We had a very clear, or maybe not so clear but still very real, idea of where our Hope Train was headed. Our intent is for is to move towards noble and good things; the goals are for our future to be brighter than it is today. Our hearts are not evil, and we mostly believe our desire is for things that will benefit and grow us and those we care for.
We have learned over time how to handle the changes that come along and we tweak our plans, time frames, and end games. “Semper gumby” is Latin for 'always flexible' and we are pretty flexible after all that we've been through already, right?
(Yes- that’s why the bendy, green guy's name is Gumby. And it's why ballerinas can do things I can't.)
(photo courtesy of Unsplash)
But sometimes an event comes along in our lives that throws everything off track and we find ourselves unable to be so flexible. We don't know how to keep doing the dance we've been intricately engaged in. And in the current state of the world, our Hope Train isn’t even headed in the wrong direction. Instead it seems to have come right off the track completely. This was not what I predicted for my future days nor did you probably see it coming.
You can likely look back and see where disappointments happened at other points in your life when you hoped for one thing but didn’t make it all the way to walking in it because a circumstance or an event changed your plans.
Ask yourself this question: What did you do then? Is that change in your plans still dictating how you live today? If so you are likely frustrated and disappointed, if not angry, all this time later.
However, if you were somehow able to move through that time, choosing to move forward and make something good come out of it, you are likely thriving more than you would have been if you had stood still, choosing to stay stuck.
Yes. I say ‘choosing to stay stuck’. Because ultimately no person, no event, no circumstance has power to make you stuck. You are the only one with the power to make that choice. You are the responsible party for YOU. (Mind you I am not speaking to mental, physical or chemical health challenges that make it difficult to process and make personal growth choices.)
This means that if you take your responsibility seriously then you also have the power to make the changes necessary to move forward and create hope, goodness and change for your future. It requires a choice and it is often a hard one. But it is the right one. And it may take you some time to get to that point where you are able to make it, and that’s just fine.
I give you permission to be in process.
Disappointment- to suffer the failure or defeat of hopes, plans, wishes for, and expectations of something your heart desires.
What a word- disappointment. So enveloping. Such a struggle. It’s something every human since the world began deals with at deep levels. And yet it is constantly our companion if we invite it to stay walking with us.
And everyone deals with disappointments differently. Some get angry or pour blame onto others. Some shut down their feelings or decide to stop believing good things are meant for them. Some withdraw or feel they are at fault. And some (most of us would feel jealous of these people) are seemingly untouched and able to take it with a grain of salt.
Shock and denial are parts of the process too, but they aren’t stages to stay in, they are simply part of the survival process when experiencing trauma, pain, loss and major change.
Regardless of your habit and process of dealing with the painful loss of dreams and desires, I want to give you some insight about how to move forward and mitigate the disappointment and pain.
Step #1- Identifying expectations
I encourage you to take stock of what it is you wanted to see happen in case you don’t actually have a real grid for it. Be specific, so rather than saying “I was planning for the rest of my years to be easy and fun”, say something like this:
“I planned on retiring this year and traveling, knowing that my 401-K was going to benefit from a strong economy and that I would get to check this and that off of my bucket list.”
Instead of generalizing with “I had hoped my kids would be safe and I could start my business”, lay it out more clearly:
“My heart was really looking forward to my children being in a safe environment at school spending time with good friends who teach them to love and to laugh, while I am pursuing personal things I care about to boost our finances and craft my skills.”
If you don’t know where you were hoping for your train to take you, you’ll be unable to move on to step two.
Step #2- Grieving
Your emotions are really important in a time like this. They need to be tended to and handled with self-compassion. Self-care is important in times like this even if it is simple steps that take just a few moments throughout the day. Spending time with yourself to think through your trials will help your Hope Train to get back on track sooner.
If you are the kind of person to skip this stupid emotion part and shove it all under the rug I implore you to realize that you only cause yourself and those around you to suffer in the long run. When was the last time you stuffed something down and truly benefited from it? If you think it always works for you I suggest you ask someone close to you what their perspective is and take their feedback without defensiveness. You probably aren’t seeing things clearly from your inside perspective.
