Father Christmas has a lot to answer for.
Every year for a number of years when I was growing up I would ask for a snooker table. Every year the genial, generous Mr Claus would fail to deliver. Well, that’s harsh; he was always very kind to me – even when I hadn’t been very good and had spent way too much time fighting with my brothers – and I can fondly remember many treasured gifts opened at 3am on Christmas morning. But still, I remember the one that got away; human nature I guess.
Fast forward a few years and I was discovering a bit of a talent for running and nothing made me happier than adding another medal to my collection. Looking back I see things slightly differently, noticing how many of the medals I won were bronze and recognising the lack of self-confidence that allowed me to settle for winning a medal rather than believing that I could win gold.
Ones that got away? Maybe, maybe not.
It’s all too easy to look back with adult eyes and greater self-assurance and to think ‘if only’, when in reality we did the best we could with what we knew at the time. And anyway, I don’t know the mental battles that those gold medalists fought – maybe they had no greater self confidence than I and maybe it’s all just wishful thinking. Maybe their gold medals masked their own disappointments.
Truth is, life is full of disappointments, large and small, significant and trivial, and like the proverbial rubber ball we learn to bounce back, to build our resilience and try again. But bloody hell can it wear you down.
Sometimes life can seem like a series of disappointments visiting our door one after the other, a steady stream of Christmas Carollers banging out the same old out of tune melody, time after time after time. And sometimes we just want to turn them away and close the door for good. Bah, humbug!
But we can’t stop them knocking.
Sooner or later we need to answer the call again. Life isn’t a series of disappointments any more than it’s a series of wonderful highs, but particular times in our life may seem especially cursed or blessed with a steady procession of one or the other. I’d like to think it all balances out in the end. Who knows?
I guess we remember the bits that hurt the most, leaving as they do an imprint that isn’t easily forgotten as our powerful instinct for self-preservation does its job of keeping us safe. And as we get older disappointment doesn’t feel any easier to deal with but we do have the benefit of wisdom and experience, of knowing that it fades, lying buried underneath an avalanche of new experiences and memories; but always there.
It’s a cliche oft repeated (especially in this blog…) that our failures offer us our greatest opportunities to learn; ‘I never fail, I learn.’ Furthermore, not all disappointments are failures and not all let downs can be understood. Sometimes that’s just the way life goes.
I guess the best we can do is learn what we can and accept the truth as we see it, about ourselves and about others.
Could I have, should I have, would I have if….? Asking these questions might help us to gain clarity and understanding, then again, maybe they will just spin us into an ever tighter knot of confusion.
If we can change it then we change it, if we can’t then we must accept it with as much grace as we can muster and move on, however much that might hurt. Other disappointments will be waiting for us but it’s important that we don’t build a shell around ourselves that will impede our view of the opportunities that also lie in wait.
Life sucks. Life’s fucking brilliant.
You Can’t Always Get What You Want – The Rolling Stones