What a difference a week makes.

In my last note, I wrote of the many reasons for celebration in my home.

This week not so much.

My youngest daughter, encouraged by two call backs, did not get the role she was hoping for in her 5th grade play.

My middle daughter who won her first wrestling match last week, this week fractured her collarbone and is now out for the rest of the season.

The immediate aftermath of both situations was filled with extreme disappointment.

The definition of disappointment means “sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.” The word dates back to the middle of the 14th century and its origin stems from the idea of “removal from office.”

Today its more expansive use might best be characterized as the “removal of hope or expectation.”

In my youngest daughter’s case, the disappointment was the expectation that one role was her only path to happiness in the school play. For the other it was the removal of hope associated with not just her wrestling season, but her upcoming lacrosse and soccer seasons, as well as a trumpet competition and a myriad of other activities – which to varying degrees are in jeopardy.

Our natural reaction to consoling someone’s disappointment is to offer empty bromides ranging from “It will get better”, “It’s not as bad as it may seem now” “It could have been worse” and so on and so on.

This was my reaction to my daughter’s disappointment with her role.  It did not help much.

Her sister, the wrestler, who ironically usually antagonizes her offered a different approach. She listened.  I didn’t notice it at the time, but she kept repeating the phrase, “I know.”  As in “I know you’re disappointed.”  or “I know how much you really wanted that role.” Eventually she offered words of hope. “Who knows, maybe you’ll get extra lines.”  “I bet you’ll make more friends.”  “This can still be a lot of fun.”

Days later when she was now the disappointed one, I could hear myself – unbeknownst to her – modeling her behavior from a few nights earlier. On the car ride back from the emergency room, she kept realizing something else she couldn’t do or experience fully – a dance, a practice, a party, a season, a tournament. Each time I responded sympathetically with  “I know.” “I know.” “I know.” “I know how much all of it must suck for you.”

My natural reaction to my own disappointment is to tell myself to “get over it.”  When a more caring act would be to fully embrace it.  Eventually creating the space for hope to follow.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once wrote, “We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

In the spirit of embracing disappointment and supporting each other, I’ll end by sharing this beautiful story behind the new memorial to Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King. It was unveiled this week at the Boston Commons.  Its name appropriately is The Embrace.

I hope you avoid any major disappointment this week. But if any does come, I hope you and your loved ones create the space to embrace it and that hope follows closely in its footsteps.

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