Thoughts On Feeling Let Down

Thoughts On Feeling Let Down

An endeavor to understand and make peace with the unique hurt of disappointment.

Mae McDermott

This isn't writing to inform or to instruct or to tell a story. This is writing for clarity, and my hope is that perhaps in reading you can find some too. This is writing about a truth that is hard to swallow because sometimes allowing our own words to find a way around bitter subjects makes them feel more navigable. That people will let us down and fall short of our expectations is so simple to understand intellectually, but so hard to comes to terms with emotionally, because it always feels like such a personal affront. And because disappointment is so constant, I am writing to explore what has been my past, present, and what will surely be my future.

The special pain that accompanies the conscious or unintentional betrayal of one who has been let in weighs heavily and echoes repetitively. My reality is that I spend more time on non-constructive activities such as feeling hurt and offended than hovering serenely above the fray and writing reflectively. But if you are like me, even though you are incensed, you continue to tend to what's broken until long after the well of patience has run dry, and even then there's a palpable resentment that insidiously roots itself were acceptance should be. Again, intellectually, I know that it would be best to shake the baggage. I also am keenly aware of the unshakable, debilitating emotional truth that if I am still angry, then I still care.

Caring can feel like a burden and a condemnation as we feel alone in our awareness of the gravity of the situation. But I think that such persistent consideration indicates a certain natural prevalence of character: feeling deeply hurt simply means that one feels things very deeply. Should we be sorry for the part of ourselves we've made vulnerable? Should we rescind the investment of our person? We don't always knowingly make ourselves vulnerable, but the hurt that can result can just as often be a teacher of why such openness is right as it can be a reason to recoil and hide. As long as one cares wholeheartedly, one risks pain; but this pain can be an affirmation, an ever-valuable token of love and care given. Feeling hurt and deeply disappointed occurs with those who are granted access to a deeper part of the self; that means that in order to feel let down, there must be one close enough to hurt you, and I personally can't say that I would forfeit that closeness to be free of disappointment.

As to my part in what has sometimes felt like mayhem, I know I have high expectations, low tolerance for foolishness, and a long memory. But after much grappling and confusion, I also feel now that it is necessary to extract oneself from the mayhem to realize—perhaps as painfully—that the pain is not as personal as it deserves to be. It is a matter, perhaps, of where two parties are in their lives, how each processes the world through unique lenses, and what each has left to learn. It can be easy to internalize the situation and look inward for the roots of the disappointment; but in truth, we play a small role in something great and perhaps unrelated to us unfolding in another person's life, in the learning that takes place with each passing day. There is something else at play which is entirely out of our control, and maybe there comes a time when it is necessary to let go and see that another life must grow independently of our influence.

If letting go were this simple I would have done it already, several times over. Like most instances of hurting this can be rationalized and understood, but it doesn't sit well with the heart that must, at least for a time, bear the burden of feeling denied and alone. Understanding does not soften the blow of unpleasant surprises and questions about time spent, decisions made, and the fickleness of trust. We are left with the question: "What are we to expect from others?" But I suppose that we can only answer to what others may expect of us. When we are called upon, who will we be? What soul will we demonstrate? What will we be daring enough to give in the face of that which may be taken? And will we have enough clarity to see that, in spite of possible hurt, it's worth it?

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