Trauma and loss have stages and grief is likely the hardest stage of all. It really is the first thing to process in a healthy move through any kind of trauma. If you skip it you actually lose a huge chunk of the healing process and the other stages will have less impact. In fact, you will find yourself dealing with the same issue years later if you jump over grief.
Use the list of hopes and dreams from step #1 to allow you to process this disappointment because of your Hope Train going off track. If it feels right, write them down and take some time to really reconcile what you’ve lost or will lose because of the Hope Train headed off track. Even if you don’t write them down, take a few moments to let them settle in. This way down the road, when you wonder where the anger or heartache comes from you have a mental list of the real loss you’ve suffered.
I know some of you will think, “But I shouldn’t complain. I will be better off then some others through all of this.” I encourage you to recognize that trauma and loss are relative. What you suffer is very real to you and pain is not qualitative. While it is kind of you to think of others and good to recognize your blessings, you still need to process your own loss in order to heal and become the victor who can tend to others better.
Step #3- Analyzing expectations
Ask yourself if your expectations for the present or future are completely impossible now based on the changes occurring or if there is another way for them to be fulfilled. If you are unable to see other paths ask someone who cares for you if they have some differing insights.
Also ask yourself if your expectations were truly realistic, reachable goals, the best way forward, and what is best for you. Sometimes life’s curveballs end up being the better way we just couldn’t have seen it coming. We tend to create our plans without a bigger picture in mind and curveballs can be just the thing that helps us widen the scope of our vision, taking us to places that give fresh vantage points.
Sometimes all you need to do is adjust your expectations a little in order to cope with what is coming your way. Again, ask others who you respect how they could see your hopes coming to pass with some adjustments made.
Step #4- Revitalizing priorities
Crisis also awakens us to what is most important and allows us to see where we have misplaced our priorities. Allow this time to help you recognize where you have imbalanced focus and any areas that require more effort and intention. Use this season to pursue personal development, grow relationships that matter, look outside of yourself and tend to others, and find new ways forward that are fruitful and bring greater joy.
Perhaps you’ve been very task oriented in the past and right now you are struggling with those tasks being removed because you’ve lost your job. Remember that if you keep looking to do or achieve something that list of things to do will always be there in one form or another. Could this time be used to forge strong relationships and make memories with children, friends, or parents? Could you use this time to pour yourself into something you’ve always dreamed of doing but never had the time for?
There really is a silver lining everywhere if you are looking for it. You don’t have to live on the edge of the dark cloud pretending the cloud doesn’t exist in order to proclaim the sun still shines. But neither do you need to immerse yourself in the cloud and tell yourself that the sun no longer matters and demand that you will stay there forever. There are dark times in our lives. But there is always goodness that is worked out of them. We really do have the ability to go on.
Life affords us joys which are greater because of the hardships. Trust in this process.
Step #5- Debriefing
People need talk about what is happening in different ways but always for the same reason. Our minds need to verbally process change, trauma, pain and loss. Find trusted people to share with what you are going through and also ask what they are dealing with and how they are handling it. This gives you a broader perspective and will help to keep you from spiraling once you see that you are not in it alone.
Do your best to not accuse, be defensive, judge others in their story, and get stuck in hopelessness. If you are a writer, use your mornings to write everything down that’s floating through your head in effort to mitigate it’s hold on the rest of your day. If you are artistic maybe this crisis needs an outlet that will bring freedom to you. If you are more verbal maybe you should dictate into your phone on your notes or voice recorder app and speak what is on your mind. Regardless, find ways to release what you are thinking and feeling mentally, emotionally and physically.
Step #6- Thankfulness
I will always say that no matter what else you do, spend time purposefully finding things, people, concepts, and even changes to be thankful for. Search them out. They are there, I promise. Research shows that gratitude changes your disposition, behavior, beliefs and outlook. Everyone who teaches on personal growth, mindset, and hope today says that gratitude- the attitude of thankfulness- is the change agent that puts the Hope Train back on track sooner than later.
Write it down. Speak it out loud. Paint it. Tell people you’re thankful for them. Share it on social media. Live it. And dance on the tracks while you wait for the train to right itself again.
My love goes out to you in this time. Be wise, stay safe and I bless you with health and joy.