Have you ever awakened early on a summer morning, anticipating a warm sunny day outside, only to find that the luminous weather forecast had turned cloudy? At least for me, serious disappointment can set in when I see the overcast sky and the needle on the thermometer left of center, especially when I’m feeling a bit moody after a long winter and rainy spring.
And darn it, I deserve to have a warm summer day after all that snow and rain, don’t I? How long do we have to endure more of the same when it’s been nine months already.
Our tendency, as humans, is to make the daily disappointments as big a deal as the serious ones. Then we suffer as if it were life or death.
I find myself getting irritated when I had planned some outdoor activity under warm blue skies, as if I had control of the weather.
It’s because suffering is familiar.
You feel safer in suffering than in some other unknown condition.
And it’s hard to give it up– what would you talk about in casual conversation? Who would you be if you couldn’t complain, rationalize, justify, or project the “energy” that is allowed by suffering?
And how would people know you, if all your suffering or expectations disappeared? How would you define yourself if there weren’t wrongs to be righted, problems to be fixed, or scores to be settled?
I can tell you, my family would think I was nuts if I woke up on a cloudy day and offered thanks for the gloomy sky.
As Pema Chodron points out in The Places That Scare You, “We suffer when we resist the truth of impermanence. We expect that what is always changing should be graspable and predictable.”
Because if nothing were wrong with your life, you would have to confront the fear of being alone in the present. You’d have to take total responsibility for what is, including your reaction to it.
When emotional discomfort arises, try to be present to what it’s telling you.
Those painful emotions can’t thrive without your internal judgments, or the black and white thinking, behind your expectations.
When I find myself in a disappointed place when the weather isn’t cooperating, it’s usually because I’ve been working too much or stayed indoors when I could’ve taken advantage of a blue sky day. My disappointment is actually rooted in me not being present to what I needed, several days ago. And now I’m stuck with a cloudy day and dashed expectations.
When you struggle against the energy of your painful emotions, you reject the source of wisdom behind it.
As Riso & Hudson put it in The Wisdom of the Enneagram, you’d have to “simply become a living human being facing the vast mystery of existence. “ Paying attention to this very moment, being tender with yourself for whatever is arising in you, is the basis of self-love.
So on this particular cloudy day, I decided to get started on the book I’d been wanting to read while my family slept into the morning. I nestled into the couch with my book and a cup of joe, aware that the sly sun was starting to peek through the clouds after all.
As we learn to be present with what is, instead of suffering from what isn’t, there would be no more blame, no more stories about the past, or schemes about the future. As Chodron points out, “there is no cure for hot and cold.”
If you’re struggling with unmet expectations, big or small, try to live in this moment, rather than flailing in the suffering.
Chodron suggests using a “touch and go” approach. Touch your distressing thoughts by acknowledging them, and then let them go. If you can relax your struggle, you will be more deeply aware of the astonishing gift of every day life.
When you open your heart to what is, then everything fulfills you.
If you’re ready to move beyond the disappointment of life’s unmet expectations, contact me for a Free 30-minute Strategy Session to figure out if Life Coaching is for you.
Holly Woods, Ph.D. is an Integral Life Coach who helps adults who are struggling with life’s ups and downs who want to stop pretending it’s all OK, and who want to find out who they really are underneath all that. I work with people in-person, by skype or phone. Learn more about how to work with me. And forward to a friend if you liked this post!