Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ruminating This Wednesday

I hated to see three of my children deal with a big disappointment last evening, (nothing so horrible in the grand scheme of things, but disappointing nonetheless), and seeing them so deflated reminded me of my journey through the minefields of my own disenchantments. How it can sting when you were so sure that you were just about to grab hold of that brass ring, but missed. Ah…what a downer, what a bummer, what a blow! Such setbacks trigger one of three responses, from me anyway: either I curl up and make like a roly poly bug to hide for a while as I do my best to recover, or I pretend that I didn't care all that much and bury my resentment, or the more healthy route, shake it off and try, try again.

During this little exercise I’ve done my best to remember my first go round with disappointment. I remember being shocked when I learned that the vegetable garden died out in the fall. I remember freaking out when Mama tried to explain that I’d outgrown my sundress and my little sister would now be wearing the lovely frills, instead of me. I stormed off and hid in the basement, trying to watch myself grow, studying my hands and feet intensely. My first major disappointment, in kindergarten I performed and nobody came to watch. To add insult to injury the teacher had to stand outside the school with me for a good half hour before anybody showed up to take me home. Add to the list: my mother throwing my father out of the house, losing to my nemesis in the spelling bee after practicing so hard, my father going back on his word to put me through college, rejection letters from editors or agents, and the list goes on and on. 

Naturally, moving right along, as we age the magnitude of our defeats and letdowns intensifies. We learn to shrug off what doesn’t work out, we learn to brush the little buggers aside, and we better learn to prioritize. If we don’t, we will surely suffer, bogged down by resentment and cynicism.

I have encountered days where I felt as if I might succumb to the downward pull of despair over what could have been, weeping over what has fallen away. But, most days I do my best to battle doubt and despair. Reminding myself to be grateful for what I have and not to dwell on what I have lost.

You can easily spot those that have given in. All you have to do is to look past their armor and deep into their eyes to see that they have thrown in the towel.

All this ruminating reminded me of an outstanding quote from one of my favorite writers:

The world breaks every one and afterward many are strong at the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good, and the very gentle, and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too, but there will be no special hurry.” ~~ Ernest Hemingway


All Rights Reserved. © 2009 by Elizabeth Bradley.

13 comments:

Joanne said...

I like the thought of growing stronger at the broken places. We always have something to learn from disappointments, how better to query or relate or write. And next time, our self and our work are that much stronger.

Cloudia said...

Thanks for the pep talk!
Aloha-

Comfort Spiral

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

Sad Hemingway's quote considering what happened to him, I guess he refused to break. Disappointment is a bummer, but as you've said part of life. It's all about how you deal with it. Dealing is the key.

But also I always remind myself I can't succeed if I don't fail. If you try only little steps for fear of the fall you will take with the big ones, you must know that even when you succeed, you will only suceed that little bit. This is why we must all plan to fail in huge, fat ways because if we succeed imagine how lovely it will be.

Kim said...

I really like that Hemingway quote. It's tough to know how to teach our children about disappointment. We certainly don't want them to think that they will always win but at the same time we don't want them to become pessimistic. Great thought-provoking post!

Cheffie-Mom said...

So true! Thank you!

lakeviewer said...

Ouch. The quote is a bit nasty, deflated, unappetizing. Give me a Disney quote such as "..when you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are...." We can't succumb to self=pity, to words that defeat and diminish us. We must fight the good fight even though we know that the end is near.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

I don't view this quote as nasty. People FEEL what they FEEL. A therapist told me once that feelings aren't right or wrong, they just ARE. As a writer I make a practice of studying the various ways different individuals handle obstacles that life throws at them. I do my best to respect their experience. Anyway, it's a crying shame that Hemingway drank too much, became bogged down with depression, and after living such a remarkable life decided to end it for himself in such a violent act of self loathing. His ending does not diminish the beauty and power of the words that he wrote, if anything, his words are more meaningful.

Marguerite said...

I agree with Joanne. I look at disappointments as learning tools to draw on, in good times and in bad. T.G.I.F.!!

Suldog said...

Or, as Morrison paraphrased Hemingway, "No one here gets out alive."

Louise said...

Well-written! Ernest Hemingway is a bit gloomy for me, but that was a great quote, and fitting.

THanks for visiting my blog. In response, I think everywhere that Laura Ingalls Wilder live has some kind of place to visit. Not all are original buildings, but I know DeSmet has some as does Mansfield, MO. But there are places to see in Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa as well. I've only been to the Missouri and South Dakota ones, but after South Dakota, I think I need to see them all!

Woman in a Window said...

My mind is still turning around that quote. Holy shit. Not what I expected. But this post found me at the best(est) of times. When I needed it. Thank you. So now I'll do what I knew I had to do anyway, don't let it beat me. I knew that. Sometimes we need to be reminded.

devonellington said...

It's always a challenge as one learns and grows to learn and grow with disappointments. There's always stuff that's going to hurt, and often, we have to find new ways to work around it -- acknowledge, absorb, and overcome without repressing or denying it.

Never gets easier, does it?

Best wishes.

Elizabeth Bradley said...

Soldier on Erin, you won't be sorry.