When a Disappointing Start is Exactly What You Need

I'm willing to disappoint myself in 2015Who are you willing to disappoint or offend or upset or abandon… for the sake of the Great Work that’s calling you for your best 2015?

Michael Bungay-Stanier offers this prompt as part of Jeffrey Davis's #Quest2015 - "12 days with 12 visionaries to imagine your 12 best months." (I'm collecting some of my responses on this blog. Read others here and here.)

I'm ready to disappoint anyone who wants to be disappointed in me. Anyone who feels that what I have to offer - anything from my time to my words to my love - is so expendable that it could "disappoint" is off my perpetual Christmas card list.

Playing with a working definition here: To be disappointed in someone is to impose your own needs and expectations upon another. It is to assume that your own journey takes precedence and lose track of the relationship and the Bigger Story.

The Theory of a New Year

In 2015, I don't have time for such one-sided, calculating arrangements disguised as friendships or business relationships.

But even as I share such sweeping statements, I cringe. There are some people I'm disappointed in right now. There are people whose journeys I don't have the bandwidth to value and so I see their needs as less relevant than mine. I want something from them, but I don't want their drama or their excuses.

That means I need to hold court with abandonment, as mentioned in the prompt above. I'm going to have to sit alone in an icy chamber after all is said about not enough being done to sustain the relationship. If disappointment can fester in my chest, there’s something deeply out of alignment. Something in me. I need to let someone go or I need to at least reset the relationship.

The Reality of a New Year - Midnight Parenting Edition

I have to take this out of theory. There's no place less theoretical than a five year old's bed at 11 pm on a Sunday night.

Husband and I were "relaxing" with a show about murder and mayhem (hmm... Is such "entertainment" something to consider abandoning?) and our daughter appeared at the bottom of the stairs. Wordless, frowning, wanting to be held, but not touched all at once. Depending on your perspective, she was either surly or scared, sweaty or sweetly flushed with sleep.

Because I'm up too late, disappointed in myself for accomplishing too little in a day and upset that I don't have the strength to avoid the gravitational pull of my husband's arms and an episode of The Blacklist, I saw all of these things in our girl. And I saw my own irritation and compassion too.

I took her upstairs and I wrestled my personal “shouldas” until they fell off my back and promised to wait for me outside the bedroom door. We'd reconvene when this unexpected bout of mothering was done. For now, climbed in beside my first born, my "intense" child. She told me she'd had a bad dream - somehow being given too many snowmen she couldn't return was terrifying (retail trauma starts early, it seems). And then she mumbled something about "I'll be good for Christmas."

That's when the snowball packed with a cruel handful of gravel hit my cheek. That's when I held her tighter and truly - finally - let go of every shred of my agenda. For real this time. I remembered all I'm supposed to know as a healer, a creature who bandies about the word consciousness several times a day. I wasn't thinking of it at the time, I swear, but in that moment I decided I was going to be the mom that the people who like my daily #365feministselfie think I am.

Now, parenting a kid is first about parenting yourself.

I have carried disappointment in myself the way heroes carry a vial that contains the antidote to a deadly disease. My internal disappointment has served a precious talisman against hurt. “Ha ha! You can't tear me down if I already did it more beautifully and terribly!”

Here’s the truth: when mama’s not feeling good about herself, there ain’t nobody in this house permitted to feel particularly good about herself. I don’t mean to be so impatient, to explode in moments of irrational seeming frustration. I certainly don’t mean to hold you to the impossible standards I hold myself. But I do.

You, my Moira, are my mirror. When I feel strong, I revel in your strength. I give you permission to be as strong as you are. And when I feel disappointed in myself, I see all the ways you don’t measure up. I get upset about my parenting skills and, sometimes, your very way of being in the world.

Because I see this happening, I know I’m a good deal better off than I used to. There’s hope for us, kiddo. There’s hope for all of us when we can be aware of what’s hard and what’s broken and what’s vulnerable.

Now, that I’ve plumbed my disappointed depths, back to the question.

To Enjoy a Disappointment-Free Year, I Must First Disappoint

Who can I bear to disappoint or abandon, upset or offend?  Not my kids, not my husband, not my closest family and friends. They’re the ones who love me anyway, so they’re not looking to be disappointed in the first place.

I am willing to disappoint MYSELF.

I am willing to seriously piss off the part of me that equates worth with work. I am will to abandon the part of me that says getting it done is worth saying “Give mummy a few more minutes. She has to work” almost every time my girls asks me to play with her or “watch this!”

I am willing to disappoint the aspects of myself that don’t have compassion or love for ME.

I’m willing to let anyone down - myself included -  who believes my real work is the business or the book or the online presence.

My real work is done at 11 PM on a Sunday night. And it may leave me wrecked in the morning. And it may mean I miss a deadline. But if you think I’m worth it anyway, then I think you’re worth it too.