Thursday, July 19, 2012

Bouncing Back From Disappointment

Don't forget to enter the Life Well Lived Moments Sweepstakes for a chance to win an iPod Touch and a $50 gift card to iTunes! 

Over at BlogHer's Life Well Lived page, AfroBella has a superb post on strategies for dealing with disappointment that is well worth your read.

Truly.  Click through and go read it now -- you can thank me later.

As I was reading it, I was thinking back to my time as a trial attorney.  As a woman in a field that had been long dominated by men, I was incredibly self-conscious about not showing a lot of emotion in court because I did not want my legal practice to be defined by some sort of "she's such a typical ________" (fill in weak, overly emotional, screechy, whatever-else-you-can-think-of woman stereotype here) dismissive snipe. 

I wanted to stand strongly on my own feet and cut my path without ever showing any sort of emotional weakness.

But there were days when the evidence and facts in a particular case were so egregious, so disturbing, and so violently cruel that I would find myself at home at the end of the day, curled up and sobbing in a chair, having held in the pain of it for the length of the day until I could get somewhere in private to let out the anguish and misery.  It was rough going at times, especially when dealing with a case of elderly or child abuse.

When I lost a ruling in a case in which I was particularly invested?  Especially one involving the welfare of children I felt were vulnerable and in need of protection?  It was seriously rough.

But there is no bursting into tears in court.  No way.

Not only would it have been unprofessional, but it would have made me weakened in the eyes of the judge, fellow attorneys and my clients as well.   In a legal practice, as in so many professional and personal areas of life, the reputation you build is everything.

Having a reputation as someone who can deal well with adversity is a much, much better one than someone who crumbles at the sight of the first tough hurdle.  Mastering those emotions, though, especially when you are compassionate or feel things deeply?  That requires some forethought.

What I learned was that I can push any emotion out of the way if I force myself to take notes and try to look at something from a more detached, considered from outside point of view rather than as a personal blow.   Being able to vent onto a piece of paper keeps my poker face going in pretty much any circumstance -- courtroom, meeting, you name it.

So whenever I find myself in a situation where I'm likely to get annoyed, pissed off, exasperated, or emotionally set off in any way?  I have a notepad and a pen handy.

Because life is unpredictable, I've learned to just keep something with me in my purse pretty much any time.  (It's handy for running "to do" lists, too.  These days, multitasking is my friend.)

When a disappointment occurs that you weren't expecting -- your trip or opportunity gets cancelled out of the blue, there is a loss of substantial magnitude, a friend unexpectedly turns her back when you need her most -- it can be especially tough to maintain any sense of calm outside, let alone inside.  In a professional context, that can be really rough:  someone at the office is unexpectedly bitchy and you have to keep moving forward while trying to act as though nothing has happened to get through your day...and that sucks.

What helps is to acknowledge internally that it is, indeed, absolutely, completely and totally rotten.  But that it is also the hurdles which we survive and, ultimately, surmount that make us into better people in the end.

What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.  And if we become stronger in a way that also has a lot of dignity and class?  All the better.

Let's be honest:  a rough patch of disappointment can be crushing in the immediate moment.  Give yourself some quiet time and a lot of self-care to get over the initial, very painful moment.  You need it.  More than that, you deserve time to grieve or be pissed or whatever the situation requires.

But give yourself that time in private or with someone very close to you who only has your interests at heart.

Don't vent all over everyone in your workplace -- that will come back to bite you in the end.  That's especially true where people you think are your friends are really playing all sides against each other to watch the sparks fly for their own amusement.  (Don't we all know those people?)

If you need to vent, do so with someone who loves you, supports you and also knows how to keep a confidence silently if asked.  Those friends are rare, so cherish them where you find them.

But don't make the mistake of wallowing in the disappointment for an extended period of time.  Wallowing can become who you are instead of just what you are feeling in the moment, and that doesn't help you in the end.  Eventually, you have to bob back upward toward the light instead of continuing to sink, or all you'll be able to see is darkness and that is just not where you want to be.

To that end, reach out to someone else who needs help.  Helping others can be a great way to put your issue in a broader perspective.  Volunteer to help folks in need in your community.  Take some clothes that no longer fit over to a battered women's shelter.  Reach out...and, in doing so, reach upward.

In the end, we all have to keep moving forward, and we all have to find our own path which will wind around a lot of twists and turns and bumps along the way.  But finding the next really wonderful moment is worth whatever bump you may have temporarily hit in the moment.

And it will be just that -- temporary.

We have had some devastating losses in our family the last few years.  Really crushing ones that, at the time they occurred, felt like they would never fully heal.

But they do.

It is our ability to find a laugh somewhere along the way, to hold onto love and the things that make us happiest that makes life worth it.  It's a trite saying but I have found in the last few years that it really is true, painfully sometimes but true nonetheless:  when God closes a window, he often opens a door.  We just have to be willing to continue to look for our opportunities instead of closing down entirely.

In the end, life is about continuing to get up, each and every time you get knocked down.  Believing that you truly can do just that is tough, I know.  But getting back on your feet and moving forward is the best way out of whatever disappointment you face...and everyone faces one at some point, the same way, with the same ache, and the same need to get back up and go forward again.

Don't forget to enter the Life Well Lived Moments Sweepstakes for a chance to win an iPod Touch and a $50 gift card to iTunes! 

(YouTube -- Christina Aguilera - Beautiful.)

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