just walked out on my own child.
After dropping Nick off to Kindergarten at noon, I forwarded care directions on to their grandmother and said good-bye.
On my drive home, I was overwhelmed with the emotion of leaving them. I questioned – did I hate my life so much that I didn’t want to return to it? My mind filled with the most recent disappointments, the many plans that had gone asunder, the job that I would return to without much joy.
I arrived home to my husband and son, who were both glad to see me, and my husband joked about how fast it had gone by. We had just seen each other the day before. He was supposed to be leaving on a trip to see his brother, but it had also been postponed by the storm.
What was supposed to end up as ten days apart had turned into my husband and I actually having extra time together. More than our normal life usually afforded. He didn’t go to work, and then my work was closed for the storm.
As he left to go to town, run to a friend’s house, or go to coffee with friends, I came to the realization that it is the disappointments of life that I don’t like. I avoid them at all cost. I find myself not even risking disappointment, safely standing back, while I try to keep my world known.
My aggravation with my husband, I realized, is based in this part of me. Knowing he was going to be gone, I could handle the aloneness, but when I think he is going to be home, and he tells me he is leaving for this reason or another, I feel the disappointment, and it turns to hurt.
Like Luke, when the plans change, it isn’t so much that I can’t handle it, it is just that I have to assimilate to it. Well, unlike an eight-year-old’s life, my life is constantly changing. There is much assimilation, and the frustration, like the mounds of snow outside the windows, seems to mount with the shifting winds of life. My husband cannot sit still for long, and he flies by the seat of his pants. I never know what direction he is going, and he hates to make a plan, as he never knows what he might feel like doing that day. One door opens and he flies in, as the next opens and out he goes.
The problem with our contrasting personalities is that I was taking it as a personal assault. Like each time my husband or my life would twirl me around, as the plans changed, I felt like I was being pushed around, like a child whose choice is being taken, standing with arms outstretched, tears in my eyes, as I felt powerless.
Recognizing it for what it is, I can now take it back. I am not the victim any longer. I have the choice to feel victimized, or I can take my power back, choosing to see it only as someone else’s choice and my opportunity to make my own choices and stop relying on other’s to plan my life.
Disappointments are – well – disappointing. But they can also be opportunities. Coming home early from my sister’s gave me the opportunity to spend time with my husband. And if I had used it as such, it could have been an opportunity to spend time doing something I enjoy.
My husband’s delayed trip gave us time to reconnect before his new departure date. And with the winter storm behind us, my son will now take him to the airport and he will not have to take my car and leave it at the airport for the week. I gained my freedom back.
When others have experienced crisis in their lives, I have always been the first to say that when a door closes, a window opens, but now that I have come to this new realization, I know that there are little doors AND big ones. I have to learn to be flexible, readjusting to each new circumstance, and look for the opportunity instead of the disappointment.
Yes, another lesson in perspective. As if on cue, I received text pictures from my daughter. She and her fiancé had made snow angels in the snow and were sharing their fun. Embracing the moment, they chose the perspective of the opportunity.
Life is just a big pile of snow. Ready to be shaped and molded. Or you can just lie down and wiggle around in it.